Jolly Roger and Me

One of the hottest topics in the news right now is pirates. The reason that it is considered a “hot topic” stems from the fact that everyone is talking about it and everyone loves talking about it. I mean, seriously, it is 2008 and we have news about pirates? That is so incredibly cool, right?

These pirates are actually not quite of the same tattered cloth as a Captain Jack Sparrow. They don’t necessarily have hooks or pegs or eye patches to cover their maimed appendages. They are not necessarily in the trinket finding or treasure burying business. They are, in fact, thieves from Somalia who have extended the lawlessness of their own land into the international waters surrounding them. They are brutal and murderous and they do not manage their operations from a regal wooden galleon, but generally small aluminum outboard motorboats. They do not fire big flashy cannons or wield unsharpened swords with an odd curvature, but they fire rifles and handguns and Uzis with the intent to kill simple fishermen.

They also do not invite children onto their boat to help them be a better person. My two-year-old son loves pirates. He, as I may have stated before, has an unhealthy fascination with them. Every morning, when he wakes up, he informs us that he had dreams about pirates. He reads a few books about pirates that glorify them as the fun-loving babysitters of the colonial era. Nevermind the wenches, the thievery, the murderous behavior, the lack of personal hygiene, addiction to rum and the severing of various limbs and involuntary extraction of eyeballs. The Australian kid’s show “The Wiggles” features a prominent character named Captain Feathersword who prances about, tickling children with feathers, and shouting phrases like “Yo ho, me hardies!” all with a toothy-grin somewhat lacking in the tooth department. All this, and he is still only the third most likely of the bunch to be a registered sex offender.

We endear ourselves to pirates because of the adventure, the freedom, and the good-natured lawlessness that their lives entail. There have been several stories about modern day pirates which have not only served to fascinate the interests of the news-reading audience, but of those landlubbers who themselves have become victims. I recently read a story about a cruise ship that was attacked by Somali pirates. Luckily, they were able to outrun the criminals, but not after shots were fired from the small pursuing vessels and the cruise-liner’s employees began taking defense positions such as lining the decks with high-powered fire hoses and using ghetto blasters to emit high-frequency sounds out over the water. The wealthy cruisers on board were apparently so caught up in the high-adventure that they seemed to disregard the fact that those were actual bullets whizzing by their heads and that they had a very good chance of being either killed or taken for ransom.

In later interviews, they referred to the pirates as “cheeky”, a word which I can only see Mike Myers saying in some Saturday Night Live skit. One Australian traveler, who I can only assume is a big fan of the Wiggles, mentioned that despite the warning to remain in their cabins, she along with several other passengers raced to the deck to see the action. The ship eventually outran the pirates, who I can only assume stood on their boats shaking their fists in the air and cursing in some funny sounding language while bobbing in the trail left behind the cruise ship. The passengers probably talked about it for a while afterwards; at the water cooler in the office or while holding a friendly charity event to help the needy in Somalia. “Hey, did I ever tell you about the time that I outran a group of pirate hijackers?” Whenever their otherwise mundane lives seemed a bit too bogged down in boredom, they could always reflect on the time that they were nearly decapitated by a loveable band of rogues.

I have recently been heavily involved in a game called, simply enough, “Pirates!” It is a Facebook application and is intended for those who need some separation from reality after connecting with their quote/unquote friends from high school. Yes, these are the same friends who may have ridiculed them for showing up one day with their zipper down or simply punched them a few times in the groin in order to assert their superiority. My school mascot, coincidentally enough, happened to be a pirate. Having no real athletic skills of my own, I took on the role of the mascot for the entire football season my senior year. I loved coming up with unscripted celebrations and interacting with the cheerleaders who would not so much as look at me if I did not have a five foot foam head on my shoulders. I ended my mascot career after a few basketball games. There were two problems with mascotting in this sport. The first is that, unlike the pleasant fall breeze that blows through the eye holes on the football field, the stagnant reciprocated air of the stadium was choking. The second, was that I did not have a half chain-link fence and a race track which separated me from the throngs of enthusiastic supporters. I was right next to them, which gave them every opportunity in the world to rip my head off, throw their drinks at me, or punch me a few times in the groin to assert their superiority. I walked off the court cursing them under my breath, and murmuring that they wouldn’t treat me this way if I were a real pirate.

Now, with the game of Pirates, you can reconnect with these friends by storming their barges or raping their wenches, and earn valuable points at the same time. I got really into it for a while until someone named “Shiver Me Anytime” attacked me. Personally offended, I attacked back, before I realized that this person was on level 452. I had been seriously engaged in this game for a month and was level 19. The level of societal separation that it must take to reach that status is akin to a J.D. Salinger or Unibomber. Though I often find myself addictively dedicated to pointless pursuits, becoming someone who actually speaks in pirate jargon and wears wrist braces in anticipation of carpal-tunnel is not my game. The freedom, the slightly dangerous lifestyle, and the thrill of piracy, be it at home on a computer, in a darkened theater with a video camera, or on a tin boat in the Gulf of Aden, is tempting. But, alas, the pirate life is not for me. Unless I run out of things to do at work. Methinks I will exact me revenge in due time Shiver Me Anytime. Prepare to visit Davey Jones’ locker. Arrrrh.


Marsha said...

As always -- I was totally entertained by your tales! I had forgotten about your mascot days. Too funny! What is really interesting is that our secretarial organization is doing a pirate theme for our upcoming state conference. And guess who has had to write up all the PR in pirate speak. Personally, I'm getting pretty sick of it. There's only so many people you can refer to as "bilge-sucking sea dogs" without fear of having made a career ending decision. So I know your pain. Enjoy reading that Pirates' Night Before Christmas that I gave to Zachary.

Rob & Michelle Eberly Family said...