Ralph didn't have too many must-see or must-do items on his Seattle itinerary, but there was one activity that he much wanted to engage in: kayaking. I'm no kayakist but agreed to take a day off from work and join him for a salty day in Elliott Bay. Being a novice, only beginners' kayaks were available for me, but Ralph assured the somewhat brusque (some would say mildly hostile) shop girl that he was fully trained in handling the sleeker, albeit less stable, regular vessels. Did he know what to do if he capsized? Of course, no problemo! Easy-peasy.
We said tally ho to the snippy lady and embarked on our adventure, eagerly paddling away from the water taxi stop, rounding Duwamish Head, splashing away in the beaming sun for about an hour and a half alongside the beach to the Alki Point Light, where we turned and started heading back. Ralph gave me a few pointers here and there on how to operate the paddle more efficiently, in addition to goofing around and sillying about as I was learning how to best use my arms and torso in some sort of ordered motion. I'm quite generous, so I'd say that I did okay.
Naturally, Ralph could have out-paddled me with both hands tied behind his back, but we had lots of fun and even spotted a couple of swimming sea lions as I was energetically flapping myself forward.
Then all of a sudden I heard a big splash behind me, followed by a somewhat confused ”Vad var det som hände!?”. I turned and saw Ralph in the water beside his kayak, looking very wet and very surprised. Reassured by his knowing words at the rental store, I just sat there, giggling and waiting for him to effortlessly crawl up and into his boat again. But as it turned out, he hadn't actually practiced getting into a capsized vessel; he just knew how to do it in theory. Ah... Ok.
I paddled back to him, trying to stabilize his kayak as he was empirically testing the hypothesis, and after about ten minutes of him flopping around trying to re-embark, first from the wrong way, then from the right, almost tipping me over into the freezing water as well, he finally succeeded. By that time, we realized that we had drifted quite far off from shore, but our spirits were nevertheless high and I felt encouraged by the fact that we handled the situation so coolly.
Then I noticed that he was no longer wearing his sunglasses. Then he noticed that he no longer had two shoes.
Back at the kayak shop the terse girl smirked at us as we returned the gear, Ralph soaked, carrying his only shoe in his hand. I tried to figure out how to get him home to Fremont, through downtown, on the bus, barefoot. As a last resort, I went back to the shop to ask the not too friendly renter if she possibly knew of any places that sold footwear nearby, since we were in a bit of a pickle. She looked at me, smiled, and said that she may have something in the back that someone had forgotten. I heard her rummaging about behind the door, and she then emerged carrying a pair of bright pink rubber slippers.
She held them out, chuckled a little and said that they might be slightly too big but we could take them if we wanted to. I gave her my warmest, earnest thanks, and returned to Ralph who was sitting on the grass, sulking over his loss. And like the fairytale prince I presented the magical shoes to him, who in a Cinderella-esque fashion gently let his feet enter into the rubbery domain.
They. Fit. Perfectly.
All is well that ends well; the shoes found a new home, Ralph got a new look, and I got the best cry-laugh I've had in a long time.
Epilogue: the pink slippers accompanied Ralph back to Sweden, and have now begun their new life in the Old World. Sources say that they are getting along very well with Jimi, another Seattle emigrant who joined the travellers on their adventurous journey.
(Photo courtesy of Ralph.)