Being the FNGs

The commodity exchange floor was a brutal place for a New Guy. It was a boys’ club, except with money, and you couldn’t just stroll in and join. First you had to have spurs taped to your shoes or wear a dress on the floor.

IBM (where I cut my corporate teeth) it wasn’t.

One of the rites every new clerk went through was being asked to place an order for a non-existent product. Take coffee futures. March, May, July, September, and December are the months that are traded, and I can buy (or sell) futures that expire in any of those months. If my trade is more than 12 months out, I’m buying (or selling) Red March, or Red September. Beyond that, I just specify the year. December 2012.

So, when someone asks for Brown August, you know it’s the FNG.

And he’ll remain the FNG until a year has passed or a Newer Guy arrives, whichever comes first.

I didn’t know it, but the statute of limitations is longer out here in the sticks. We’re into our third year here, and I found out the hard way we’re still the FNGs.

Les did it.

We figured that, if we’d earned the trust of any of the locals, we’d earned his. Kevin’s been working with him, side by side, out in the oyster flats, for the best part of year now. So, when Les told me that he’d let me in on not just one, but two super-secret scalloping spots, I took it as a sign of respect and esteem. He’d vetted me for a year, and decided I was worthy.

You have to understand that recreational scalloping is all but gone on Cape Cod. Scallops, and the eel grass that is their habitat, used to be abundant, but it’s reportedly been a good fifteen years since there was viable scalloping around here.

There are, however, still one or two spots where scallops are sometimes to be had. The location of those spots is a closely held secret. Les, though, knows a lot of closely held secrets, particularly those regarding shellfish. This is partly because he’s been a shellfish professional for nearly two decades, and partly because he is wily by nature.

Last week, Les told me of two spots where scallops might be gotten, and I eagerly went to try them. The first one turned out to be A) a steep drop-off in B) a dangerously fast current where C) “No Shellfishing” signs were posted. That should have tipped me off.

But no, we went out to try the second spot, where the scallops were, we were told, deep enough that we’d have to dive for them.

So, what do I do? I buy a wetsuit.

More accurately, I buy a wetsuit jacket. I can wear Kevin’s farmer Johns (the sleeveless kind), as long as I have a top to put over it. So I bought a jacket with a hood from Sierra Trading Post. The booties, I already had. Kevin’s wetsuit gloves are too big, but I figured I’d make do.

Yesterday, I suited up and went out to snorkel for scallops.

Going outside in a wetsuit is like going outside naked, painted black. Wetsuits have to fit tightly, and every bulge and bump is showcased in neoprene, for all the world to see. So I wasn’t too happy to be outside in a wetsuit, but I was even less happy to be in the water.

The water in West Bay is about 50 degrees. As water goes, that’s pretty cold. When I first went in, my first impulse was to come right back out again. It’s just too damn cold. But I figured I had to at least give my body a chance to get used to it, so I started to swim out to where the scallops were supposed to be.

If going numb counts as getting used to it, I suppose I did. My face was the first to go, followed in short order by my hands. The gloves didn’t seal properly around my wrists, and the water flushed up my arms because the jacket sleeves were a little big.

I lasted about ten minutes.

I might have lasted longer if there’d been any damn scallops.

When I got home, I got in the outdoor shower, still suited up, and ran hot water into the wetsuit, from the neck down. It looked like I had a very serious case of edema, painted black, but I eventually got warm.

Then I called Les.

Les swears the spots are legit. He explained that “No Shellfishing” doesn’t apply to scallops because it’s the one kind of shellfish we don’t eat the guts of, only the adductor muscle. He also explained that we needed lower tides and, perhaps, some more specific directions. He’s promised to go with me some time soon.

In return, I’m going to sell him some Brown August.

8 people are having a conversation about “Being the FNGs

  1. The French eat the red orange part of the scallop, which is where all the flavor is supposed to be, but you can’t get scallops that way here in the states. I wonder if that orange part is the guts? Maybe they don’t have the same issues with toxic seasons like we do.

    On the one hand, I’m sorry you didn’t get any scallops, because what a bummer to go to all that trouble and come home empty handed. On the other hand, they would have been just one more thing to be jealous of. I think you get too many goodies. Or maybe it just seems like you’re getting too many goodies.

  2. It’s frustrating being the FNG. I don’t know how long it takes Cape Codders to accept outsiders, but your charm and skills will no doubt win them over sooner. And hey – new wetsuit!

  3. Dianne — Doug, I take it, knew better. We hang around you guys in the hopes that your better judgment will wear off.

    Paula, Jen, and Kingsley — Yes, the red/orange stuff is the roe, but I don’t know how it comapares to guts in the toxin accumulation department. When I lived in NY I did occasionally see scallops with roe attached, but it was unusual.

    Scallops also have something called a ring, which, unsurprisingly, is a circle of flesh. My anatomical observation is that it seems to hold the guts to the shell, but that could easily be comically wrong. I can say for certain that, deep-fried, it resembles calamari.

    Brooke — I love it that you’re so encouraging! Your comments always make me feel less like a bumbler and more like an adventurer.

    Jen — If it’s my charm and skills I’m supposed to rely on, I’m in really deep yogurt. But you’re right about the wetsuit! Kevin wants to get me out surfing in the spring, and now I’m prepared.

  4. You know what they say about divers…there are those who pee in their wetsuits…and those who lie about it!

    Sorry you got hazed…not looking for the canal tunnel are you?

    I say we plot against Les!

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