I See Dumb People

Adventures on the wrong side of the bell curve.

The good thing about dumb people is that they make you feel so much better about yourself. It’s why they were put here. Of course, they also serve as a reminder-through example-of what not to do.

My favorite idiot is Joey Randazzo, whom I met offshore without knowing his name. That I learned later from a newspaper article, complete with photos of Joey and the remains of his boat.

I’m chugging along in dense fog, holding a course parallel to an almost perfectly straight beach. To keep from drifting in, I’m following the chart’s five-fathom line with my depthsounder so I’ll stay at least half a mile off. There’s a beach-bound swell coming in to port and the sound of surf to starboard. I’m thinking, “Only a complete schmuck could screw this up.”


Right on cue, a boat comes wailing out of the mist on a course perpendicular to mine-heading right for shore. As I hail him to say he’s going the wrong way, he calls back to say that it’s me who’s doomed. We both think we’re talking to idiots. Except I make it home and he makes page four of the next day’s paper.

Sometimes life is both fair…and entertaining.

Always in search of more things to prop up my fragile ego, and since I only come in contact with limited numbers of world-class bozos, I like to collect stories from others. I can’t vouch for their accuracy, but who cares?


Two guys go fishing on an Illinois lake in their 14′ aluminum boat. Their “bait” is a quarter stick of dynamite. They light the fuse and throw it downwind, thinking that this way the spray from the bomb won’t get them wet. It doesn’t. Instead they drift over the floating explosive, which blows a hole in the boat. “They intended to kill fish with the blast,” says chief deputy coroner Jim Wipper, “not themselves.”

Jane Brenner is having a great day. She’s with her friends fishing off Virginia Beach. It’s calm, the sun is hot, and since there are no fish, she’s sitting on the swim platform dangling her feet in the water. “Hey Jane, what are you doing?” asks one of her friends. “This is fantastic,” Jane replies. “I’m feeding dolphin some bait. They just keep coming.” Later she tells the Coast Guard that, surprisingly, the first shark bite didn’t hurt as much as the other six.

Two more good old boys, this time from Arkansas, are bitching about how strenuous bass fishing is. You have to sit on some dinky barely padded seat or, worse, stand. So they put matching La-Z-Boy recliners in their little boat. It might have worked, too, if they both didn’t decide to recline at the same time – and on the same side of the boat. At least that’s what the police figure.


An even greater source of comfort for me are case files from marine insurance companies. Not great literature, but if you’re ever feeling bad about yourself, needing stories of morons gone amok, they’ll pep you right up. They are also certifiably true. Although this one sounds too good to be real.

One night on a New York lake a skipper tucks down below, turning the helm over to his guest with instructions to “head for the red light” – meaning a distant marker. But there’s more than one red light, and the guest chooses the wrong one. With the owner still below, the boat bounces up and over a rock jetty and lands on some railroad tracks as a train’s red light disappears in the distance. But it gets better. As the two walk around the boat to survey the extraordinary scene a second train comes along and pulverizes what’s left.

There are more stories like this. In fact, they never end. Which is why, if I see you outside the inlet and turn the other way, you shouldn’t be insulted. I see dumb people.


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