The Raft

And you thought this only happened in the movies. Jerry swears this story about a rubber boat really happened to him…

OK. Here goes. I was 17, and had mentioned to my father that I was thinking of buying a rubber boat for use as a scuba platform. My father managed to get me one from the F.A.A. where he worked. (Don’t ask, I never did).

What he brought me was one of those Air Force survival rafts that they issue to bomber crews with up to 10 men. I couldn’t wait to test it, so I called Jason, and told him to come on over. I took the back seat out of my VW bug, and laid the seat back down. This makes a VW bug kind of like a hatch back without the hatch. Jason got over to my place, just as our girlfriends showed up. They had come over to see if we wanted to go swimming. I crammed the raft, and both girls in the back of the VW (it was really tight), and Jason in the passenger seat up front, and took off.

I got onto IH35 in Oklahoma City to head for one of the area lakes. The windows were down and the hot August wind was roaring through the car like a minor hurricane. My girlfriend started complaining about the wind, and a little red tag that kept getting tangled in her hair. I told her not to mess with the tag, but she got mad and gave it a good hard yank, intending to throw it out the window.

Can you guess what that little red tag was for? Yep, that damned raft started to inflate right there in the VW! It takes about 15 seconds for one of those things to inflate, and for the first 5 seconds or so I was frozen with something of a mixture fear, amazement, and a sense of "this really can’t be happening!" In the 6th second the raft started pushing my head down against the steering wheel hard enough that I couldn’t really see where I was going, and started pushing the windows that weren’t down out of their frames, and onto the road. By the time I got my wits back, the raft was fully inflated.

I managed to push my head up enough to see where I was going, and hopefully avoid creaming anyone else on the road. By this time the real chaos had started. The girls were screaming their fool heads off, Jason was laughing like an idiot, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrolman that had been following me when all this started had turned on his siren.

I finally got the car to the center median, and stopped. I got hold of the door handle to open the door and pulled. The door shot open, and the raft exploded out of the car pushing me ahead of it. When I got to my feet, the first thing I saw was the OHP cop laughing so hard he had tears running down his cheeks, and having a hard time breathing.

I managed to get the deflate mechanism activated and the raft started to deflate. By this time the cop was breathing again and somewhat coherent. He came over and told me that was the funniest thing he had ever seen. I asked if I was going to get a ticket? He said no, he just wanted to make sure no one got hurt. We folded the raft as best we could and went back to my place. The real fun was trying to convince my insurance company that all that glass damage really was because a life raft had inflated inside the car. They did payoff, but only after the insurance adjuster had talked to the OHP cop. I can look back on this now and laugh. But for about 5 years after that happened, anytime someone (Jason usually) mentioned it, all I could do was turn red in the face.

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