Awake at Sea

As a cynic, I sometimes find I need to refresh my loathing for my fellow man. Every so often, I start to think, “Hey, people aren’t so bad. I should get out more.”

There’s an easy cure to this peculiar delusion, and I just completed it: Go on a cruise.

Now, I’m not saying there’s no redeeming feature to cruising. In fact, cruising shares a number of common benefits with vacationing in an RV: You only have to pack and unpack once, a bathroom is never far away, you can grab a snack any time you want, and most people who see how you’ve traveled will look upon you with a faint sense of condescension and loathing “” that, or they love cruising/RVing/watching NASCAR and can’t wait until the next time they get to go.

Yes, I know, such stereotypes are unfair. But funny how they don’t go away, isn’t it?

Wandering the decks is a great way to refresh your cynicism. If you’ve been shuffling along in a congested passage and an opening suddenly appears, you can bet the trio in front of you will choose that moment to stop, stare about themselves in befuddlement, and begin to chat about what they should go do next. The sheer volume of humanity reminds you why you hate the hustle and bustle, particularly when performed by bumpkins.

[pullquote]I’m not saying cruise ships are full of nothing but rednecks. After all, most of the crew is foreign, and foreigners don’t have rednecks “” they have soccer hooligans. [/pullquote]

I’m not saying cruise ships are full of nothing but rednecks. After all, most of the crew is foreign, and foreigners don’t have rednecks “” they have soccer hooligans. I’m just saying that I don’t think I’ve met many rednecks who wouldn’t seem right at home amongst the teeming masses aboard ship.

Knowing that I’d want to have some time away from my fellow passengers, I’d gotten a cabin with a balcony for this trip. I figured I’d sit out and read or something. What I’d failed to really process mentally, however, is that cruise ships, like everything else, are doing their best to squeeze smokers out of the way.

I spent years as a smoker, and I’ve spent years as a nonsmoker. I probably wrote better when I smoked, as nicotine is a great way to help you focus and keep you content while stuck at a desk. But on the whole, I don’t miss it, which is a shame, because eliminating smoking from most public areas on the ship means that, apparently, most people who spring for rooms with balconies do so because those balconies are among the few spots left where smoking is allowed.

Being outdoors was like being in an old-school bar: the secondhand smoke probably would’ve been sufficient to keep you from suffering withdrawal if you quit smoking for the cruise, provided you spent several hours a day out on the balcony taking it all in, as it were. Better yet, this meant that if you went for that iconic cruise image “” leaning on the railing as you stare out at sea “” you immediately jumped backward in revulsion because your forearms were now coated with not just a bunch of ash, which I don’t really mind, but with sticky.

Where the frack did sticky come from? Are there a””holes chewing tobacco and spitting it over their railings? Did someone bring a cotton candy machine onto the ship? Does the cruise line spray down the banisters with sugar to help keep people from losing their grip and falling while hanging out on their balconies drunk?

Whatever the case, that did it as far as the balcony was concerned for me. I stalked back inside, muttering, felt thankful I was only a few steps from my bathroom, and settled in to do my time.

We did, eventually, get places. And while at those places, we saw things. Usually, what we saw were other tourists blowing money at the various businesses that have kickback schemes in place so the cruise lines steer you in their direction. Still, it’s always good to see another country, even if you’re seeing it through the sunburnt lens of a tourist trap.

Finally, I had my last, and I thought defining, moment of wonderful human interaction. One morning, returning to our room from breakfast, we found the guy in the room next to us struggling to get his key card in his door while holding what appeared to be a one-gallon mug of coffee. Perhaps he likes to bathe with the stuff. I dunno.

But whatever the reason for his hauling more joe than Juan Valdez, I didn’t really care “¦ until he dropped the damn thing and it exploded like an overripe watermelon hurled from a skyscraper. Being one door down, I was, predictably, within the blast radius.

I started to open my door and head into my room, a bit surprised he hadn’t said anything, until I heard “Sorry about that” as I was entering. Being a decent human being, I immediately piped up with “No problem!” to which he said, “Not you.”

Yeah, I was surprised, too. Apparently, he was apologizing to our cabin steward, or something, because now housekeeping was going to have to clean up the enormous puddle he’d just created in the hallway. I guess having to change my shorts, socks, and shirt was my own damn fault?

The next morning, coming back from breakfast, when we saw another giant puddle outside the guy’s door “¦ Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t giggle. 

About Jared Kendall

Jared Kendall
A freelance data journalist and father of two, Jared Kendall has been using comedy as a coping mechanism his entire life. Born a Yankee, Jared's twenty-year stint in Baton Rouge still leaves him with one question: "Why'd I move here, again?"

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