From Old French ponton, from Latin ponto (‘ferryboat’), from pons (‘bridge’).
pontoon (plural pontoons)
1. (military) A flat-bottomed boat used as a support for a temporary bridge.
2. A floating structure supporting a bridge or dock.
3. A box used to raise a sunken vessel.
4. A float of a seaplane.
Last Saturday I had a tiring but fun day. Went to help out the team-building for Astro BOE team, organized by D’s mom, at Tropical Spice Garden, Penang. There were three stations, namely Hash Hounds Jungle-Trekking, Tropical Spices Cookout, and Oh! Pontoon! Yeah... the post subject gave away the suspense - I was assigned to the third one.
What the heck was that? Basically it was a game, where the teams would compete with each other in building a raft, rowing it out into the sea for a distance, and the rowing it back to the shore. Sounds simple, but wait, let me give the ingredients. The only materials each team has were six 6' x 8'' x 1'' wooden planks, seven empty plastic barrels, five bundles of ropes (each about 50' long), 8 life jackets, and 10 pairs of gloves. The raft has to be made of the planks and barrels, tied by bundles of ropes. One bundle of rope, marked with a different color, had to be the lifeline, for safety pullback from the sea in case of emergency. Each team had to send 5 team members and the team facilitator (the customer) on the raft, and row to a spot where another facilitator is stationed in the sea (about 100' from the shore), and row back to the shore (with the raft still intact and afloat), and finally dismantle the material and place them back at their original location and arrangement.
Even as a facilitator, in the beginning, I thought it was easy, until I witnessed the first team I was facilitating did that. It capsized once, and we found that the barrels were not properly sealed, leading to water seeping into it, like razor-cold seawater seeped into the poor “unsinkable” Titanic. One of the team members sort of cast the blame on me... well, whatever. They forgot I was the one awarding all the points... hahaha. Anyway, most of them were having fun. They were at first very confident with their first design, but when it capsized, they dismantled everything to get the barrels emptied again, and rebuilt a smaller version. Only three people are able to fit on it – two small girls and I. We managed to row to the sea halfway before we were timed-out by our chief facilitator (who was D’s mom herself).
The team had a great fighting spirit and sportsmanship. Although they verbally said they didn’t care of the customer, it was fun watching them do things. And of course, I didn’t care about giving them points as well. Hahaha!!! Nah, I was not so bad. I gave points for their unfailing determination to get the raft working.
The second team was more enthusiastic. They designed it, and worked on it, found something wrong, and re-assembled it. The way they tied was, alas, rather loose. I shook my head a few times, and told them that it was kinda loose. They actually ignored me. Well, there goes the points, a penalty of not listening to customers. Eventually, at the last bit of tying where the building process is most crucial, I so beh tahan (at the fact that I have to sit on the loose raft) that I have to help the tie the raft. In my mind I thought: Yeah, you are right about tying X’s, but you are doing it the WRONG way!!! At last, the plank that I tied is the most secure.
Minutes later, I was on the raft, with a few other small-sized team members. One girl was so scared that she cried while sitting on the raft (on the center, actually, because of her fear). I, as the customer, need to assure her that nothing would have happen to her. Imagine this situation. Astro marketing people pledge to set up the transceiver station, send out decoders and satellite dishes package, and later panicked in front of media (mass amount of customers) saying that the whole system might not work. And then, everywhere from the country the people came out consoling the marketing people, assuring that what they’ve done can actually work. How ironic!!!
Well, of course I understand la... to a person who does not know how to swim, even with the life jacket on, the sea is like a monster. But at least trust that the team members will help each other. Anyway, we did struggle for balance. And as I proved myself correct, the barrels got loose, and the corner where I was sitting on collapsed. In seconds, another guy and I fell into the sea. As a customer, I was in the water, supporting the raft to the destination, and ensuring the safety of the poor girl. How IRONIC!!! :-P
We did manage the task, taking away the fact that we were in the water. I should have given another big zero if I were a fussy customer, but looking at their enthusiasm and the fact that the raft did stay afloat along the way, I awarded them some points.
The third and final round came. I opted as the facilitator handling the buoy, the destination where the raft has to reach on the sea. Bad choice. It was 2pm when I began to swim out to the sea. I was kicking against the current, and I was hit by waves artificially generated by passing-by boats, I was nauseating, and most importantly, I was under the hot tropical sun. I am now burnt, almost literally, on my face and arms.
Three teams made it, and three gave up after capsizing. I exchanged place with another facilitator before the 6th team gave up. And, as I was approaching the shore, my fore-muscle of my right thigh cramped. Took me 5 minutes sitting by the shore to have the cramp released, and mind you, I was still under the scorching sun!!!
It was indeed a tiring day. Being under the sun for 7 hours, I was completely wasted. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the whole session. The people I met was great. They were funny, talkative, playful, and easy to get along. And most importantly, it was a great experience facilitating in a team-building. I participated in team-buildings organized by my A company, but I am now able to look at the organizer’s point of view. I learnt and observed a lot as a by-stander and not as a participant. And it is funny to see how the participants behaved.
I attended Sunset Mass (half sleeping), and 4th LSS session that night. Another miracle, I was not that tired throughout the session!!!
This was my schedule for the day:
05:35 Alarm clock rang for the first time
05:55 Got up from my bed
06:40 Began my journey to Tropical Spice Garden (TSG)
07:15 Reached TSG
07:30 Setting up
08:15 First team (6 sub-groups) arrived at Oh! Pontoon!! station by the beach
11:00 Second team (another 6 sub-groups) arrived
13:10 Third team (another 6) arrived
15:00 Jobs done (for the pontoon participants)
16:00 Finished packing up, then bathe
16:20 Leaving TSG for early “dinner”
16:55 Bon appetite
18:30 Sunset Mass in IC Church, rat island
20:00 LSS 4th session began
23:30 LSS 4th session finished
00:00 Reached home
P.S. I woke up at 10:50 the next day, slept, and woke up at 13:00. If not because of my growling stomach, I might have skipped lunch and slept whole day.