Colloquial sayings stick around because they strike a chord, but the best of them work in multiple situations with multiple meanings. “Don’t shit where you eat” is a saying that’s been on my mind lately.
The 5.5 miles I ride in the morning wake me and get me warmed up for my shipping and receiving job. It’s a lot of big stuff. Crates and skids and 70 pound boxes, LTL truck shipments, and not a boat part among them. I resent paying full price for marine hardware, but it is freeing to tie my bank balance and my life’s most irritating site of coercion to something I don’t love the way I love sailing and living aboard this floating home.
So when I think about not shitting where I eat, I’m not focusing on the traditional “don’t sleep with coworkers” version or any of the other similar interpretations. I’m thinking about making a job of a joy and how absolutely wrong that can go.
James and I have been linking more and more closely with the maritime world since that first time James ran a boat club for the City of Oakland parks department. I got hired at West Marine a couple years after that and then James came aboard at the same store (Honolulu, HI). We’ve both done boat clubs and marine hardware stores and marinas and boat yards on and off since then, and this winter was the last straw.
The stress of living where James worked spiraled out of control over the course of a couple weeks. We left Boston Harbor for Salem Harbor on a cold grey day with a storm looming. Beluga Greyfinger completed his first boat ride moments before the snow buried the fragile cracked ice riming the waters of Pickering Wharf.
I applied for jobs. And rather than thinking in terms of which discounts or perqs we needed, I thought that it was time to do something…anything…other than prop up the broken marina industry or bolster the fucked-up mindset that buying shit is a fundamental part of sailing.
It was only a few weeks into the temp job that I realized I’d found something easy-breezy, something without the heaviness and stakes of running a marina I’m also living at. The flow meters I ship are used in industries I am grateful to and in industries I abhor, but I never have to package my real, vibrant, urgent and frightening and glorious life for sale along with the slip or electronics package.
My 5.5 mile bike ride back to the marina clears my head and helps me reset my give-a-shit meter. Even while telling James the story of my day, the weight and importance of the whole thing recedes behind the molten sunset, the mercurial water, and the loves of my life.