Mitch and Barry attended law school together but hadn’t seen each other for years. Still, they immediately recognized each other as they boarded a boat for a cruise on San Francisco Bay. Mitch, an investment advisor from Boston, was in the city on business as was Barry, a union attorney from Chicago. Neither anticipated the storm blowing in from the Pacific.
Both Mitch and Barry paid for exclusive seats on the top deck. These offered the best views of the city, Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito. The sky was overcast, but service on the top deck—covered and enclosed by panoramic windows—was first class. Expensive champagne and cocktails flowed. Waiters restocked the buffet with a series of elaborate dishes.
“It’s starting to rain,” Barry commented as they sat at a table for two. “Is it?” Mitch asked, focused on his plate of crab legs. Barry rearranged his arugula salad. “Coming down pretty hard, actually.”
They first heard the commotion after circling under the Golden Gate Bridge. It didn’t take long for news to reach them. As the rain poured and the wind howled, the boat—a multi-million-dollar marvel—was taking on water. Tourists on the lower deck—which cost a fraction of what Mitch and Barry paid, and offered only hot dogs and soft drinks—were scrambling to get up to the top. “Seems they don’t like getting wet,” said Mitch. A man holding aloft a plate with a slab of prime rib responded, “They won’t make it. Some of the people up here gave the crew some cash. They’re blocking the doors.”
Barry frowned. “If that lower deck fills with water, things could get dangerous.” Mitch signaled a waiter for another Scotch. Barry pushed his plate away. “If we don’t let those people come up from the lower deck, we could have a disaster on our hands.” Mitch held up a crab leg and grinned. “It’s their own fault,” he said. “Besides, half of them got rides with free tickets. We’re actually paying their way.”
Barry shook his head. “Look,” Mitch responded. “Those people down below could have sat where we are. All they had to do was work as hard as we do. They didn’t. Now they’re getting their just desserts.” Mitch’s eyes lit up. “Did you see that dessert spread?” He started to rise. A huge wave toppled him back into his seat. He recovered his balance. “What matters is, you and me… we’re safe up here.”
Barry clutched the table. “If this storm keeps up and those leaks get any worse, we all could be in trouble.” Mitch struggled to his feet. “Barry, you were always the softhearted one. What do those people down there have to do with us?” Then the boat began to sway.
For a week, the local media provided round-the-clock coverage of the cruise boat that capsized and sank in San Francisco Bay with all passengers lost. In Washington, Congress debated a resolution of condolence. After a month, both the House and the Senate tabled the matter for further study.
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