This happened a couple of years back.

Our office went on an outing last Friday that I like to call the “Little Touch of Sodom and Gomorrah Float Trip” down the Illinois river in northeastern Oklahoma. This was actually the second such trip (version 2.0 in programmer’s terms), the first occurring about two years ago. Two years because the excesses of the event needed to fade from the management’s memory before we repeated them. During the first trip, bus service was provided which seemed to encourage certain excesses of behavior. This year, we were required to drive ourselves because of costs but which also prevented quite as many from getting too drunk to get home. I must state right here that I engaged in no such extreme behavior.

Just for the record.

This is a popular weekend thing for a lot of Okies but the alcohol consumption has grown to the extent that legends are told (actually newspaper stories have been written also) about the almost unbelievable idiocy that has occurred while under the influence. There have been deaths. There are now police patrolling the waters on weekends to cut down on that sort of thing.

They aren’t there during the week however and this was on a Friday.

We had one of our vendors help sponsor the event and so a couple of reps were present to enjoy the day. I steered the canoe of one of them – voluntarily. It is a really beautiful place to go canoeing and I was able to appreciate it by increasing the distance between my canoe and the rubber rafts of my reveling co-workers. Our vendor rep; however, wanted to be fairly close to the raft with all the coolers of beer so we compromised in the same way I usually compromise: I let him have his way.

At about the three mile point, we rounded a bend and got a taste of some of the excesses that the river is known for; there was a couple sitting in a lawn chair that was partially submerged in the water. The young lady was sitting on the lap of the young gentleman (HA!) and they were engaged in the sort of activity that made me think “In about five minutes, that guy’s gonna get lucky.” The guy gave us a stupid grin and said “Hi” but the young lady’s motor was running and she was not to be distracted. We floated on around the next bend – barely noticed by the amorous couple. Sure enough, a few minutes later we heard loud hooting from behind us. I was told at the next stop that the main group of rubber-rafting revellers rounded the bend and got an eyeful of something that most people have to pay money and drive to the bad part of town to see.

Just my luck.

To make matters more awkward, our vendor rep was apparently put in mind of better times. He began to share some alcohol-fogged reminisces about his younger days and how good it felt to have his arms around a skinny woman, how much weight his wife had put on, etc and all manner of things that gave me an acute case of the willies. I have nothing against sex but I don’t typically want to discuss it with half-drunk strangers. I kept my mouth shut.

It could have been worse though. I heard no gunshots, saw no ambulances, and didn’t have to rescue anybody. The only exciting moment was when we encountered a snag and the canoe turned over. This isn’t what you would call “white water” but there is enough current to pull you along in places. The canoe tipped me out on the downstream side and the canoe then pushed me up against the snag and momentarily trapped my leg. No big deal but just for a second, my heart beat pretty fast. I’m not sure I’d want to do any “real” white water work until I can build some swimming skills. I can swim but apparently I forget to when tangled in a partially submerged bush.

Water guns were present.

Super soakers. Oh Yeah!

They’re OK until your target realizes he can get back at you by simply putting his paddle in the water and flipping 10 times as much water on you as you just squirted him with. Water guns have superior range however. I saw one of the spouses take one and undergo a startling Jekyll & Hyde transformation. She was normally very quiet and shrank back from anybody with a water gun. But, during a rest stop she picked up an unused super-soaker. She gave a tentative squirt at a tree. I heard her say “cool” to herself and she casually squirted her partner. After an initial squeal, she suddenly stuck our her lower jaw and realized she was a babe packin’ heat. She walked into the crowd with her gun going full blast; hosing everyone within range like Arnold Schwarzenegger taking out a regiment of bad guys. Kind of scary.

Super soakers, by the way, look really cool but I saw some kids playing with them in our neighborhood once and noticed that while one kid was busy pumping his super soaker, his little brother was blasting him with a continuous (and much higher volume) stream from a simple water hose. You’ve got to wonder if the super soaker is just hype.

Anyway, during these stops, it was interesting to wade about in the water and observe the fish and the occasional can of “adult beverage” that came floating by from upstream capsizings. I gathered all these like a good scout picking up trash and threw them into a cooler. There was the occasional can of soda thank goodness. Interesting note for the rocket scientists out there: Dr. Pepper cans have almost neutral buoyancy. They don’t float to the top nor do they sink. It’s kind of hard to retrieve them if they’re floating pretty deep. Beer floats on the surface.

As excessive as this sounds, the trip of two years previous makes this one look like a church social. Think “Animal House” without the youthful energy. Our office had some drinkers that re-wrote the record books for bad behavior. The charter bus driver actually stopped on the freeway on the return trip and threatened to quit then and there. Those of us “normal” people offered to put the drunkards off into the ditch but the driver agreed to continue if they would stop singing and blowing the police whistles. Singing is not really the right term to use here. Bellowing is perhaps a more accurate word. Now there’s a bus driver out there somewhere who thinks that programmers from Sabre are the scum of the earth which is sad; most of those guys have quit now. I haven’t mentioned the “anatomically correct” inflatable sheep that was brought along; labeled the “I love ewe.”

So this trip was much more pleasant. We finished up the trip with an excellent BarBQ dinner. Then the Karaoke machine came out; time for me to go. I don’t know how that worked out and I didn’t want to know. I’ve always had an aversion to Karaoke; from the moment I first learned of the concept, I knew that I would have no part of it. It was therefore time for me to go.

It was one of those “good and bad” experiences but it makes a pretty good story.