Adventures in art of whaling and sale-ing

October 26, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

MONTEREY, Calif. - As husband-wife cell phone conversations go, I reckon it was rather typical - a way to kill some time without producing results. I struggled to find something to say, but finally hit on a topic:

"So - you really like whales, huh?"

"A lot."

"What do you like about them?"

"They're magnificent. So grand when they come up out of the water and then give their tails that playful flip when they dive back in."


"They're beautiful. And they're huge. It's really cool to see them out in the wild."


"So why do you ask?"

"Well, I've told you my opinion of whale watching, I assume."


"Sure. You think it's stupid."


"And a waste of time."


"Like sitting on the dark side of the moon hoping to see one-eighth of Venus, I think was the way you put it."

"Pretty much."

"OK, well I've got to go. Anything else?"

"I guess not. It's just that you like watching for whales and I don't like watching for whales, is that accurate?"

"I guess that's it."

"So remind me again - why are you going out shopping this morning while I'm sitting here on this stinkin' tour boat floating out to sea to look for whales with a bunch of binocular-carrying geeks from Omaha?"

She explained about how she got seasick and I didn't, so it was simply a matter of ironclad logic that I should go looking for whales while she went looking for sales.

This argument struck me as playing tether ball without a rope. I couldn't see a connection - I should do something I didn't like, just because I was able to do it? I am able to saw my own ears off, but for better than four decades I have managed to resist the temptation.

I thought that was a pretty good line and wished I had used it on Andrea before I hung up the phone.

I also wished I had thought to ask how long this whale tour was before I bought the ticket, because after the fact, I learned it was three whole hours in length. I was stung by a pang of regret, the kind you get when you realize that you don't really "hang up" a cell phone until after you have already put the phrase in print.

Aw what the heck though, it was a nice day so I figured I'd just sit back and enjoy the boat ride and thank the stars that I wasn't made to go shopping. Andrea was sending me out to do something I didn't like to do, only to save me from something I didn't like to do more. I scratched a little comfort out of that dubious revelation, before sitting back in my seat and turning a judgmental eye on the Nebraskans.

Actually only half were Nebraskans; the other half were Chinese. This made the day interesting for me, since I could enjoy the diversity of contrasting races and cultures as they sprinted to the back of the boat to throw up.

I mean, the Nebraskans I could understand. It's not like pirates ever sailed up Medicine Creek and threatened to sack Arapahoe. But I would have thought the Chinese to be a little more aquatic, for some reason. The sea was pretty rough, however, so I guess nationality was no protection.

Most romantic was the couple that was throwing up together off the bow. Most poetic was the young woman who chided her friends for getting sick about 30 seconds before turning green herself. Most frantic was the first mate, who was providing empty spackle buckets for people too weak to move to the rail.

Whales, by this time, had moved way down on my list of priorities, the hurlorama had developed so many entertaining aspects of its own, such as trying to predict who would go down next. And I could understand Andrea's wisdom, since these poor folks had essentially paid $30 for the privilege of being absolutely miserable.

I did see a whale. Or at least I saw one when I added up all the parts. You would see a tail, or a fin, or a head, but never enough at one shot to put the creature in any real perspective. But I came home with some nice photos of black blobs and spray from where the beast was the second before I snapped the shutter.

All told though, I came home the big winner. All Andrea had to show for her day was about 10 more pairs of shoes.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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