A funny thing happens when you decide to enter a competition. Even one you begin as a lark. You become, well, competitive.
St. Bob was asked to help with a Rain Gutter Regatta at work. In case you’ve never heard of this, it’s something Cub Scouts do, similar to their Pinewood Derby, but using little wooden boats that they physically blow to the finish line in a rain gutter. Except it’s now become a fun bonding activity in the workplace, and adults are catching the floating fever. Personnel are divided into teams, and someone is chosen on each team to design a boat they hope will win.
Little blocks of wood are handed out, along with a tiny plastic sail and a mast. You also get a rudder and a keel, both roughly the size of a guitar pick. You are to sand and paint this silly thing, glue it all together, then bring it back for the big race. So Bob brings it home and places it on the island in our kitchen.
And there it sits, waiting for its design. We talk about colors. We talk about stripes. And then we decide it needs sponsors, like race cars have. We clip tiny logos of sponsors from Car and Driver magazine, and glue them on. We varnish them so they won’t float away the minute they hit water. But something is still lacking.
And then it hit me: I have a whole bag of miniature rubber ducks that I give to kids at church who are restless and tired of the stash of toys Mom is offering. No, they do not squeak. Although that would be even funnier.
So we glue a duck onto the hull and I think it looks absolutely darling. But St. Bob wants this duck to look fierce, to have swagger. He needs a pirate eye patch and we need a Jolly Roger flag. We add both and decide these are the winning touches that will guide our ship to First Place.
Bob takes it to work. Whoa. Not surprisingly, some of the participants have taken this thing very seriously, and have created boats that could grace the cover of Motorboat Magazine.
Soon it’s Bob’s turn to put our Quacker into the water, at which point it promptly quacks up and turns on its side.
How can this be? It looks balanced! Some sympathetic racers offer to glue some tiny weights on, and now it stays upright, at least. But it competes against one of the ringer boats, and loses mightily.
Bob pulls the duck off and races just the duck, but it loses, also. He glues the duck back on and calls me with the bad news.
“Were we very last place?” I ask.
“I think we might be,” he says, though they do not measure this.
“Then we just have to declare a moral victory,” I say.
“An immoral victory?” he asks.
Either one. And, at least we have something even better to give to some kid at church, now. I’d say it’s a win-win.