Monday, December 23, 2013

People In Every Direction

“Welcome to your new home.” 

Ominous words spoken over a loudspeaker by a faceless creature known only as “Steve.” I have a home, Steve. It’s in Boston, among my people. My home has culture and variety and authenticity. Your boat seems to have none of these. It is certainly not my home. Five days from now, I don’t envisioning this iron leviathan becoming my home, either.. And honestly, Steve, your little “welcome” sounded awfully cultish.

Have you seen what your “home” looks like? With all the tiles and the stained glass peacocks and the wooden tentacles and the embellishments everywhere that could bear the extra weight, it’s something of a candy-colored nightmare, Steve. The fleshy curlers extending from each elevator shaft give the impression that some promiscuous mollusk is continually foisting herself upon me. If I was feeling more charitable, I might say it’s reminiscent of King Triton’s palace in The Little Mermaid, but (and let’s pretend for a minute here that that was something other than a virtual set in an animated fantasy movie) that palace had authenticity. Here, this cacophony of color seems designed to remind all of us that we’re on a boat in the ocean. It just seems like if you have an actual boat and it’s actually in the actual ocean, there should be a more graceful way to remind your patrons that they’re on said boat in said ocean, aside from hitting them over the head with endless variations on turquoise. I’ve been to the ocean, Steve. Its color scheme does not induce seizures.

Maybe it’s me, Steve. Maybe I’m not cut out for this whole “cruise” idea in the first place. I’m not really a people person, except when it comes to people whom I already know and care about. And coming straight from my profound experience this semester, without any real alone time to decompress, I’ve kind of had it with strangers for a while. Don’t get me wrong, Steve – I have nothing against the glut of vacationing southerners with whom I’m surrounded. They seem like fine people who are taking a well-deserved Christmas break (except for those couple of guys wearing jackets sporting the names of our future port cities, as if they’re the guy at a concert wearing the t-shirt of the band he’s about to see. Those guys seem a bit off.). Same goes for your staff. You have to admit that they, collectively, exhibit just about all of the foreign mannerisms I’ve detailed so extensively here in the past (I trust you’ve been reading my old entries, Steve), but it’s clear that you’re going for an international vibe, so it makes sense that you’d want some of that. The problem is that there’s too damn many of these people – guest and imagistaffer alike (or whatever Carnival’s fake portmanteau may be). After a while, they remind a person why the Spanish word for crowd is “muchedumbre” – which sounds oddly like “mucho dumb people.”

I suppose we should talk about the various goings-on of the day, as well. After arriving at your terminal and handing our bags to a very friendly gentleman wearing a particularly garish Hawaiian shirt, we began to make our way through security, only to be informed that, even though your boat was not sovereign territory outside the United States, we would need passports just to get in her belly. This was not a problem for me, thanks to the somewhat pathetic “passport card” that lives in my wallet since I switched to it last month. But my sister had checked her passport. I know, what was she thinking, right? How could she ignore the dozens of signs reminding her to keep her immigration paperwork on her at all times during the check in process? Well, it might have had something to do with a complete and utter lack of said signs, and basic intuition that tells a person that if they’re not leaving the country for several days, merely having a passport among their belongings (which they would have access to shortly) should be sufficient. But apparently Carnival operates in what my Property professor would politely call the world of “non-legal norms.” I found further confirmation of this propensity to fail to make any attempt to follow American law every time I encountered a staircase where the raised ledges to each step carried a 3/4-inch faded and peeling warning to “watch your step.” Now, Steve, we both know that normally when a person invites others into their “home” for a business purpose, they have a duty to warn that person about any dangers they can’t correct (don’t make me cite a case here). I assume that because you are merely a disembodied voice, you can’t fix the speed bumps on your stairs, but your warning still doesn’t meet any of the criteria for adequacy – it’s not large, prominent, specific, visible, or explicit in its language. I know you’ve got that clause on each ticket that if a guest wants to sue you they have to do it in Jalabad, or some equally inconvenient location, but could you at least pretend you’re trying not to be negligent?

Anyway, you got me off topic. Back to the passport thing: Your check-in ladies (greeters? I don’t know what you call them.) also need a refresher course on delivering bad news, Steve. Specifically, you need to teach them about the poop sandwich. They should lead and finish with some moderately good news, and stick the crap in the middle. What they shouldn’t do, Steve, is say “You will not be sailing today,” and leaving a pregnant pause before adding, “unless you can get a copy of your passport or birth certificate within the next 6 hours.” See, Steve, at that point your guys become the enemy. It’s their fault that they didn’t explain this, they’re the ones denying us permission to board, and it’s because their employees are currently in possession of the documents we need. As we struggled to find a new copy of my sister’s birth certificate while your people tried to find the bag, I tried to come up with every plausible outcome for the situation and none of them led to us being denied boarding. If you had found the bag, we’re good. If you had delivered it to our room by 2pm, 2 hours before the scheduled departure time, and we just picked up the papers there, we’re good. Heck, if you decide to throw us off the boat and return our luggage to us at the pier, we take out the passport and we’re still good. So why the threat, Steve? I, for one, certainly don’t feel homey when I’m being threatened and told I can’t come in. You’re probably just lucky that you found the missing bag before I had a chance to get my claws out.

After that, once you let us into “our home” we found our stateroom (not sure how that’s different from a regular room, or how it magically involves the state). It’s not the largest room I’ve ever seen but it’s pretty much exactly what I expected and it seems more than able to fit our limited needs of it. And it’s above the water line, which is always reassuring.

Anyway, we played some quick trivia and had dinner, followed by an attempt to see the evening’s “show.” It all went well, Steve, until I tried to find a bathroom. If there are two things that are most essential to human survival and comfort, Steve, they’re water and bathrooms. Especially when you’re diabetic and someone is offering you as much food as you can stuff down the aforementioned gullet. Without water fountains (in your defense, Steve, someone did tell me that water was “plentiful” on this thing), I had to ask a bartender every time I wanted a drink of water (which, 4 hours after 2 plates of chicken fingers, was rather frequently). I may have mentioned this earlier, Steve, but I’m not exactly a people person. If I have to literally depend on talking to other people for my mere survival, we’re going to have a problem. As for the bathroom sitch, maybe I’m spoiled now because my real home (read: the law school building) has nearly a 5:1 person-to-bathroom ratio, but I’ve had immense difficulty finding a bathroom in this place. This boiled over after dinner, when I attempted to do just that, only to find the one (poorly marked) men’s room blocked by another muchedumbre. Faced with the options of pushing and shouting at people in order to satisfy a basic biological need or to go elsewhere, I chose the latter. Screw the people and screw the show – I was done with people at that point – and probably still am.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain, though. I mean, I get to be on this marvel of modern technology and eat all the food I can possibly stuff into my gullet, while gliding across the open sea towards a rainforest that your people will guide me through. At the same time, you stumbled upon a bit of perspective for me when I finally found some alone time after bathroom-gate up on the Verandah deck (I know – I cringe every time I see it, too) and I could see the lights of the lone road through the lower Mississippi Delta, my thoughts immediately turning to how those lights meant so much more to the people of the southern wild than a streetlight would to me. I know it’s the absolute pinnacle of #whitepersonproblems, but if I put aside my opinions and just wrote about what I did today, that would be more like a grade-school journal entry than an accounting of the experience we’re sharing here, Steve.

But despite all that, Steve, I do need to lend you at least one compliment – you offer one hell of a view.

1 comment:

  1. I will say, while I don't usually enjoy your more negative posts, the fact that you gave character to your enemy made this a bit more enjoyable to read. Until next time, Steve. Next time.