DNR rangers are back in the Paynetown State Recreation Area entrance shack, checking for annual passes and, when necessary, charging people admission to get in. Inside the park, the general store looks to be ready for business just as soon as Indiana’s five-step program allows for campsites to open.
When I arrived for breakfast/crosswords/reading at about 11am, the beach was fairly well-populated, pickups pulling boats on trailers were lining up at the ramp, and people out for a walk singly, in pairs or in groups almost outnumbered the park’s turkey vultures.
I’m afraid these developments spell the end of Paynetown as my own little private reserve. For the last couple of months I’ve enjoyed a certain solitude there as the rest of Hoosier humanity either hunkered down indoors or flouted the strictures of the governor and good sense to bounce around in public spreading their little corona-adorned organisms.
Truth be told, my mornings and evenings at Paynetown, rain or shine, warm or cold, windy or calm, have been as instrumental in me maintaining my sanity as anything during these COVID lockdown days. These days are fast coming to an end, annoyingly premature on the one hand, dangerously so on the other.
One thing missing from Paynetown during my halcyon days there this spring were the sounds of roaring motors pushing craft this way and that across the lake like so many laser beams during an Alice Cooper concert in 1973. This AM, middle-aged guys piloting cigarette boats and younger versions of same riding Jet-Skis like bucking broncos turned the otherwise serene lake into a din.
As I sat there reading the fourth volume in Robert A. Caro’s magisterial biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson — I’m addicted, I tell ya! — it occurred to me that out of the entire panoply of useless, pointless, exasperating human inventions, the Jet-Ski holds an honored position. I can even justify — just barely, mind you — the existence of cigarette boats if I were to twist logic into an Escher drawing and say, well, it’ll get you quickly from dock to fishing spot or, more likely, hidden cove where you can bonk an easily impressed divorcee outdoors w/o fear of being caught. Haste, in the latter case, being valued greatly.
But the Jet-Ski is not a mode of transportation. You don’t use it to get anyplace. You use it to move, at speed. Once your wrist tires of holding its throttle at max, you slow down, come to a stop, look around, and then gun the thing back up to top speed in the opposite direction. Have I stressed the machine’s uselessness enough?
And, as an accoutrement to the Jet-Ski’s speed, it roars like a thousand lawn mowers racing against each other. The Jet-Ski, of course, scrimps on the muffler end of its gas engine because, y’know, a muffler is biggish and heavy-ish and who needs that just for the sake and comfort of people sitting on the shore hoping to hear the more dulcet sounds of waves and red-headed woodpeckers?
Man, I gotta go fast and if that bothers you that’s your problem!
Yeah, it’s a problem. And it’s mine.
Jet-Ski™, I now have learned, is the trademark for a particular product manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Motorcycle & Engine Company of Tokyo, Japan. The generic moniker for such things is “personal water craft” (PWC), a euphemism if I’ve ever heard one. It puts one in mind of a canoe or a kayak, oared by a serene nature lover in silence among god’s green things. Nuh-uh.
There are, in fact, two categories of PWCs: 1) the “runabout” or “sit-down” where one or two riders, naturally, sit down while plowing through the water at the speed of sound, and 2) the “stand-up” on which a sole rider…, well, you can guess the rest.
Acc’d’g to a University of Vermont study at the end of the last century, PWCs accounted for one of every thirteen registered water craft in the US but they were involved in 36 percent of all boating accidents.
Watch This Video Only If You Want To Get The Poo Scared Out Of You.
Concerned that PWC users were dropping like flies when they and their craft smashed into unyielding objects on lakes and rivers all over the country, the USCG in 1999 started negotiating with manufacturers. Pointing out that riders and, all too often, innocent bystanders were killed or maimed in loud, gory splashes, the Coast Guard got a consortium of them (Kawasaki, as mentioned, as well as Yamaha, Sea-Doo, and even a Canadian outfit named, believe it or not, Bombadier, among others) to agree to an industry standard maximum speed of 65 mph for the things. For pity’s sake, you mean to tell me the things went faster than that at one time? Yep. Even at the new speed limit riders can be seriously injured by falling off and hitting the water or slipping into the pump-end output. Hell, riders can even sustain injury opening their mouths at 65 mph and being hit by a spray blast of water or a bird or even big insect.
The things must be loads of fun. But, y’know, I gotta go fast….
Pomp, Circumstance & Uncertainty
Did you miss Thursday’s Big Talk? My guest was WFHB deejay and member of the Indiana University 2020 graduating class, Charlotte Wager-Miller. The idea was to hear from a typical grad looking ahead to real life during these COVID-19, potential economic depression days.
Charlotte, to be honest, is really not all that typical, as you’ll find if you listen. Nevertheless, she’s facing the same uncertain future as hundreds of thousands of other 2020 college graduates. Go here for the podcast of my chat with her.
Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.