Column: Breaking the mold, rocking the (cardboard) boat

06/22/2012 1:00 PM |

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | A scene from the 2010 races.

I don’t like to do stuff.

That doesn’t mean I sit on my couch all day. I enjoy puttering around like a recent retiree, tending to the pool and the lawn. I like to walk my dog down the block or to a neighbor’s house to play. I have a lot of friends and family in the area, so on weekends I’ll usually go to one of their houses or invite them over for a “Kan Jam” frisbee tournament.

I just don’t like to do stuff that involves packing, planning, booking, renting, meeting or waiting in a line.

Skiing? I’m actually really good at it, but it’s too much of a schlep. An upcoming ski trip would hang over my head like a date with the surgeon. As for concerts, birthdays or sporting events in the city, all I can think about is the traffic — or the sheer hell of running to catch a late-night train and then missing it.

Travel to New Jersey or Pennsylvania for just about any reason? Forget it. I dread having to visit Nassau County.

Flag football games start much too early for me; beach volleyball games go much too late.

But I’m only 33. Certainly I couldn’t have exhausted my life’s potential energy already. How am I going to feel when I’m 53?

Will I not want to leave my room?

Scary.

This is a long, roundabout way of saying I’m breaking out of my comfort zone this weekend. I’ll be racing — yes, racing, as opposed to wasting away — in Sunday’s third annual and immensely popular Cardboard Boat Race in downtown Riverhead. The festivities kick off at noon with the first race, the Youth Regatta, for participants 15 and under.

I’ll be rowing down the Peconic River in the headliner event, the last of four races. It’s called the Grand National Regatta. And it’s name is just way too ambitious for me.

What helps relieve my stress is that my rowing partner, Times-Review advertising executive Joseph Tumminello, has enough energy and enthusiasm for the both of us, even though he’s got more than 10 years on me. I can’t let him down.

We also have a company artist designing logos, a promotions team coming up with slogans and ordering T-shirts and another team of employees actually building the boat — using only cardboard and duct tape — down in the basement of company headquarters as I write this.

Everyone involved here is working hard and is really excited about the event. All I’m being asked to do is row. I don’t even have to pick out an outfit. I can do this.

And who knows? Maybe we’ll win and I’ll love the experience. Then maybe I’ll get addicted to events and activities, and turn my life around like those guys who go from the gutter to running marathons or scaling the world’s largest mountains. Except with me, I’ll just start doing normal things, stuff people should do anyway — like going to a Jets game or the water park or renting a house in Vermont with friends.

Vermont? But then I gotta pack. I gotta arrange to take time off. And who will drive? My car’s on its last legs.

Groan.

I’d better go check the pool skimmers.

Michael White is the editor of The Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 631-298-3200, ext. 152, or mwhite@timesreview.com.

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