The Houston Boat Show

“Someday we’ll buy a boat,” Wayne tells his wife, Lulu.  “So we should go to the Houston Boat Show and see what’s what.”

“Is this the same someday when we’re going to visit Alaska?  The same one where we buy an RV?”  If so, it may never happen.  Lulu’s feelings are mixed.  She enjoys adventures, but Alaska is cold and has bears.  And the thought of being the slowest fattest vehicle on the road isn’t pleasant.

It’s Saturday afternoon, the second day of the boat show.  The parking at Reliant Center costs ten dollars, and they park a half-mile away. 

“The further away, the better,” she tells him.  She wants to put more numbers on her Fitbit.   She loves living in a world where she gets credit for every step. 

In Houston there are exhibitions for everything—home and garden, cars, brides, quilts, weight loss, guns, scrapbooks, taxidermy, photography, starving artists, agriculture, technology.  

Admission is ten dollars apiece.  Wayne and Lulu know nothing about boats, except that there sure are a lot of them in this massive hall, everything from yachts to skiffs. 

“We want something that’ll pull skiers,” Wayne says as he wanders between the mid-sized boats. 

“We know no one who skis,” she tells him. 

“It should also accommodate fishing.”

“Do you want to sleep on this nonexistent boat, or is it just for use during the day?”

“Hmm.  A good question.  We really don’t know what we want.  This’ll take a lot of thought.”  Years and years of thought.

“If we lived near water of any kind, I could take this seriously.”  She’s heard there’s a lake about an hour away, near Fayetteville, but she’s never been there.  Where would they keep a boat?  They can’t even fit both their cars into the garage. 

Ramps give access to the biggest boats.  People are lined up outside a massive yacht.  Lulu and Wayne fall in at the end of the queue.  Behind them, more join.  A crowd in front, a crowd pressing at their backs.  The air is hot and stagnant as they shuffle up the ramp, across the deck, and inside.  On a boat the kitchen’s called a galley.  The toilet’s a head.  The left side is port, and the right is starboard.  If someday ever comes, a whole new vocabulary will be involved.  Shiny chrome, white with blue trim, this boat’s so big it's even got an area on the main deck for car storage.  It also has two interior lounge areas, a media room, several cabins, and a sauna, not to mention the galley, smaller than expected, engineered for efficiency.   

They leave the yacht and tromp up and down the aisles.  Lulu glances at her Fitbit at the end of every aisle.  There are hundreds of booths dedicated to boat paraphernalia—fishing equipment, navigation systems, ropes for every occasion, nets, dive suits, buckets.  Wayne stops at every table to sign up for whatever give-away’s on offer.

Lulu’s not happy when she discovers that he’s been putting her email address on all the forms. 

“What’s the big deal?” he asks.  “Just delete them.”

“If it’s not a big deal, why didn’t you use your own address?”

They stop and watch a demonstration of cookware that’s made specifically with boat safety in mind.  Wayne fills out the form to win a free set of the cookware, which concerns Lulu because Wayne’s lucky when it comes to this kind of thing.  He often wins random drawings.  Where will they keep the cookware they don’t need for the boat they don’t have? 

“What’re you trying to win now?”  She’s getting cranky from all this stopping to fill out forms for free stuff.

“The door prize.”  She can tell by the way he says it that he has no idea what the door prize is.  He stuffs the slip of paper into the big box on the table. 

And that's how Lulu and Wayne, who know nothing about boating or fishing, come to possess a thousand dollar gift card for fishing tackle, a complete set of cookware that is meant to be used on a boat, several buckets, a big container of tie-downs, and a pair of water skis.