It's called a Pleasure Craft Operator Card - a harmless enough name - but boy, it's a doozy of a farce.
Recent tragedies out west have drawn attention to this infamous little card, now a mandatory piece of I.D. for those operating a boat and engine for fun (anything 12 feet and over), and obtainable through a written test and about 50 bucks (the latter should give you a less than subtle hint that it's a classic federal government money-grab).
I have a 12-foot aluminum boat with a two horsepower engine, not exactly a speed demon, just a relatively inexpensive way for me to catch a dozen trout, or drown a few worms.
But the federal government bureaucrats, supported by their political bosses, launched (so to speak) and operated this program as if in dire need of an all-purpose GPS to distinguish their rear ends from holes in the ground.
All boat owners across this country - from Halifax to Vancouver (as many a television announcer or politician has proclaimed), or St. John's to Vancouver if you're from Newfoundland, not a stunned mainlander, and happen to know the difference - had to get that foolish card, or face heavy fines if caught without one in the Gull Pond of your choice.
And here's something you may not know: even that octopus who made correct predictions during the World Cup could pass that test (a shame that the hideous-looking octopus didn't remind me of how boring I find soccer before letting all the hoopla suck me into watching that last, ugly game, a match about as enthralling as watching a nail rust).
And not just the octopus, but that monkey TSN used a few years back to predict the outcome of the NHL playoffs could get a passing grade.
Because, you see, any participants can cheat with impunity.
No cheating here
Now, I'm not going to confess to cheating en route to the 87 per cent mark I attained, the highest mark I've had since Miss MacIsaac in Gander gave me a B+ in health (no lice in the hair or dirt under the nails) in Grade 6 at St. Joseph's. (God, I used to have some crush on her; let's see, she'd be about mid-70s now; wonder if there'd be a few sparks?)
Anyway, just to reiterate, I'm not saying I cheated. After all, that would be a mortal sin, a "grievous offence against the law of God, " as I was taught during my primary and elementary brainwashing days, also at St. Joseph's, and I'd be condemned to Hell. Then again, I made the "Nine First Fridays" (attending Mass and receiving communion the first
Friday of nine straight months) before my agnostic days began, and am therefore guaranteed from that mysterious fellow with the long hair who resides in the clouds that I'll have the last rites of the Catholic Church, a full pardon, before my soul leaves my body, even if I'm rolled over by a cement truck, or decide to become a suicide bomber).
But that Catholic protection is academic in this case 'cause I didn't cheat.
But I could have.
First of all, there's a website you can use to study for the test.
OR, you can skip the study, and find someone who's already taken the test, maybe someone in your debt, willing to give you a hand.
You go to that person's house (since you're not permitted to use your own computer), and he can designate you as the "student," while he's the "supervisor."
Before starting the test, make sure the documentation that is supposed to be used for pre-test study purposes is readily available at the click of the mouse.
Now you're ready to begin: as each question pops up, you can decide that (a) you know the answer, (b) that your "supervisor" knows the right answer, and will share his knowledge, or (c) refer to the website with all information ostensibly laid out for study purposes, and locate the correct answer.
As I said, it's a pure, unadulterated farce.
Pity because there was probably a sincere expert in water safety who actually believed that this test, and the handing out of these cards, would somehow translate into less boat tragedies.
Here's how I see it: I've never gotten into my boat half cut or without my lifejacket on.
It's all about common sense; if you do or don't have it, the card remains irrelevant.
And if you got a few in, and your lifejacket is at the bottom of the boat, you deserve your fate.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.