(A lady raises her pinky.)
Day 5 (Part 1)
Friday. September 16, 2010
The best part of mornings on-board a cruise ship is waking up to the scent, sight, and sound of your ship at sea. The Pacific Ocean has a myriad of blues in her pallet, all of them are mesmerizing and crushable. For real. If the Pacific Ocean were a lady, I would totally marry her.
The worst part of mornings on-board a cruise ship are the breakfasts. It’s as though they were prepared by contestants on Top Chef who were given the challenge to “make as many things as possible using only white flour and remember – no fresh ingredients!”
By the episode’s end, my tummy loses. Bacon that remarkably resembles fried leather shoes, eggs that looked like they came from a chicken’s leukemia ward, fruit salads that seemed so depressed you’d think they should be sprinkled with Prozac, not sugar – and since I couldn’t bring myself to eat any of these aforementioned items, I was left with the option of pancakes covered in waffle cupcakes, drizzled in biscuits with a dash of bagel. One bite of this, and coffee became my only morning meal.
"I just feel like I'm never gonna accomplish anything that matters."
There are so many invalids on-board, trudging slowly, hunched over stainless-steel canes or walkers, oxygen tanks everywhere underfoot – you can easily forget you’re on a luxury liner, not a retirement home. The greatest danger is not that the ship will sink, but that you’ll get run-over by a Rascal Scooter.
Faces of Death: Cruise Ship Edition
By lunchtime I was ravenous – the coffee that became my only breakfast was, in turn, making a meal of my stomach lining. By Day 5, I decided to try lunch in the main dining room. Up till then, most of my days were off-ship so I could eat from vendors at the ports. I was curious to see if formal lunch was as good as the formal dinners.
It wasn’t. I ordered a salad in which each separate ingredient somehow tasted like water. Put them all together and you get, well, a whole lot of water, but with texture. Despite this disappointment, there was a singular joy in my lunchtime: it was the first meal there where I didn’t have to hear the staff singing “Happy Birthday” to someone. Yay, God!
The boyfriend and I returned to the faux Roman Spa to read, relax, and judge people.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I… how do I put this? I don’t “know” how to “use” a chaise lounge. I realize all you have to do is lay back on one, and I’m not saying I can’t do exactly that – it’s not like I start to recline and accidentally end up inserting the leg-rest in my mouth – but I can’t seem to find any comfortable position when using one. They, in fact, stress me out. Seeing me on a chaise lounge is reminiscent of a hapless fly getting caught in a web in some grisly Max Fleischer cartoon.
They boyfriend takes to them like an embryo to a uterus – an embryo with sunglasses and taste for vodka. I opted for a good, old fashioned chair – there were many to choose from as I am, apparently, the only person with a chaise lounge handicap. I put on headphones and, to mask the sounds of down-tempo spa music accompanied by the chorus of wheezing seniors surrounding us, I listened to this…
Now, we’d been on board 5 days and, aside from the boyfriend, I didn’t see a single person to develop a “cruise crush” on. Oh, there was an occasional fit torso, but it would come with a face only a mother could love – a mother with prosopagnosia. A woman might have legs that make you feel like a man, but then she’d have a haircut that looked like the man her legs had made you feel like. A handsome face atop a body that looked like it was DreamWorks’ model for Shrek, an ass so fine you could bounce a quarter off it on a body so haggard it rendered your sperm count bankrupt – it was the swimsuit competition segment of the Beauty Pageant for the Horse-People.
I realized, as a result of this, I had begun to fixate on the sexier parts of people and imagine them attached to other sexy parts I’d seen – creating a kind of masturbatory Frankenstein’s monster. Ugh… Fire bad. Fire very, very bad.
I also listened to this…
Later in the day, the boyfriend and I joined his parents to explore the top deck game rooms. We considered the ragged collection of board games the ship provided, all of which promised hours of family fun, but described actions such as “Fill your cup with matching animal coins before the other team guesses how many yellow strings you can toss up in the air before the timer rings a fifth time after green!” or “Match the famous faces by rolling the dice to see who can get four Margaret Thatchers in a row!” and other nonsense that left us skeptical that we were the “family” this “fun” was targeted after.
The three of them decided on a game of Spades, which I had never played. The moment they began (simultaneously) explaining the rules, a familiar anxiety washed over me.
“It’s easy!” they promised.
For those of you unfamiliar with the rules of Spades, you can read them by clicking on this rather convenient but unnecessarily long-worded link that I have created using the World Wide Web right here. Go on, I dare you. Try making it even half the page down, and then tell me if you think it’s as “easy” as my beloved family members swore.
Adding struggle to the already perplexing barrage of rules, tips and tricks they revealed, was my biggest obstacle of all: dyscalculia, a number-specific dyslexia that has plagued me my whole life. Multiplication, maps – even knowing left from right takes a second of conscious thought on my part. It’s not a hatred of math, it’s simply like French to me; I recognize a lot of the words, but there’s no way in hell I can actually speak it. It’s why I never worked the cash registers at Amoeba Music. It’s why I’ll risk being swindled by fellow diners rather than figure out the check. It’s why I get lost even with the use of Google Maps. It’s why the following clip makes my brow drip sweat:
I listened to the rules, quietly, wanting so badly to be a good sport and not someone who wouldn’t even try, but the boyfriend saw panic in my eyes and remembered how real my condition is. His parents were very sweet and compassionate and, upon learning why Spades was going to be impossible for me, we opted instead to play Getting Complimentary Frozen Yogurt.
This game is easy: you simply go to the pool deck of your cruise ship and help yourself to the 42-hour* complimentary frozen yogurt machine.
Looks easy, but...
Well, easy for most people. Now, I realize that this particular blog entry paints a troubling portrait of me, and by the end of it you’ll question how I make it through a day, but in my defense, I am not completely riddled with neuroses, disability, and anxiety – this just happened to be a day where my menu of dysfunction was serving up a five-course chef’s choice.
That being said, I have a… thing. A thing about food. There’s certain ways of eating that make me lose my appetite. They are completely illogical, totally embarrassing, and – how you say – retarded. Regardless, they are factors in my culinary identity. One of these things is that – and I’m cringing right now as I tell you this – I won’t eat anything on a stick, or food that’s served on-a-stick-like. This means I won’t eat corndogs, lollipops, cotton candy (I’m a terrible date to the State Fair) or anything of that nature. On-a-stick-like items include ribs and, most famously, ice cream cones.
Ice cream, it should be noted, is my favorite food in the world. It’s the Pacific Ocean of cuisine to me, so long as it’s served on something other than a stick or a cone. Cones are stick-like.
Cones are also all that was available at the complimentary frozen yogurt stand and facing it so fresh after my inability to play Spades left me feeling very broken indeed. I begged the boyfriend not to tell his parents why I wasn’t having any yogurt; he shook his head and smiled like a loyal lover who had already seen all your bad parts and accepted you anyhow. Then he got a chocolate-vanilla twist.
*Get it? That's some dyscalculia humor for ya!