Gilligan and the Skipper

Gilligan and the Skipper…….a short story by me.

Going on a Caribbean cruise is a great vacation !!!!

I think my first one was my favorite. That’s not true. It’s a tie with my last one because my entire family went on that one. However, I’m going to tell you about my first one. I think the best thing about cruising is that it’s always time to eat and it’s always time to drink and there is always something to do.

Let’s start from the beginning. The first thing you notice when you get to the dock is the IMMENSE size of the ship. They are about as tall as a 14 story building and they have a circumference of somewhere between a quarter mile and a half mile. We’re talking large. When you board, you go to find your room just to check it out. Your luggage hasn’t been delivered yet so you go up the upper levels and start just walking around and checking things out. You board a couple of hours before you leave so they are already serving lunch so you go eat something and start drinking and eventually they kick all of the visitors off and you pull off and get underway.

Now for a description of most ships. The absolute top deck is an observation point. You can go up there just to see the view of the lower 3 decks or so and, of course, the scenery as land fades into the distance and eventually disappears. These ships are basically floating little towns. They usually have a couple of differrent night clubs, a theater, an exercise room and a casino. They have a big, serve yourself buffet type room for breakfast and lunch and a great big dining room where you will be served dinner. If you don’t like any of the 20 things they are serving at the lunch buffet, don’t worry. They are barbecuing burgers and hot dogs with all the side orders out by the pool. And the ship’s staff, everyone from the person who makes up your room, to the buffet cooks, the dining hall waiters and busboys, the casino dealers, everyone treats you like they are your loving pet dogs and you have just come home from a 5-day trip. And, they treat you like this every day. Of course, they’d better treat you that way or else they could get fired. Most of the employees are foreigners and a cruise ship job is a prestigious and high paying job and there’s a waiting list for jobs that is miles long. In fact, if you are a busboy, there is a seniority system and you are in line to become a waiter but the only way that’s going to happen is if a current waiter quits, gets fired, or dies. If that happens the bus boy with the most seniority becomes a waiter and everyone moves up one notch. I could go on and on (in fact, I already have) about how great these cruises are but that’s not the point of this story. Ask someone who has been and they’ll tell you all about it. Don’t be scared by the occasional story about a food poison outbreak or a ship running aground. Food poisoning is a 1 in 5,000 shot and grounding or capsizing is 1 in a million.

The only thing I really didn’t like about my first cruise is something called “The Captain’s Dinner.” This is usually scheduled for day 3 of a 5-day cruise or day 4 of a 7-day cruise. It’s a semi-formal dinner. It means you can wear a tuxedo if you want but you definitely should be in a suit and tie. My opinion is that this is strictly to appease the women. Women like to dress up and, I’ll grant you, they don’t get very many chances to do it. Weddings and New Years Eve come to mind. This is a disaster for men. It means we have to pack a suit, black socks, a tie, a dress shirt and we have to make sure we have a suit bag so it won’t get messed up. All of this so we can sit in the same seat we sat in last night and the same seat we are going to sit in tomorrow – only for this occasion we need to be choked by our collar and tie. What’s the reason for all of this fuss ? The great Captain will be attending the dinner. You won’t be at his table, mind you. He’s just gonna be in the room. Oh, and you have to stand in line and meet the great one and shake his hand while he smiles and says “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” You don’t meet him as a couple, either. Your wife, girlfriend or significant other goes first and then it’s your turn. While I was waiting in line, I was thinking, “This guy has to shake hands, smile and be pleasant to about 3,000 people tonight and he has to do this EVERY week. He HAS to hate this as much as I do.”

Now, a few words about the captain. The guy is an important man with a tremendous amount of responsibility. In this floating town, he is the mayor, police chief, judge and jury. If you think of the ship as a multi-faceted corporation, he is the president and CEO. He’s responsible for the safety of thousands of people. Every employee reports to someone who reports to someone who reports to the captain. For instance, the busboys and waiters all report to the Maitre-D. He reports to the captain. All of the cooks, and there are a lot of them, report to the head chef who reports to the captain. The people who navigate and steer the ship report to the captain. Simply put, the captain answers for everything. As such, he’s a serious guy with a serious job.

So, back to waiting in line to met the Big Man. I had plenty of time to think about the prestigious and important job this guy has. I think we had spent the day in some port-of-call and we had gotten badk on the ship and underway from there around 4 PM. My wife and I, and the couple we were with met around 6:45 and had a couple of cocktails in the bar. Our dinner was for 8PM and we’re wainting in line around 7:45. Now, this is such a momentous occasion, meeting the God….I mean the Captain, that they have a photographer waiting to record the moment. It’s not included in your cruise price. In fact, if I remember it was fairly pricey so Terri said she didn’t want the photo. I recognized the importance of the moment and I told her I wanted the picture at any cost. Finally, I approached his majesty. I actually could feel. as our eyes met, that he could tell I was a fellow professional. After all, I had been in Information Technology for about 15 years and I knew a lot about responsibility although certainly not at his level. Still, I felt that we bonded immediately and the resulting picture did a spectacular job at capturing that mutual respect.

You may now look at the picture. Go ahead…….I’ll wait.

Captain

Now, you can see by the Great One’s face how pleased he is to meet me. If I could put, like, a cartoon bubble with words coming from him, I’m not sure what I’d choose. It could be “God, I hate these asssholes.” It could be “I have GOT to retire.” It could also be “I’m sending my First Lieutenant to do this from now on.” My bubble words would be easy….”This is the GREATEST thing ever !!!” The lady on the right would also be easy. Her face clearly expresses “W T F ?”

I hope you enjoyed this. I just KNEW this picture would be worth whatever it cost !!!

Gilligan

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