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Sometimes you don't want to know what floats with the boat

My husband called it a boat. My father-in-law dubbed it a yacht. My daughter labeled it a ship.

And I passaged on it, across Lake Lanier, accompanied by four wound-up weasels, my husband, my in-laws, and the captain, who unwisely outfitted his yacht entirely in white and invited my dirt infested family for a float.

Upon boarding, the cautious captain slapped life jackets on the midgets and aggressively assured us we weren't in danger. "But," he said, "A green light in any part of the cabin means a fire erupted in the engine room. An orange light indicates a fire broke out on the bridge. If a red light comes on, the oxygen level dropped significantly. A white light at the end of a long tunnel means we all died of carbon monoxide poisoning."

Next, we received detailed instructions on how to use the lavatory. He looked directly at my boys and said, "Everyone sits." "EVERYONE," he emphasized, shifting his piercing eyes to my husband and father-in-law.

Since I sit anyway, my mind wandered and only snapped back in focus when I heard the captain say, "The second button triggers a screaming alarm and everyone on board straps on a life vest and scrutinizes the culprit on the commode under a spotlight."

Then, without warning, our offbeat captain gave the bleary-eyed, wharf rats, squirming on white shag carpet, full cups of hot chocolate.

I fainted.

Reviving to the glow of the yellow caution light, my head throbbed beneath a precautionary PFD the captain wrapped around it like a bright orange turban.

What woman could hold her bladder under such circumstances?

So, as much as I feared it, I used the restroom. Squeezing into the cabinet and pulling the door shut, I dutifully sat and examined a picture dictionary of what not to throw down the loo. It had 15 blurry icons, three of which I effectively identified as varieties of paper products.

The other 12 teased my brain, even though I looked at them from as many angles as my close quarters afforded. An idea struck me. Maybe anything not on the list could pass the plumbing. Brain teasers always have a twist like that.

So I dropped in a Styrofoam cup, chewing gum, a hickory nut, pocket lint and other miscellany. Ready to wash away my cares, I considered the buttons, one red, one green, on the wall next to the slop bucket.

Sweat beaded on my brow. Green means go, I reasoned, and put my finger on it. On the other hand, red, in this case, might mean "getting hotter." My fingers recoiled. I thought about brain teasers, twists and spotlights.

Paralyzed on the toilet, I sat speculating about what oh-captain-my-captain might have said. But this guy decorated his galley and state rooms in pure white and made grown men sit on toilets, but gave little kids lounging on his snowy couches full cups of chocolate paradise. It was a crap shoot, at best.

I closed my eyes and smacked the wall with my fist, counting on 50-50 odds.

Oh, ship!

On the way home, my husband described the panic on the bridge and I contrasted it to my alarm in the potty. And the captain's strained expression as he held the Pictionary list in trembling hands, while glaring at me, dominated its own corner of my skull.

My husband lamely attempted to give comfort. "Did you ever think boat toilets flushed straight into the lake?"

To which I crossly replied, "No. Did you ever think camper toilets flushed straight onto the road?"

Web posted on Thursday, February 23, 2006

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