In St. Floridale, or wherever.
It’s done - all the up-and-down and back-and-forth, all the preparation and anticipation and excitement. Kaput. Spent. I’m in the Dreaded D Terminal of the airport, where the food options resemble the 1970s. One dismal sub shop, probably still run by the diner’s old nemesis, Host. The terminal has six power outlets for nine gates, and each is occupied by someone content to charge two devices, because she got there first. There’s a CNN Newsstand, trading on the well-known history of all those CNN print products, and it also has a fine selection of useless tourist geegaws that either endorse the beach-related things you are now leaving behind, or commemorate your idiocy with a slogan about alcohol and your inability to use it correctly.
Ready to go home. I can still feel the ship. Bobbing up and down, up and down, ever so slightly. Also somewhat tired, since I’m working on five hours of sleep. Declined to close the second bar last night, leaving that to the pros. Woke at 6:30 for a 7:30 disembarkation - breakfast had been requested to appear in the 6:30 - 7:00 window, which meant 6:59. Delicious, too. Then I waited for my Color and Tag Number to be called, in the 7:30 - 8:00 window. They called Expedited at 7:30. They called something else at 7:45; hard to hear exactly what, since Dave the Crew Director had a way of reading things as though he had memorized them phonetically, like ABBA, with no understanding of their meaning. So the words just floated right through you.
He did not, however, say Yellow 2.
At 7:59 I thought, well, something is amiss. Went down to the gangway. (Where, by the way, I’ve always wanted to push through a crowd shouting “Gangway!” It’s like shouldering your way through a moving staircase shouting “Escalator!”) I asked: Yellow 2? Nods, yes, of course. The fellow beeped my card, and I was officially, digitally, irrevocably severed from the ship. Down the gangway. Stopped immediately by a Holland America operative, who asked if I had been beeped out. No, I stunned them all with sleep-gas from my utility belt. Yes, yes, I did. Down the stairs, and . . .
Well. Customs. If I’d gotten off earlier, when my group was called except for the part about not calling Yellow 2, I would have missed half the customs line. It was enormous. There were four lines, and one was for international. Another for crew. Several hundred people were shuffling along in various states - fury, resignation, and mild panic. It took an hour to get through. An hour. I no worries, since the schedule had about five hours built into everything. On the bus to the airport a man was kvetching to his wife about spending three hours at the airport, and she said it was nothing “You buy a Time, you get a yogurt, you go to the bathroom, and poof.” Apt of life itself as well, I suppose.
Now in the terminal, waiting for the plane, looking at some birds who just landed on the windowsill.
So, how was it all? It was fine. Not great. Fine. Not bad. Fine. Much of it was wonderful. I enjoyed all the dinners, and the nights spent talking with friends into the evening. I loved the sun and the one destination we visited where no one tried to sell us any children. (This happened to some in Jamaica.) There were a few things askew: the lack of family, the way the loss of the first port really threw everyone in a disappointed mood, the sudden appearance of a spy who would make us all look silly or evil in a major magazine (that took the wind out of quite a few sails; can’t even be amongst friends without wondering whether a slight gesture or misspokenation or other signs of mortal fallibility will be the auto-detonated petard), and the general mood of the crew.
The crew was not a happy crew.
I had no justification for kvetching, since I didn’t pay, but everyone else did, and if you pay money for a vacation you ought to get good service. It wasn’t that it was awful; just that it was off. The guy who did my room screwed up something every time - and mind you, I keep a squared-away cabin. The dining room attendant brought everyone’s meal but mine; five minutes passed; when it finally appeared he argued with someone else at the wait station for two minutes before bringing it out. That’s the sort of thing a good restaurant manager would see and issue a terrifying stare, followed by a mark on your card. Three marks and you’re back home on the next ship. And it's a rowboat. With one oar. Do we understand each other?
Not enough Bligh on the ship, is what I’m saying.
The reason, some speculated, was a crew worked to exhaustion by a long crossing, a double-strength disinfection routine during resupply and turnaround, and then no shore leave at the first port. The reason could also be that the people who run the bars, for example, are just miserable SOBs who can’t crack a smile or acknowledge a greeting or a thank you. It finally hit me at the stenchtastic smoking bar by the casino, which is the seventh rung of hell on a ship or anywhere else. I lit a small, mild cigar that has almost no aroma, and was told to put it out by the bartender.
“No Cigar. Go outside.”
This was ridiculous. I asked why, just out of curiosity.
“I don’t know. Some people don’t like smell.”
This in a room blue with cigarette haze. Fine. Left. That was my last official commercial transaction with the Holland America Line.
A strongly worded letter will be sent to the hotel manager, I tell you. For heaven’s sake I am a TWO-STAR member of the Mariner Society. They don’t give those small tin pins to just everyone. Merely by boarding the ship these days I am entitled to a complimentary glass of sparkling, watered-down alcohol product to be consumed in the same room as the Captain, dammit.
Not that I went to that gathering. The three-stars always lord it over the two-stars. The four-stars are insufferable. Screw ‘em.
Man, I’m tired. I just want to sleep. I have spent five hours moving from the small room of the cabin to this bench at the airport, where I have nothing to look forward to in the next hour but one of those ghastly subs at the fast-food joint.
LATER: went to get a ghastly sub at the fast-food joint. Stood in line with Dan Hannon, British rep to the European Parliament.
If that doesn't sum up this entire week, nothing will.
There is a bird in the airport. Two birds!
LATER: It's now Thanksgiving Evening, and all this seems terribly remote. It snowed tonight. The day began absurdly warm and ended with a shrieking wind and snow. It's here! Winter! Time for warm cozy things and peppermint and holly and jingle and every other thing we enjoy and endure in equal measures. Back to normal on Monday - hope you enjoyed it all, and had a fine Thanksgiving.