What the Duck
It started with a small tragedy: a missing scarf. My favorite, a black and white-checkered blanket of an accessory from Zara that had been with me through international travel and the strangest sleeping spots. It was with a heavy heart that I dragged myself to the Museum of Science in Boston, but despite the loss, I was on a mission. After three years in Boston, I was finally going for a duck tour.
It was College Night at the Museum, meaning free admission, a free duck tour, and an incredibly long line. Despite the misty grey sky, at intervals releasing a light spray of raindrops on us all, the excitement started to build. This is it, I thought. I’m finally going to experience what it’s like to drive off a road and into water. I’m finally going to understand how it feels to be a Boston tourist, watching students like myself go about their business from far above.
The wait was long and I spent most of it thinking about my lost scarf: Where could I possibly have left it? When did I last have it? Why was I the worst person ever to exist? After about half an hour of this, two wheeled boats pulled up: first a green one, then red. Just barely making the cut, I ascended the metal steps protruding from the dark maroon exterior, and entered...a literal school bus, except with plastic zippered windows velcroed onto the sides.
Like on any good school bus, the smooth white ceiling was covered in sharpie-marked indications of previous passengers. Above me were messages from Harman Rijks, Dutch army member, Ralph and Robin Cook from the USAF, and Diane from Merrimac. The seats were white and your average school bus seat - no seat belt to be found. Our tour guide was about forty, bald, and sporting a Duck Dynasty-style beard to go with the red bandana wrapped around his head. He told our boatful of college students that his name was “Hardly Davidson.”
You know when someone’s forty, but still thinks they’re eighteen, but also is completely out of touch with Today’s Youth™? I’m going to refer to this as a “quadult.” So this quadult started our tour off with some really enthusiastic jokes about day drinking and his own encouragement of it. Then he started asking us about our colleges, and when a few mildly rowdy BU students yelled their allegiances, Hardly Davidson the quadult laughed his hyena laugh and said, “OH. I know who’s been DAY DRINKING!”
It only got worse from there.
According to Davidson’s online profile, “He’s hiding from a local scooter gang that he used to be a member of. The gang did way too many bake sales so he had to bounce. They haven’t found him yet, and that’s the way he’d like to keep it.” According to Davidson’s tour guide speech, he was born on the day the Saratoga race track opened, and he sees his tours as his own little therapy sessions.
After an impressive navigation of traffic from our on-land driver, Pat, we passed Boston’s Lynch Family Skate Park (“Second biggest skate park in the United States!”) on a gravel path, then dropped easily into the water with a minor splash. The grey sky made the water an odd shade of grey-brown, but the softly churning waves still had the power to mesmerize.
Three primary topics were covered during our glide down the Charles River: (1) Boston Marathon runners and, most uncomfortably, their nationalities. Seemed quite bothered about the continued success of Kenyan runners in particular. (2) Artificial intelligence: “Raise your hand if you think artificial intelligence is going to take over the world and you’re scared. Okay, now raise your hand if you think it’s awesome!” I may not have learned anything about Boston’s history, but hey - at least now I know how my fellow passengers felt about artificial intelligence.
He then (3) spent approximately fifteen minutes discussing amputations and subsequent reattachment surgeries, reminding us all to be grateful for our functioning limbs. “Imagine,” said Davidson, “if you woke up without hands. You use your hands for everything.” It was kind of like being at a bad party in high school where someone was high for the first time.
The Boston history I learned that day was minimal. Because it was a free college night duck tour, the usual 80 minutes was cut down to about 45, and most of our time was spent in the water. Still, I’ll venture to say that if you are looking for a tour of Boston interspersed with actual stories of its history, a duck tour might not be your best bet - though it likely varies by tour guide. If you want to go for a ride in a vehicle that can handle land and water - pretty fucking cool, honestly - while listening to a series of mostly bad jokes, I one hundred percent recommend the duck tour. 10/10.
After the tour, I enjoyed exhibits like an interactive light board, a display on the importance of recycling, and a DIY mini-crane experiment. There was even an art exhibit focused on mental health, with art that tied together the left and right brain processes. The swarming crowds were disorienting, however, and the whole evening felt a little bit like an odd dream.
And maybe it was one, because when I finally came home from the festivities, my lost scarf was waiting for me, strewn across my couch.
Art by: Taylor Roberts