Monday, September 19, 2011

Four Qualities of a Classy Pirate

Talk Like a Pirate Day
Today is "Talk Like a Pirate" day. I thought about writing this entire post in pseudo-pirate speech, but I'd probably get a sore throat sounding the words out. This was started in 1995 by a couple bored guys. Now it looks like they make a living out of it. That sounds a bit like piracy. 
They have their own website:
World of Warcraft even commemorates the day with activities in Booty Bay and Pirate quests. (Sometimes I really miss WoW!)
My brother and I have a similar plan as these Pirates, but it isn't nearly as cool. Well, maybe it is. More on that in the future.

Everyone likes stories of pirates. I don’t know any pirates.
Wait. I probably do.
Not that I’ll hear the slow tap-tap of a wooden leg on my living room floor in the middle of the night as some beached scalawag tracks me home to finish me off. If someone comes for me and they have a hook for a hand, well, I have a ball bat for that. Actually, I have a wooden sword handy downstairs and a bevy of swords upstairs, but I didn’t think anyone would believe that.
Jean Lafitte
Anyone spending time on the Gulf Coast knows some of the stories of Jean Lafitte, known as the Gentleman Pirate. A privateer and soldier under General Jackson, Lafitte and his brother Pierre used Galveston as a home for years before finally leaving in the early 1820s. Rumors of treasure buried on Galveston Island always make for interesting stories. Personally, if I were Jean Lafitte I’d take it all with me when I left. He wasn’t in a rush to leave.
But if you study his life a little, some good pirate lessons emerge.
Find the person in charge and work for them, but not as an employee. Jean worked as a privateer, gathering bounties on ships he captured. The treasure? He ran a warehouse to handle that in a more respectable manner. “Will work for tips” was probably a good sign for him. The tips were pretty good.
When you no longer enjoy your job, move along, but keep doing what you’re good at. Jean Lafitte was a smuggler and a trader and a pirate. You can see where those skills all work together. He was successful enough that he left Galveston voluntarily and at a leisurely pace rather than be hung for piracy. He did burn all his buildings when he left. Maybe another lesson is to clean up after yourself.
Be honest. At one point Jean Lafitte was ready to set sail, but his crew thought he had papers and was working as a privateer. Jean told them they’d be sailing as pirates and a lot of his people left him.
Be generous. He gave his largest ship to the men who decided to leave his employ. He wasn’t stupid, though. During the night his loyal men boarded the boat and disabled the mast and rudder so that the disloyal couldn’t immediately follow.
Truly, these are qualities that apply even if you’re not a pirate. Avoid indentured service, do what you enjoy and be good at it, be honest and be generous.
There are still pirates out there, though. I might even know some, but they wouldn’t admit it. A year ago I discovered a company that had a Pirate’s Amnesty for people who illegally downloaded and used their software. Here was the original concept:

Because of the amnesty, I discovered their software and I really like it. After buying one of them, I got an email about a "bundle" promotion they were doing. They set up their website with a bundle of software for which you could pay anything you wanted. Some people paid only a dollar for the bundle. Others paid considerably more. I think it was a brilliant plan, and I hope it worked.
I really don’t want to be a pirate. Never have. I even paid for my original download of PKZIP, back in the day.


  1. I missed Talk Like a Pirate day? How disappointing! As you know, though, sir, I spent that day dancing, so it's just as well. :)

  2. And I do like that code of honor - avoid indentured servitude, do what you love, be honest, be generous. I hope I can live up to it. I've been telling everyone that I'm going to be "una pirata" when I grow up. I don't know why. Perhaps I remembered the day was coming.