One thing I love about people is that no two are alike.
Imagine how boring this world would be if everybody was the same;
had the same personality, sense of humor, temperament.
I love people, and rowing a gondola gives me the opportunity to meet lots of them.
Of course different people react and behave differently on a boat.
There are those who freak out all the way to their seat,
and those who move so effortlessly that I can tell they grew up on a boat.
Some have control issues, and they're the ones I'm here to talk about today: the "helpers".
In this category, almost all of the members are male and older than most.
Retired men are especially given over to becoming "helpers".
Guys who have, or have had their own boats like to help.
Any guy who is accustomed to being in charge of things will probably lend a hand too.
As gondoliers, we need to remember that not everyone is as comfortable on a boat as we are.
More to the point, not everyone is going to be comfortable giving up control for an hour, and that's the real issue here:
Cruising with a "helper" is usually easy and fun; he will probably offer to assist you in your departure, and once he's assessed your rowing ability,
he will relax.
If you are still figuring this gondola think out, then he might get nervous,
and if it looks like another boat is going to bump into yours,
expect the helper to jump into action.
Most of the time, however, I find that helpful control-minded passenger assisting me by holding onto a cleat on the dock as I'm trying to pull the boat in. My gondola is halfway into the slip, or almost where she needs to be in relation to a side-tie, and all of a sudden we're stopped.
I look down to see if maybe my boat has snagged on something,
only to notice the gentleman's hand, gripping one of the dock cleats in a desperate attempt to help me (whether I like it or not).
Gently, I'll ask the "helper" to let go. He almost never fully processes my request the first time, and only lets go of the cleat after I've explained to him that while I appreciate his "help", I can't tie up the boat until he lets go.
The kind prodding of his wife, sitting next to him also helps sometimes.
Sometimes the hand that's gripping the dock cleat belongs to a career Navy man, and I always need to remember that giving up control for an hour or two is easier for some than it is for others.
The retired ship captain or career Navy man might be used to having control of things, but really, show me any guy who's retired from any job where he was in charge of people, and you can bet that he will at least reach out for that cleat - if not grip it with mad desperation.
Dealing with "helpers" has allowed me to learn a little about that retirement in MY future (assuming I can ever manage to stop moving long enough).
Most men reach that milestone in their lives with great joy, only to realize later that a great part of their identity has been removed from their lives. Some find new interests and move on just fine, while others don't like the inactivity; and while many people retire with a gleam in their eye (happy that they won't have to work anymore), alot of them end up missing the work.
So the next time you're pulling your gondola into the dock, and you notice that the reason your boat has come to a premature halt is because there's a hand gripping a cleat - remember that the "helper" has his own unique motivations, and he's gonna help you...whether you like it or not.
Be gentle, because one day it my be you gripping that cleat - and if you ever rowed a gondola, I suspect you'll grip it even harder than the ship captain or the Navy man.
In any business there are