It’s one of those days. Brendan calls me for a column, and generally I am at peace with the world – which is great, but makes for lousy writing. Write about your boat he says, pointing to the Shinsei remote control speedboat sitting on my desk.
I grin. It’s a preposterous idea. Then I try and think of something better.
So, about my boat.
I love boats. Unfortunately, I’m not a sailor, but I have the rest of my life to rectify the situation. Still, when I was a kid and the other children on my block were getting remote control cars, I wanted a boat. My parents were caught off guard by the request, but after a visit to the toy store, it became apparent that these sorts of things did in fact exist.
I used to spend hours steering the thing around swimming pools or the lake behind my grandparents’ house in Mississippi. The hull is still streaked with the reds and yellows of Mississippi mud. I learned to do tricks, to turn the boat on a dime, to parallel park it on the banks without a scratch.
Despite my careful maintenance, occasionally the thing would break and I would have to send a letter off to the obscure Japanese company that manufactured the thing. A year or so later, a replacement part would arrive, and the little boat would take to the water again.
When I came to college, I didn’t bring any toys. Gradually, I’ve discovered the necessity of having a few of them around. I’ve lived with the same guys for three years now, and one of them is an avid collector of comic books and action figures. He’s good for the rest of us. He brings out our inner nerd.
You can only live with a guy like that for so long before you begin to miss your old speedboat. So, upon returning from a short vacation this year, I pulled the toy out of retirement. It was an arduous process, but retrieving one’s childhood always is.
It had deteriorated a bit since I was a kid. First, I had to find a new antenna for the thing. The fittings on it are kind of unusual – not the kind you can find at radio shack. I finally found a hobby shop that sold all sorts of weird odds and ends. The guy behind the counter dug around for about 15 minutes before pulling out the part.
After that was fixed, I had to clean the battery acid from the boat’s innards. Unfortunately, after replacing the batteries, I found it still didn’t work. I ended up having to open the contraption up with a screwdriver and clean off all of the contacts on the circuit boards. I screwed it back together and turned the thing on, half expecting it to shower me with sparks or spew battery acid.
It roared to life. I was happy.
Today the boat sits on my bookcase in the Nexus office under Storke Tower and brings hours of entertainment to all of the Nexites. It retrieves stray Frisbees and hunts seagulls in the reflecting pool. I’ve become skilled at sneaking up on the ill-natured birds by idling the engine and catching wind currents. Then I throw it in gear and watch them take flight in fear and angry protest.
On second thought, perhaps this column does have a point: everyone needs a toy, no matter how old. So grow up – get a speedboat.
Josh Braun is the Daily Nexus science and technology editor. Seagulls beware.