Of course, this wasn’t an actual flamingo, It was one of those big, inflatable, pool floats. You know the ones that Instagram models like taking photos atop.
I was vacationing with the family in Maldives. The beautifully clear, turquoise water of the beaches there definitely live up to their reputation and are unlike any I’ve ever seen in the world.
However, my son prefers the pool, so that’s where we spent our first afternoon. While my son played in the shallow end of the pool, I stayed nearby, waist deep in water, cooling off from the warm day. My wife was lounging in a chair nearby.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a big pink object lurking nearby. I turn to find an errant pink flamingo that someone had left unattended. The gentle breeze blew the pool float in our direction.
My immediate reaction was surprise at the sheer size of it. As far as pool floats go, I’d figured I’d seen it all, from your standard inflatable raft to your round tubes, to even a long shark or flat crocodile float. And I’ve ridden my fair share as well, so I was no stranger these manner of pool toys. But this flamingo seemed massive by comparison. I’d say it was easily the size of two big, burly men. Just then I heard a voice calling out to me. It was a woman in black bikini.
Her skin was oiled and tanned like a true sunbathing aficionado. She had gold sunglasses on her face and her hair tied back in a tight bun. She had this aura of confidence as she walked over towards us.
She asked if we were going to use this flamingo or if I minded her taking it for “just one minute” to take some pictures.
Considering the flamingo wasn’t actually ours, just some just some flotsam that floated to us by chance, I gladly passed her the float. She was grateful for the gesture and dragged the bird away towards a more picturesque part of the pool where a far more rotund and pastier complexioned friend, clad in a colorful one-pi eve waited with a camera in hand.
As I went back to watching over my son to make sure he didn’t, too boldly, venture into the deeper side of the pool, I made an occasional glance with curiosity towards the woman in the black bikini and the big, pink flamingo. Throughout the twenty or so minutes, in which she tried all manner of modelesque poses for her social media photoshoot atop this pink flamingo float, I became more and more interested in eventually regaining control of the bird and having a go with this apparatus myself.
Now, something seemingly off topic to take into account is that I have always been fascinated by the idea of being a sailor.
The romanticized notion of a life at sea, as depicted in movies, tv, books, etc. had captured my imagination since my days of youth and kept ahold of it until even this very day. Whether through tales of swashbuckling pirates and their daring do across the high seas or running silent and deep inside the belly of a diesel powered submarine, I had always wondered what it would be like to truly try out my sea legs on the open water.
However, none of this inspiration actually translated to reality. In my limited nautical experiences, I quickly learned that a life at sea is not quite for a “land lubber” like me. Aside from a handful of short, deep sea fishing expeditions (half of which I got seasick upon) and some vacation cruises, my most notable seafaring adventures were a grand total of four sailing classes I took when I was around junior high school aged. On the third of these classes, I managed to completely capsize what was supposed to be a near unsinkable practice dingy.
The instructor and I waded across the lake pushing that little boat along until we got back to shore, completely soaked and fully clothed for that matter. And thus ended my maritime career, but not necessarily the dream.
The reason I bring all this up is because, as I watched the black bikini clad woman basking on that pink flamingo while her friend tirelessly took picture after picture of her, I was not so much thinking about lounging on that pool float, as much as piloting it. I wanted to be able to navigate this flamingo around the four corners of the pool.
I had observed how the woman carefully climbed on top of the flamingo alongside from the deck of the pool. That certainly would be the easy and orderly way, but certainly not the weather beaten scallywag’s way.
I planned to board it while I was already in the water. After all, what is adventure on the high seas without making the adventurous choice. But several questions came to mind that I needed to solve. What depth would be best for a waterborne entry? Knee deep? Waist deep? Should I board from the side and pull myself over? Or should go by from the stern of the flamingo, up and over the tail? How would I steer the bird? And how would I make it move, both ahead and astern?
Of course, all the calculations and assumptions I did in my head would matter for not if I couldn’t get my hands back on the float to try them out first hand. It was only a matter of time of waiting for her photoshoot to finally end so I could then commandeer this flamingo, grab fate by the nuts, and achieve my true calling of captain of a ship (or pool float in this instance).
At long last, the woman in the black bikini seemingly got the one perfect shot to post up on her Instagram and abandoned the flamingo with little ceremony.
Now was my chance. With my wife taking watch over my son, I raced across the pool, hoping to beat out any other possible pool-goers or salvagers from taking the vessel for themselves. As I neared the flamingo, the pool became too deep to walk and I doggie paddled furiously the last bit of distance.
