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A Case of the Crabs 

The Discovery Channel is an odd and wonderful TV channel. It's part of a larger company (surprise, surprise) which owns a network of cable stations, including TLC, Animal Planet, the Military Channel and a bunch more. Our own Church Street Marketplace has a "Discovery Store" derived from the general concept of the channel, featuring products based on specific shows.

You'd think, from the name of this station, that the concept is earth, nature, exploration, science - that kind of thing. But, in fact, many, if not most of the shows fit only tangentially into this category.

For instance, there's a show (near and dear to my heart) called, "Cash Cab," in which unsuspecting customers in a regulation NYC Yellow Checker taxi are asked questions by their cabbie/host along the route to their destination. They can win hundreds of dollars if they're sharp. The flip-side is, if they get three questions wrong, they're unceremoniously booted out of the cab. Kind of harsh, but - hey - they were dumb.

Probably their most popular show is "American Chopper," in which a father and his two sons operate a motorcycle customizing shop. The family is at once heart-warming and dysfunctional, and don't think the three of them don't play up the dysfunctional part.

But my favorite Discovery show, the one that truly invokes my TV addiction, is "The Deadliest Catch." This show stations video crews on a a number of the 100 or so fishing boats that ply the fishing grounds of the Bering Sea, an unforgiving body of water bordering on the Arctic circle. Every year it seems that a boat goes down and seamen die in the frigid waters. It's said that this is the world's most dangerous job. The men go out, they risk their lives, because they can earn many thousands of dollars for a couple of break-backing weeks with barely any sleep.

The lure for me is related to cabdriving, my chosen profession. I'm drawn to work that I can fully understand, and, in this increasingly virtual world, there's more and more jobs I simply cannot fathom. I have friends who work at IBM and I really can't grasp what they do. Guys tossing half-ton metal cages over the rails filled with rotting cod as bait, letting them "soak" for a couple days, and then hauling them back on board filled, hopefully, with clicking-and-clacking king or opelio crabs - this I can understand.

I enjoy watching men working together under extreme conditions. This appeals to me. (Sure, you think - sitting on my easy chair eating a pizza. But anyway.) It relates to the one aspect of cabdriving that leaves me unfulfilled: Hacking is a solo endeavor. I think I could dig working in concert with other people on a joint mission, a dangerous mission. "The Deadliest Catch" satisfies these fantasies of mine.

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About The Author

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac is a Burlington cab driver whose biweekly "Hackie" column has been appearing in Seven Days since 2000. He has published two book-length collections, Hackie: Cab Driving and Life, and Hackie 2: Perfect Autumn.

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