PITTSFIELD

I ran into the patient I will refer to as KK one afternoon in the office parking lot during my lunch break. He had been in to see another provider for a medical problem and was on his way home. I caught up with him as he started up his truck. I knew he was serious about this kayak thing we had discussed as he had a needle-slim red boat strapped on top of his vehicle. This was no fancy Subaru kayak carrier. The kayak rested on two honest bars supported on the infrastructure of a very workman-like truck and the craft stuck out a good two feet on the front and rear of the truck.

As we set up a day to do the deed, his enthusiasm for the sport was evident. Two minutes into the conversation, he pulled out the paddles from a sack that was on the floor of the passenger seat and put them together as he regaled me with the carbon fiber construction and the wing-like hydrodynamics of the paddle end. I got the distinct impression that KK would rather be kayaking and have the truck strapped on top of the kayak in case he was called out to a job! Anyway we set up a time, 3 p.m. Saturday at the Onota Lake pavilion. This time I had the right lake and I knew the location of the meeting place.

Strapped next to KK's kayak that afternoon was another longer equally slim white boat that beat his kayak by a foot, bow to stern. We unloaded the boats and gently lowered them onto the grass. KK put together another set of paddles and started explaining to me the finer points of working a paddle. I was supposed to be "spearing" the water and then make a short stroke with the paddle, making sure the power of the stroke "came from my torso." He made me practice the movement till I sort of had it right. Looking around I had a slightly amused audience of a couple of kids from a nearby picnic watching my contortions.

Next KK decided to show me the finer points of the boat I would be using. He showed me the foot levers in the well of the boat to operate a rudder, pressure on the left to go LEFT and right to go RIGHT. Simple enough! He told me to try the cockpit of my boat. Much to the amusement of my audience I could not fit into the seat. I promptly christened my boat "SliSThaMBe" an acronym for "Slightly Smaller Than My Behind" and one more reason to go on a diet. KK adjusted some belts in the seating area so I could finally sit in SliSThaMBe. I was ready for my maiden voyage!

n

KK hit the water first. He made it look easy as he maneuvered the kayak effortlessly, all the time paddling smoothly in a wide circle. I removed my shoes, dragged my boat into the water, plunked down into the cockpit, gripped the paddles like KK had instructed me and set out toward open water. So now I am "spearing" the water and using my "torso" to power the stroke and trying to operate the steering controls, all at the same time.

By this time my audience on the shore was positively giggling as the boat took off on me like a thoroughbred that it was. Only I wasn't in control. The boat started yawing wildly from side to side and the harder I tried to correct it, the more it swayed toward its inevitable conclusion, dumping me unceremoniously into about three feet of lake water. KK immediately paddled over and I could tell he was amused but kept a straight face and I will always be grateful for that.

After we emptied SliSThaMbe of the water it had taken on, KK and now a very wet and embarrassed physician, carried the boat onto the shore. I tried to ignore the chuckles from the nearby picnic and soon, I too, joined in their laughter. The whole experience had a silent film Chaplinesque quality to it. I can only hope nobody posted it on YouTube.

KK reassured me that I was now a true "Berky." I had tasted the holy waters and besides a dunking was part of the kayak scene anyway. A baptism in Lake Onota?

Rest assured I plan to do this again. Only this time with a nice broad stable boat, much larger than my behind!

A native of Bombay, Dr. Mehernosh Khan, a board-certified physician with a specialty in complementary medicine, came to the Berkshires last November with his wife Karen and their cats.