A Lesson in False Assumptions

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This boat is now short four bottles of Gatorade.

“Can you hear me out there?” the loudspeaker on a nearby barge crackled loudly. I waited for what I thought was coming next: This barge captain is probably upset we’re in his way in this busy traffic corridor. Barges are scrambling around on both sides of the river like giant ants moving their loads. But the next sentence suprised both of us. “Ya’ll want some Gatorade?”

Huh? What? Yeah! We eagerly paddled toward the towering barge. Two deck hands related how they had seen Allen’s story about us on the news the previous night. They tossed down a package of Gatorade and two granola bars. McKee brand– Adventist food, I noted.

There really wasn’t any reason for me to assume the captain would be upset with us. You often cannot see the operator of the barge and therefore assign a personality to the boat based on it’s size and appearance. But in over 2000 miles of traveling the Mississippi, not one barge has communicated any kind of negativity toward under-powered boats such as ours. In fact, we’ve never received any significant communication from them.

The only negative comment received to date was from a Army Corp worker on the shore near Greenville, MS. As we paddled past their work site, a man looking to be in charge got on his loudspeaker and announced: “You boys are gonna drown if you keep paddling like a bunch of dummies out there.” I wanted to respond and say, “I guess it’s a good thing we’re not a bunch of dummies then!” but decided it wouldn’t make any difference anyways.

The only other loudspeaker incident happened north of Lake Providence. We were paddling very close to dark and a barge approached on our left side. Instead of reminding us how dangerous it is to paddle near dusk, the loudspeaker began playing a few bars from a famous Conway Twitty song. “Darling, I’d just love to lay you down.” I wasn’t sure for a moment if he was just being friendly or if we were being hit on!

Gatorade and Mac & Cheese are the official barge crew foods.
Gatorade and Mac & Cheese are the official barge crew foods.

Same Lesson (Times Two)

Not ten minutes after receiving our first hospitality from a barge crew, a second vessel motioned us over. This boat was parked on the shore and just wanted to chat and help as well. Another friendly crew passed us a couple more cases of Gatorade while the captain gave us some advice about “Suicide Stretch” which would be coming up downriver. The younger of the two deck hands agreed: “It’s going to get much tougher up ahead. Ya’ll be careful.” He handed over their lunch leftovers consisting of mac & cheese, pork & beans, and some fish sticks.

As Ryan and I stopped to eat the barge food further downriver, I realized this was a lesson that was being given to us. We had both been fighting (again–yeah, big suprise) both the evening before and this morning as well. The basis for some of the disagreements were based on false assumptions. Now, twice in a row we had received hospitality in place of what we assumed might be a scolding. Sometimes you assign a value where it does not exist. This boat is bigger than me and therefore he’s probably mad I’m in his way. But that’s not necessary the case. Big or small we’re all on this same river, country, or planet together. Let’s make assumptions that fall on the positive side.

4 thoughts on “A Lesson in False Assumptions”

  1. Assumptions on the positive side…now you’re talking! Loving to know that the finish line is in view and you’re still alive, well, and on the positive side! YAAY! Cheerin’ you on from here in the midwest! Reminding you that moment by moment is the best way to steer clear of ‘what might have been’ and ‘what could be’. Thanks for your courage! The finish line awaits…….Love, Jodes:)

  2. Safety first. The closer you get to the end of the game, the larger chance of fatigue causing a lapse in judgement or inattentiveness.

    Speaking of safe, how is the water quality down there? I live in Minnesota, so I only see the “fresh” beginnings of the River.

    Be safe.

  3. Glad to see you guys posted up your visit to our fleet. I hope my personal-use river maps were helpful thru “Suicide Alley”. My crewmembers, Chris(L) & Seth(R), were excited to see their pictures posted. We would like to commend you on a job well done. We hope the leftovers were helpful. The first boat that you came in contact with was the M/V Safety Explorer. Our vessel was shoved into the shore. Our boat’s name is the M/V Safety Quest. You speak of safety quite often and as you can tell our vessels namesake has safety in mind. We hope to hear more and all of our crew are awaiting the video release of your adventure. Be safe. Safe sailing.

    Capt. Chris Brown
    M/V Safety Quest
    AEP River Operations
    Convent, LA

  4. Really enjoyed your exciting story. And, I always knew our boats are very hospitable so it was great to hear you say that! My favorite two lines in your story are the last ones.

    “Big or small we’re all on this same river, country, or planet together. Let’s make assumptions that fall on the positive side.”

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