Everyone knows someone like my friend Doug.

Doug is a good guy. He’s kind, gentle, and surprisingly funny – though I often suspect half his humor isn’t quite as deliberate as he might pretend. He’s the kind of guy you can turn to in a pinch; he’ll drop everything to support you, and always seems to find the right thing to say. He’s the kind of person you want in your life… but.

Yes, there’s a “but” – the “but” doesn’t detract from Doug’s many, many qualities, but… well… he’s not the most practical of people. In fact, the first time I met Doug, he had three separate ketchup stains on his Hawaiian shirt – because, of course, Doug is the kind of guy who wears Hawaiian shirts unironically – and he explained he’d had a fight with a wayward squeezy bottle. Doug had chosen to continue this fight even when it was obvious the bottle was just going to deposit its contents en masse onto his shirt. He wasn’t angry about the experience; he shrugged it off and went about the summer barbecue stained shirt and all. It’s an attitude I genuinely appreciate; the guy’s rather inept when it comes to literally anything that could be considered “adulting”, but he’s relaxed about it, doesn’t much feel the need to pretend he’s something he’s not.

We’ve all met a Doug, and for the most part, they’re a real asset, a true friend – even if they do baffle us from time to time with their decision-making. Of course, the key to having a friend like Doug is to keep him away from anything important. If you need someone to light the barbecue, you make Doug stand at the back of the garden. If you’re putting up shelves and Doug offers to help, you ask if he wouldn’t mind bringing you a glass of water instead. We all accept the Dougs of the world into our lives, making accommodations, enjoying their friendship even if they do have a tendency to tilt a restaurant menu into the candle and set the whole thing alight – they’re disaster-prone, Dougs, but they’re good people. You just have to ensure you don’t trust them with anything important.

Unfortunately, this is a story about what happens when you forget the lessons of a decade of friendship, and assign Doug a task that a Doug-type figure really isn’t suited to.

In fairness to myself, I wasn’t at my best. You see, Doug, myself, and our buddy Andy had planned a weekend out on the water for a while, but circumstances had continually intervened to prevent this from happening. The first time it’d been a tropical storm; the second Doug had had to work the weekend; and the third time Andy had one-upped all the previous reasons for the delay when he became a father for the first time. However, that sunny June morning, I awoke to a day when it looked like all three of us would make it onto my boat as planned… except for the fact I felt like death, only mildly warmed up.

However, I’m not the kind of guy to be deterred by a head cold, and I didn’t want to postpone again. So, despite being explicitly warned against the decision by my wife, I gathered my boating supplies and headed out to meet Doug and Andy. I didn’t feel too bad on the drive to the ocean and as we got everything ready for departure, but by the time we were actually out on the water, I was beginning to regret my manly bravery and began fantasising about a warm bed, a blanket, and a cup of hot tea to soothe me.

Doug and Andy took over most of the duties of managing the boat, hoping that the medication I’d taken as we left shore would soon kick in and I’d be back to normal soon. I tried to enjoy the lapping of the waves against the side of the boat, the feel of the sunshine on my skin, the light conversation of two of the best people I know – but I just wasn’t feeling it. Eventually, I began to feel nauseous on top of the head cold, and asked that we drop anchor for a moment so I could take a minute to recover.

“Doug,” Andy shouted, “can you drop the anchor?”

It wasn’t an extreme request. I completely exonerate Andy from this decision; he was busy piling every piece of fabric he could find on my shuddering body.

“Sure,” Doug shouted.

“Make sure the anchor rope clip is attached,” Andy followed up his first request with a specific, Doug-necessary inclusion. Should a grown man need to be informed of something so very simple? No. Does a Doug need to be informed of something so very simple? Yes. I appreciated Andy’s concern for my anchor, and closed my eyes against the nausea, hoping it wouldn’t be too long until I started to feel more like myself.

It didn’t take long for us to notice we were drifting.

It took even less time for Andy to check the anchor rope and pull it, clean from the water, with no anchor attached.

“I unclipped it!” Doug protested immediately. “You told me to! Didn’t he?”

The last part of the question was aimed at me; I opened my eyes, squinting in the sunlight, my head pounding: “no,” I struggled, “he told you to check it was clipped.”

“Let me get this straight,” Andy, standing opposite Doug with the useless anchor rope in his hands, muttered. “You deliberately unclipped the boat anchor from its rope.”

“You said to check it! Did I do something wrong?”

“Yeah,” I muttered, “you could say that.”

A few weeks have passed, and the look of how-was-I-supposed-to-know-that-was-wrong confusion on Doug’s face still makes me laugh to recall it. It’s the kind of thing only a Doug could do; a mistake so completely overwhelming, so completely against common sense, I just find it amusing.

And, of course, lest we forget that there is an upside to people like Doug: he immediately offered to pay for a new boat anchor for me. That’s the thing with Dougs; they make mistakes, but they always make sure they rectify them as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Which I guess makes sense. They’ve had plenty of practice, after all.


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