I met Pete in the produce section of the store. He was spraying the bell peppers and tomatoes with a fine mist, while singing a song with the refrain, "Yo ho ho . . . . " He was unusually clad, wearing tights, a full embroidered jacket, a large silver buckle, a patch over one eye, and a cutlass. Here was a story, my journalistic sensibilities told me; so I asked Mr. Pete (as he shall be henceforth known until the statutes of limitations run out) how he got there and what profession he pursued before going into a career of produce.
Mr. Pete looked critically at the artichokes, and murmured something about restacking and watering them, then he began his story.
"Me Pert Wench, I was once gainfully employed as a Pyrate in the Caribbean; and I had an exciting life, buckling my swash, singing pyrate songs, doing the hornpipe (never could manage the steps though), and making for carefree days on the Spanish Main. Arrr! Cap'n Jones ran a jolly ship, and we drank a cask of rum each day while we were under the Jolly Roger! Yo ho ho! Shiver me timbers! Life was good on the Spanish Main! Arrr!!!
"But then little changes crept in, like the shipworm in oaken ship hulls. Even Hearts of Oak cannot float if the good ship is leaky. It was the Pyrate Leadership on the Dry Tortugas that started it, methinks. A scurvy lot, they were! It was the paperwork we had to fill out: how many cannon balls fired, how many captured passengers and crew had to walk the plank, how many damsels we distressed, our daily consumption of rum. The decks had to be cleaned daily, and there were hourly inspections of the head that were marked on a card above the door.
"They decided we had to be more cost-effective. We had to capture at least one treasure ship per week; but use the cannon balls sparingly. Sell the passengers and crew and damsels rather than dunking them in the true manner of buccaneers. Oh, that's something else. Few landlubbers know that Pyrates are addicted to Dunkin' Donuts. We were limited to three doughnut breaks per week; and prohibited from sailing out of our way to the Caribbean doughnut stands.
"It got worse. They cited insurance regulations to deprive us of our rum ration. Cap'n Jones was beached; and we got a new captain with more modern sensibilities. He was a scurvy dog, this Cap'n Carrot Top. He declared the hornpipe to be passé; and had us to Irish folk dances instead. (Those of us with peg legs had a difficult time keeping up with the stompings of the wee Irish lassies.) We were told to clean up our rough language, and to stop saying 'Arrr!'
"Arrrr!," I said sympathetically in response to Mr. Pete's woeful tale.
""And what was worse was that we were required to become physically fit and to take sensitivity training classes. We had to take a medical exam twice a year to maintain our Pyrate license, or no more 'Yo ho ho.' And we had to learn to relate to our customers, er clients, er fans. I think that the final straw was that, after we had captured and looted a fine merchant ship, we were required to write 'thank you' notes to our victim's company. Something about maintaining a good corporate image.
"You mean that the pirating business got bogged down by bureaucracy? That it wasn't the action of the world's navies that did so?"
"No, me sweet lassie. They were more burdened by the paperwork than we were. So I put ashore and now shiver me timbers in this grocery store. Here the bureaucratic shipworms are less present."
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