Fireworks, Cheap Wine And A $10 Swimming Bet…

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 by Scott Schaefer

Explosive 4th of July weekend for sure in the B-Town area, with plenty of fireworks, fun and the usual “look outs!” along with our own very unique and unforgettable personal experience:

Down at Three Tree Point, there’s an annual $21,000+ neighborhood fireworks show that goes off around 10:20pm. It’s very popular, and it turns the entire ‘hood into one giant block party, with a flag raising ceremony, kids’ parade, live band and more, all climaxing in a great fireworks display.

This is the one day per year where Maplewild Ave SW does its best impression of the road that lead to Woodstock in ’69, chock full of young people gathering for something cool and special, all the while invading other folks’ neighborhood, parking spots and yards.

The strangest thing about suddenly having your neighborhood invaded by hundreds of younger folks isn’t their language, fashions or music – it’s in the backpacks that 90% of all the young men are sporting.

“Backpacks?” methinks, “why these hearty young men must’ve hiked from miles away to join our festive and friendly party! There must be provisions, water, first aid kits…all the necessary items for a full day’s safe hike, right? Welcome to our front lawn you wise young souls!!!”

14 bottle rockets, 11 Roman Candles and 349 firecrackers later, I finally figured out what was in the backpacks. Let’s just say that their “provisions” weren’t entirely legal, and consisted of items that included either gunpowder from China or 40-ounce bottles from 7-11.

Oh well – I was young once, and I could relate, so no big whoop.

Me and the family snaked through the dangerous ‘splosions and got prime seats to watch the annual pyrotechnics display, and as we waited, were entertained by about 6-8 young folks who were imbibing quite heavily (cheap shared Carlo Rossi wine from a jug anyone?) and cursing like drunk sailors at a longshoreman’s convention (only these drunk longshoremen wore backpacks).

After briefly (and carefully) requesting they “watch their mouths” (which they agreed to and complied with for about 30 seconds), one of the more drunken young lads suddenly started challenging his friends and betting that he could swim out to an anchored boat and back “for 10 bucks!”

Being the naturally skeptical type, I doubted that anything would happen. I’ve been around tons of drunk sailors at longshoremen’s conventions, and I know the drill. And for a measly $10 bucks? Ha.

Then the dude whips off his shirt and starts stripping down, insisting that his buddies pay him “10 bucks” to swim out and back to a boat about 150-175 feet off shore.

Keep in mind that this was around 9:45pm at night. Water temp had to be in the low 50s at best. And from what I’ve heard and read, at that temp, hypothermia can kick in within 12 minutes.

Still being skeptical, I watch in amazement as the dude strips down to his shorts, takes off his shoes and quickly jumps over some rocks onto the sand.

Next thing you know, he’s swimming out toward the boat in the dark.

So I pull out my cell phone, unlock it and get ready to dial 911, and in my mind I’m thinking: “Wow, I’ve never seen someone drown before…but maybe that’s what Independence Day is for – making us independent of stupid people!”

The drunk dude is swimming. In. The. Cold. Dark. Puget. Sound. Water. I’m getting chilled just watching him. About 50 feet out, he pauses; starts hesitating. My fingers start twitching. It’s been at least 7 minutes. It’s kind of hard to see him too with the low light and cloud cover.

“This is it,” I think to myself in my most morbid, dark and evil Mr. Burns-like voice, “This is when his head suddenly drops under, and he disappears from sight. Release the frowns!”

His semi-incoherent buddies of course are all still swearing in front of my chitlins in their own little world, but at this point it doesn’t matter ‘cuz I’m worried that he’s gonna die. In front of my kids.

Of course, the drunk dude decides to pause and wade for about five seconds, then resumes his swim using a breast stroke. Now he’s moving slower, but still making progress toward the boat! About ten seconds later, he reaches the boat.

We’re at around 12 minutes now. Uh-oh.

“If he’s smart, he’ll climb on the boat, wait a few minutes, warm up, then signal for help…right?” says my inner, most hopeful Mister Rogers voice.


He oh-so-slowly shimmies his way around the bow of the boat, and of course, disappears from our sight.

15 minutes.

Now this scenario is rivaling any fireworks display I’ve ever seen by about 1,000 times. I mean, the kid’s totally blitzed, he’s swimming at night in – The. Cold. Puget. Sound. We can’t see him now…and for what?

$10 bucks!

So I’m straining my eyes now to find his head in the water. Nothing. I strain some more. Pull out the cell. Think about things I’ve heard about how every second counts in cold water situations…should I just dial 911 now, knowing that it’d take B.F.D. at least 10 minutes just to get here? Then another 10 or so to launch their rescue boat and find the drunk dude who was last seen slowly hanging onto the boat before disappearing? That’d be 20 minutes or so of him underwater in Puget Sound? Hmmm…

As I’m visualizing the entire doom and gloom scenario, wifey chimes in and says “I can see his head!”

Sure enough, the drunk dude’s now swimming back towards shore like a seal, his head bobbing up and down as he does his breast stroke.

“He’s not sleeping with da fishes yet,” shouts the inner hopeful Mr. Rogers in my head.

“Ah, but just you wait,” says Mr. Knowitall Morbidiardo on the other side of my head. “He’s still got at least 75 feet to go, and by now the hypothermia most certainly must be affecting his muscles…”

20 minutes now and he’s almost to shore. But wait – he pauses again! Is this it? Luckily no; he resumes and pretty soon he’s walking back up to his plastered buds and demanding his $10 smackers.

Mother-in-law of course decides to chime in, exhorting “Hypothermia and alcohol don’t mix very well!” to the youngster, who ignore her as best they can.

The dude demands his ten spot and the unlucky bet loser whips it out. Of course, since the drunk dude is much shorter, the guy holds the Hamilton up and makes the guy jump for it. Ouch.

I see now that the dude is shivering. Wifey offers her blanket to me and I take it, walk over and wrap it around the dude. I ask him if he’s shivering at all, and of course he says “no way man” in his most macho yet slurred and shivery voice he can muster. I tell him to watch for signs of hypothermia but can tell that he’s much more interested in signs of acceptance from his peers.

Soon the dude has his clothes back on and off he goes with his group, like it was just another 4th of July at the point.

I have no idea if he ended up with hypothermia in the hospital, but I hope that he’s okay, and know that, at the very least, he’s at least $10 bucks richer.

(hey drunk dude, if you’re reading this, please email me – I’d like to make sure that you’re okay…)

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