Three days after Iran warned an American aircraft carrier . . . the carrier’s battle group freed 13 Iranian hostages from Somali pirates who had attacked them near where the carrier was floating. “These might be the dumbest pirates ever,” said Rear Admiral Craig S. Faller. “I don’t have skills,” said pirate Mohammed Mahmoud.
- Harper's Magazine, "Weekly Review" (Jan. 10, 2012)
Call me Mohammed.
First off I should probably tell you that I have three wives and seven children at home. Not the smartest thing I've ever done, I'll admit. What was he thinking, you're probably thinking. Which goes a long way towards explaining this whole pirate business. Not to mention you don't make a lot on goats. I was happy just to get out of the house and I'd thank you not to print that.
Actually, being a pirate turned out a whole lot more complicated than I thought it would be - you're boarding a ship and the boarding ladder breaks, you pick up some hostages and they blow your cover to the Americans just because one feringhee sailor speaks Urdu - who would have figured that? And before you start, how was I supposed to know it was an aircraft carrier, for crying out loud? I've never seen an aircraft carrier before. There were lots of ships floating around when we boarded that lousy dhow.
I've tried a few lines of work before this job came along. Farming didn't pan out after Monsanto moved into the Somalian seed market - talk about piracy. So I tried fishing - another bust when Whole Foods went all ecological on us and wouldn't buy any more "wild caught previously frozen" fish because they claimed it was us depleting the oceans, and because we couldn't prove it was raised organically. Truth of the matter is, we couldn't compete against the Japanese. They were practically giving the stuff away. We couldn't even gill net a dolphin after they trawled everything up.
"One whale God grant us and we can retire."
Over the years things have gotten to a pretty desperate pass for me and the wives. Never rains but it pours. Actually, never rains is closer to the truth. Meanwhile, the neighbors were doing pretty well at the local version of piracy, so I thought I'd try my hand at stockbroking, which is kind of like being a pirate without having to own a boat or get wet. That was about the time the global markets went to hell - I was selling a bunch of Greek debt just when European bonds went down the toilet. Talk about getting wet, I took a bath on that one. I don't mind telling you, some of my clients are still looking for me. Where I come from, you don't want that. And after the goats starved I figured I can't afford to retire yet.
I even tried being a lawyer for a while. In Somalia, you don't need a law degree to be a lawyer - there aren't that many laws that require a whole lot of interpretation - and just about everyone I know needs a lawyer. I figured it would be a home run. But the cell phone coverage out here is so bad I couldn't keep a client on the line long enough to find out what the problem was. You can't sustain a legal practice if you're dropping a caller every 30 seconds. And of course there was the added problem that most of the cases were being tried in other countries and I frankly didn't have the money for travel expenses to Singapore, Jakarta, Mumbai, Abu Dhabi - you name the place, I couldn't get there. I went to Mombasa once for a case, but I had to walk. Mogadishu, forget it.
So I was pretty happy when this gig came along. My neighbor had a runabout, he'd made a few bucks trading hostages on the open seas, it sounded like I couldn't go wrong. It was my first try at actual pirating and I thought I could just do it until I paid off my mortgage, got a little bit ahead, had a down payment on a Kubota ATV. Hell, I figured all we'd need is one WalMart container ship en route from China and we'd all have enough clothes, toaster ovens, barbecue grills, plastic shoes, disposable diapers and "educational" toys for the kids and what have you to last us for years. Maybe some plastic flowers for the wives.
Lousy way to make the New York Times. I should have known. Dumbest idea ever.