As last, I grabbed the flamingo by it’s side and claimed it for my own. I swam back towards the shallow end and dragged it back with me. Once I felt the ground beneath me again, I knew that I had reached safety. I calmly marched the rest of the way with my prize dragging behind me.
Once I reached just below waist level of water, I set upon lining the flamingo up to start testing out the waterborne boarding strategies I had concocted earlier. I tested out it’s ability to hold me if I tried board from the side, but quickly found that it would sure end in folly, tipping over completely before I could get onboard. I decided that the best way would surely be a leap over the tail from behind, similar to how a cowboy would fly onto a horse from behind in a movie. I would line up the bird in front of me, and then, simultaneously, pull the bird towards me while I leap with full force forward. After recalculating the distance for a moment, I threw caution to the wind and went for the jump.
You will not believe it, but it was on only my second attempt that I achieved success. The first attempt sent me awkwardly flailing into the water with the flamingo floating away, but on the second attempt, I soared above and past the tail, onto the back of the flamingo, and managed to grab the handles to steady myself and pull the rest of me on top.
I was filled with a rush of accomplishment as I knelt on the back of the flamingo and rose up, holding the neck with one hand, the other hand akimbo. I imagined myself feeling and looking like Captain Jack Sparrow upon this pool float.
I waved to my family like a conquering Roman general. It did not take long, however, to realize that I was now drifting around the pool aimlessly and heading back towards the deep end. I had little time indeed to put into action the strategies for steering and navigating the flamingo, lest I be left to the mercy of the breeze and pool currents.
I climbed back down and laid flat on the flamingo and stuck legs out dangling past the stern. I tried kicking my legs to push the flamingo forward, but made little progress after much effort. The float was so huge that I couldn’t get much of my legs into the water without being practically falling off the float myself and basically pushing while swimming. That’s not what I call piloting a pool float.
I decided to try option two: dangling my legs by the neck, over the bow of the flamingo and riding it much like a cowboy.
I mounted the flamingo, careful to not topple over. After successfully taking up the position up front, I began lunging with my hips and kicking my legs back furiously.
When it felt like I was making some forward progress, I called out to my wife saying, “Hey, look at me!”
She looked back, horrified, saying, “you shouldn’t do that!”
I responded back, “I’m riding it, you know, like a horse!”
She replied, “It doesn’t look like that! It looks like you’re doing something else!”
The quick realization that it may well, in fact, look more like I was having sex with this flamingo, rather than riding it or piloting it, got me thinking that maybe I should rethink my plan. So I tried to get out of this mounted position and back to a more steady position on the back of the bird.
As I pulled my right leg back onboard and onto the back of the bird, the balance went out of whack and the flamingo immediately capsized, sending me into the water.
Normally this would have simply made for a moment of embarrassment and a bit of snorting water out of my nose, but as the flamingo turned over, its neck wrapped around my leg and I became trapped underwater and under the upside down flamingo.
I tried to wrestle the flamingo’s neck away from my leg, but it’s grip was tight. I tried to put one foot on the ground, but I was on the deep side of the pool and would have to fight the water just as hard as I would have to fight this bird. The flamingo float seemed intent to make sure it’s Captain went down with the ship.
I put all my strength into lunging towards the surface and managed to push the flamingo up enough to take a desperate breath of air before being force back down into the deep. I continued to try to untangle my leg, but it was a losing battle. The beak of the bird had locked in with it’s neck and it held me like fierce sea creature.
Had I been equipped like a proper sailor, I could have pulled a dagger out my boot and slice the beast off my leg and then swim to safety. But alas, I was only equipped with my two hands and my sheer instinct to survive.
Panic set in and I became overcome with the realization that I might perish there in a luxury hotel pool within viewing distance of Maldives’ beautiful beaches, but not actually at sea like the brave souls of other ships gone down. The panic gave me the adrenaline for one last thrust of strength and with that I grabbed the head of the flamingo and squeezed. I crushed it’s beak and evil eyes in my hands, and I twisted it’s neck until I finally managed to free myself. With one final burst of energy I pushed the flamingo away from me and rose to the surface to finally take a life saving breath of air. With my strength nearly exhausted, I started to swim back towards the shallow end.
Once again, I felt the welcomed touch of the pool’s floor beneath my feet and knew I had reached safety. I coughed and and snorted water out as I marched towards the stairs and to dry land. I marched there a defeated man, but at least one who was still breathing and not confined to Davey Jones’ locker.
Once out of the water, I looked up to my wife, happy to be able to see her face again. She gave me a reassuring smile and then asked…
“Can you take a picture of me on that pink flamingo?”
After a short sigh, “Sure thing honey. I’ll go back and get it.”