08/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Origins of the Bailout

So much rain fell in a short period of time Friday night in Putnam County. Must be some sort of record, close to five inches in about two hours. Saturday morning I went down to the dock to take my rowboat out on the lake. That it was filled with water was not a surprise -- there was so much rain and I am used to bailing out small amounts of water each week.It is not a big task: I typically pull the boat up onto the dock, tip it over and the job is done.

This weekend was very different. This was a bailout of more historic proportions.

The lakefront dock where the boat is moored has seen better days. The ladder is half broken and the edge of the dock that hangs over the water has sunk so low that it practically sits on the water. One might say that the infrastructure needs serious repair to support the activities that go on at the dock -- rowing, swimming and even sitting and hanging out.


I usually slide the boat up onto the dock, but this time, the boat was more than half filled with water so that pulling it up was very difficult. Once it was almost halfway out of the water, I tried to lift it on its side, but that was extremely difficult as well. It was way too heavy for me.

As the boat was tilted into the lake a funny thing happened -- I was trying to get the water out of the boat, but instead, it was flowing back Into the boat. This bailout was not going as planned. How odd was it to attempt again and again, not knowing which way the water would flow -- out of the boat or back in. Each attempt would bring me closer or further from my bailout goal. It was almost impossible to predict the net result of the several first rounds. And no matter how hard I tried to control the situation, I could not.

Might I add that usually I can do this without any help -- but now I was hoping that someone could come down to the lake and help me out. Sometimes, when a task is overwhelming, you just need a helping hand. And I wasn't going to be fussy about it -- any help would do.


After about 10-15 minutes of grappling with my situation I realized that I could understand the bailout in a larger context than ever before.

Sometimes you have a small bailout and a bucket will do.

Sometimes you get by with a little bit of strength and a quick hoist over the side makes everything all right.

But then there are days like today, where almost nothing works. The foundation can barely support the boat. The boat is too heavy for one person to lift. The attempts are futile and more water goes into the boat than out of it.

Another thing happened: the movement of the water disturbed some arachnid occupants of the boat. On one attempt, a giant spider scurried out of some hidden corner, worried about its own bailout. I am not squeamish, but this guy was big and scary. And I think he liked life in a sinking ship -- which led me to my next discovery -- not everyone is going to be in favor of a bailout. Some people are happy with the status quo. Or, some creatures need a bailout within a bailout. Or, one man's bailout is another's tragedy.


So now I have a whole new respect for our president's bailout plan. He is going to need several tools. He needs a bucket, because sometimes you've got to get down on your hands and knees to scoop that water out one bucket at a time. He needs lots of strength, because pulling that boat in is a very tough job -- much harder than it looks. He is going to need someone to come along and help him -- because otherwise, he might be trying for a very long time ... and anyone willing to help will do. He is going to have to pay close attention to the ground he is walking on ... a sinking foundation makes the job a lot trickier. (Note to the file, after bailout, fix the dock!)

And finally, when the spiders start to crawl out from the cracks and crevices, don't flinch - keep bailing. A fast whack with an oar, toss them overboard and watch them walk on water, running away.