One lovely spring day, when everything in the world seemed innocent and inviting, I had an experience so humiliating that it still makes me cringe when I think about it today. My friends Barb and Jim from Indiana were visiting. Sun lovers, they expressed an interest in all sorts of outdoor activities. We’d been to the beach, so we decided to go on a long canoe trip down the Rainbow River in central Florida. That struck a chord in me. I loved being on the river, especially when we’d had plenty of rain and the river was up.
Barb and I decided we would wear bandeau bathing suits. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that term, a bandeau bathing suit has no straps, so your tan lines won’t show.
BANDEAU noun \ban-ˈdō\ A bathing suit held up by an elastic band, worn by fools and those who don’t know any better.
A thick wide band of elastic holds up the suit in front—the band, and what Mother Nature has endowed you with. Mother Nature had been generous to me. So, off we went with our husbands for a day of high adventure.
That day we shared the river with about twenty 12- to 13-year-old Boy Scouts. We kidded back and forth with the boys, vying for first place, joking good naturedly about all sorts of things. They stopped to swim; we went ahead. We stopped to picnic; they shot ahead. The Rainbow is incredibly beautiful, so we stopped to take pictures and point out turtles and bass and gar.
At one point, the Rainbow river turns and narrows through a rock gorge. Since the water was high on the day of my adventure, that meant that thousands of gallons of water suddenly had to squeeze through a smaller space. The force of the water can be tremendous. When our foursome turned the corner, we were surprised to see many of the Boy Scout canoes stuck together in a glut, right where the river was surging through the smaller gorge. I saw that we were going to ram them, so I stuck my paddle in the water to try to slow us down. No deal, Lucille. The force of the water pitched me out into the rushing river and sucked me forward with lightning speed.
As a child, I had once almost drowned when I got caught under a giant rubber raft at the beach and couldn’t get out from under it. That day on the Rainbow, I saw myself being sucked underneath the knot of 15 or so canoes, and I panicked. I reached up in desperation and grabbed the side of one of the canoes to stop me from going under. I gripped it with a death grip. I held on, BUT MY BATHING SUIT WENT TO MEXICO (thank goodness it didn’t go to Chile!). I felt what was happening, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. My head was still under 2 feet of water, my hands were gripping the side of a canoe, and there I hung in all my glory.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold my breath much longer, so I looked up from down under the water. I saw the shadowy figures of several boys. They were looking down with their mouths hanging open. One boy pointed while talking to the others. I couldn’t hear his voice, of course, but I read his lips.
“LOOK AT THOSE!!!”
I hung there, suspended between drowning and humiliation.
Everything happened at once. My husband rescued me. He reached down to haul me back into our canoe and somehow managed to pull up my suit in the process. The canoes came untangled and started making their way through the gorge. We spun in an eddy while my face tried to return to its normal color. It would have been nice to have made a hasty exit, but there was quite a lot of river to cover before the gettin’-out place.
We only saw the Boy Scouts one more time that day. As we paddled by their noisy group, they went instantly quiet, except for one boy, who stage whispered, “She’s the one! Her! Her! Right there!”
There’s good news about this story, however. I learned to respect the Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared. The Boy Scouts learned an anatomy lesson. The bad news is that I was Exhibits A and B.