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There Was An Old Woman Who Fell Off a Boat, But Did She Float?

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

Every hundred years or so (probably), someone falls into the arctic Mackinac Straights during a ferry crossing. Luckily, she was fine, and I was lucky enough to witness it. Blessed be.

I’m going to call her Ms. Lacy, although I didn’t actually catch her name.

Ms. Lacy is north of seventy, and she is the loud, fun one in her group of girlfriends, who were visiting Mackinac Island on this cool, cloudy day. When she was dripping wet, her shoes and undies full of lake water, reporting her tragedy to the ferry captain, Ms. Lacy said she was from Charlevoix, elsewhere in Northern Michigan. That suprised me, as Ms. Lacy sounded more like she was from Charlotte, or Charlottesville, or Savannah; somewhere warm and slow with mossy-looking trees and interesting cemetery stories. Unless she had hit her head on the way off the boat, which she swore she did not, and this lilting accent was actually an effect of a brain injury, I think her voice indicates an interesting back story involving a rugged midwestern lover who lured her away from her roots. House full of kids and pockets full of peanuts, that bastard later up and left her and she’s been single and fabulous ever since. Until this day. Then she was single, fabulous, and very, very wet.

The island is between the Lower and Upper peninsulas, near the Mackinac Bridge, which spans the peninsulas. It lies kinda betwixt two of the five Great Lakes (Huron and Michigan….the other three are Erie, Superior, and Ontario. See? I know some things about geography, but no, I will not take any follow-up questions) and it houses the Governor’s mansion, currently occupied by “that woman from Michigan,” some famous fancy hotels, and a lot of fudge and horses…and horse fudge. It’s everywhere. Cars aren’t allowed. In fact, while we were there, I drove my first horse and buggy like the piss-poor vegan that I am. It was fun. For me. Probably not for the horse. My point is, the island is quaint.

And, it was technically Lake Huron into which Ms. Lacy fell when she accidentally stepped off the side of the ramp that leads onto the ferry, and folded like an umbrella, crashing into the water below. The gap between the dock and the ramp and the boat was a narrow little triangle, but she sure found it.

The water this time of year is in the high 60’s, but this day was especially cool, so it was probably a good ten degrees colder than that. Parts of Lake Huron in this part of the Mackinac Straights reach nearly three-hundred feet. There aren’t whales or sharks, but there are Big Ass Fish (B.A.F.) and the water there by the docks is especially murky and greasy and sketchy. And also just really, really wet.

So, planning for a day of kitschy souvenir shopping, fudge (not the horse kind)-eating, and perhaps bike-riding or strolling around Fort Mackinac, pretending to be interested in Michigan’s bland history, Ms. Lacy instead fell butt-first off a boat.

The ferries are three stories high, so she fell a good ways down and there was a mighty sploosh. So deep was the hole into which she fell, that it took a rescue mission of five ferrymen to pull her out. I hung around nearby, thinking as a medical professional I might be able to (get my incessant nosiness quelled) help, if needed. I heard loud noises coming from inside the hole, and identifying her friends, I asked them if she was wailing for help? “No,” they all said, looking a combination of embarrassed and amused, “She’s laughing. She’s down there laughing hysterically.”

It took one of the brave ferryman to go down into the hole with her to push up on her caboose while the others on land pulled up on her…front of the train part (I looked up what the first part of a train is called, to try to do right by this metaphor, and it’s called a “cowcatcher(??)” and that doesn’t apply here so much, so we’ll just move on), and eventually they were able to carefully, safely, pull her up intact from the wet hole. They then ushered her to the upper deck, where she was interviewed by the captain while she squeezed water from her socks.

I lurked nearby as the ferry took off and we finally headed toward the island, so that I could be available in case there was any (information I could later use in a humorous essay) injury that needed my attention. I got to witness her laughing and carrying on, surrounded by her friends, who were still clearly caught between feeling mortified and considering how they were going to share this hysterical tale with everyone they know back home.

Ms. Lacy gave the best statement, because of course she did- she’s Lily Tomlin in the movie version of this story.

When asked by the captain what happened, she nodded solemnly, and asked him, “What’s your name?”

“Tim.”

“Ok,” she said. “Put down that Tim pushed me in.”

Then she and her friends fell all over themselves laughing for a few minutes while Tim nodded appreciatively and stowed the concussion kit back under the bench. When she could speak again through her giggles, she said that she “Just went right down and popped back up, found a little ledge with my tennis shoe and waited until these nice guys could haul me up. No problem. Not a big deal. Now, do I get some free fudge out of this?”

I visited a lot of friends and family who I consider admirable while we traveled Michigan and Ohio, but if I have to pick one as my personal hero? It’s Ms. Lacy. No doubt about it.

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