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Image Caption: The beautiful sunset

I knew I had an assignment to go oystering for about a week in advance. I was really looking forward to it. Being from the Chesapeake Bay area, I love going out on the boat with my family and crabbing. The only downside to this assignment was that I was going to have to wake up at 4am. Now, I’m not a morning person, not even close. I’m a barely functioning mute before noon that doesn’t like to make eye contact and will most likely respond to conversation with a grunt.

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However, growing up, I knew that whenever my family went on vacation, my Dad would surely wake us up at the crack of dawn with a musical rendition of singing “Revelry, Revelry!” I think it was an army thing. Whenever we went to a relative’s house for a holiday, as soon as my dad wanted to leave he would do his rounds saying, “Pack your rags!” If we weren’t ready, we were in trouble. And so, my body seems to have adapted an internal alarm clock that sounds whenever I know I have to be somewhere important. This time it came in handy, because me, being the “lowly intern” as I refer to myself, rose to the occasion and awoke the staff photographer and reporter who had overslept.

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caption: two of the oystermen

The car ride to the boat dock in Seadrift was around forty minutes. Forty minutes of agony that is. I still had alcohol sloshing around in my stomach from the night before. Had I awoken at a normal time, I would have been fine. But in this case, I was ready to heave out the window…

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Caption: Visually uncomfortable (photo by Frank Tilley)

I had been briefed prior to departing by Diana, the reporter, and so I knew that once I got on the boat, we would be on it from 6am to 4pm. And so goes a 10 hour stand-off between me and my bladder. I was not having it. You see, the boat was not very large. And the cabin had open windows. The boat had five men on it. The protocol was that you fill up a bucket with ocean water, urinate in it, and then toss it back into the water. If you had to go number two, well then you have to use a plastic bag. The bag then stays on the boat until you dock hours later. I did not want to be the one who non-verbally announced to everyone that I had lost my battle by filling up the bucket. It’s like a public statement of defeat, and I’m a very competitive person.

Now, you may not think this is a big deal. Men, I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the ladies. You men have it easy. And, it’s not like I haven’t been in times of desperation before. Going out on hikes, long car rides with no rest stops in sight, I’ve done it before. This was different.

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Caption: still uncomfortable (photo by Frank Tilley)

And it didn’t help that the boat captain was set on pointing out my discomfort. He knew the look on my face. I finally came to a point where I turned to Diana, the reporter, and just broke my resilience, “I can’t do it anymore,” I said. “But you go first.” In hindsight, I don’t think that was my brightest idea. But we did it. We urinated in a bucket on board a small oyster boat in the gulf. It’s one of my great accomplishments, something I can tell my grandchildren about. Well, probably not.