“I can’t take this anymore! I want off of this boat! I want off right now! These people are sick, I tell you, they’re twisted, can’t you see? Why won’t anyone listen to me?!?!” Michael looked around in a panic for someone, anyone who might believe him. All he saw were blank faces, confused by his apparent outburst that was now interrupting their dinner.
“Please, sir, can I escort you to your room? I believe you are not feeling quite well. If you please, this way.” The Grand Dining Room manager has somehow brought Michael to his feet and was now escorting him by the arm towards the back of the room, all the while smiling and calmly greeting guests as if nothing was wrong.
Michael was deposited into a small room on the 5th deck and was asked to wait, if you please.
“I do not please,” Michael grumbled to himself, but he was too exhausted to put up any more fight than that. As he sat and waited, he thought back on how this whole thing had started. Boarding the ship, he had been exhilarated. He now knew that the wheels of his mental ruin had already been set in motion the minute he stepped onboard…
“Good Evening, sir! Welcome aboard the Celebrity. Please, allow me to assist you to your room.”
“Wow, such service!” Michael had exclaimed as he followed the chipper room attendant to the elevator bank. “If this is how it’s going to be the entire week, then I have a feeling I’m really going to enjoy this cruise,” Michael remembered thinking to himself.
The irony was not lost on him, as he now sat dejected in the small room that looked as if it also served as a utility closest.
Reflecting back on the events of the past few days, Michael was sure that the entire crew was in on it. But how could that be? And why? Michael was under no false pretenses that he was important enough to warrant such a conspiracy against him. He was just a line cook at one of the larger chain restaurants in Clermont, FL. He was a nobody. Not content to simply wait, he decided to go back over the events of the last week that had led him to this moment.
First there had been the bed situation.
When he first arrived in his room, everything seemed in order. It was just like the pictures he had seen online. But upon returning to his room following dinner, his bed had somehow defied physics as was now located directly above his head, on the ceiling. Feeling more than a little ridiculous, Michael went downstairs and reported the oddity to guest relations. The young lady attending the desk looked at him in such a way he knew she didn’t believe him. Despite her obvious disbelief, she smiled and instructed an assistant room attendant to accompany Michael to his room to assess the situation. Using his key card, Michael opened the room. Imagine his shock as the door swung open revealing a completely normal stateroom, complete with the bed securely located on the floor. “I… I don’t know what to tell you. I swear, it was up there,” Michael said as he pointed to the ceiling.
“Yes, of course sir. If there is nothing else?” the attendant did not seem amused. “No. Thank you, sorry…” Michael’s embarrassment was all over his face.
Dinner that night had been uneventful, as had the late night entertainment. Following the consumption of one too many rum punches, Michael was ready to hit the sack. Unfortunately, the ‘sack’ had decided to return to the ceiling. Too tired, and too embarrassed to complain again, Michael grabbed his complimentary bathrobe and curled up on the floor, careful not to lay under the bed in case it decided to return to it’s original position during the night.
Sleeping on the floor was just the beginning.
While taking in a day of sun by the pool, Michael’s sunscreen had somehow failed to work, but only in certain spots. As a result, Michael was now sporting a bizarre sunburn in the shape of a large cartoon whale, complete with water shooting from its blowhole, across his entire stomach.
Then there was the hypnotist incident. Brought on stage as a “special guest” requested by the hypnotist himself, Michael had spent the better part of the hour beating his chest like a gorilla or crying his eyes out while “watching” the saddest movie his imagination could create. As if that wasn’t bad enough, now whenever anyone onboard said the word “buffet” Michael would begin chirping like a bird.
On the third day, total strangers had begun to approach Michael and ask him for money, and then laughing would walk away. Finally, Michael inquired why everyone kept asking him for money, and the middle-aged woman wearing a large t-shirt with a bikini-clad body painted on it, giggled and said, “surely you know! It’s been the talk of the casino! You won the raffle, of course… $5,000!” And no, Michael’s luck had not improved, seems as if this too was another cruel prank.
There had also been several smaller instances, like his decaf being switched with regular every night, the room numbers on his door seemed to rearrange themselves throughout the day, and his swim trunks seemed to grow shorter by two inches each day, so that on the fourth day he could not put them on for the sake of decency.
The final straw however, had come tonight, during dinner. Frazzled, sleep-deprived and over-heated thanks to his Moby Dick inspired sunburn, Michael was ready to sit down to a nice meal. It was not to be. The drink service, appetizer and soup courses all went without incident. And just as he was beginning to relax as his entrée was placed in front of him, Michael’s fatigued mind hit it’s breaking point. His oven-seared steak looked absolutely wonderful, Michael eagerly picked up his steak knife and attacked the steak with relish. Or tried to. Each time he tried to saw into the steak, his knife would twist and bend and bounce back, unable to penetrate the meat. After several attempts, Michael couldn’t take any more…
And now, here he sat, waiting for God knows what. Just that second, the door opposite him opened, and out walked none other than the master of the ship… the captain. A good-natured looking gentleman of Greek decent, the captain smiled and walking up to Michael, patted him on the back and asked if he would follow him to his chambers. With little other option, Michael complied.
“So I hear you’ve been having a tough time of it, young man,” the captain said once they were both seated. “I am sorry to hear this, I assure you, but I am not surprised. You see, I have a wonderful crew, a very dedicated crew and their service is beyond reproach.” Michael couldn’t help but scoff at this and the captain said, “Please, my boy, let me finish. It grows difficult to be at sea for 8 months out of the year, and while my crew would never outright complain about the conditions, I know that they sometimes grow weary of this life and the stress of their positions. To compensate, I created a way for these lovely people to, how you say… blow off steam,” the captain looked at Michael with an expression he could not read.
“So, each voyage, one passenger is randomly selected and for that trip they are, teased, and pranks, harmless of course, are played on them,” the captain said almost apologetically.
“You can’t be serious,” Michael couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I am sorry, my boy, but believe me it is necessary. My people work very hard, and are at the ready 24 hours a day. That amount of pressure cannot go unrelieved; surely you understand this? Of course, for being a good sport, you will not go without being compensated. Since we’ve been allowed our fun, it is your turn. As a way of thanks I would like to award you this certificate which grants you a free cruise for two each year, for the rest of your life. In addition, please accept this check for $25,000 to be spent any way you see fit,” the captain finished as he handed Michael the certificate and check.
Struck speechless by all he had learned in the last few minutes, Michael looked down at the check, and almost shed a tear. Managing a shaky “thank you,” he rose to shake the captain’s hand and turning to leave, he stopped. Turning back to the captain, he started to speak but was quickly interrupted, “no, my boy. There will be no more fun at your expense… you can relax. For the rest of the trip you will be given nothing but the best of service, this I guarantee. And if not, I will deal with it personally,” patting him once again on the back, the captain closed the door after Michael and sat back down in his chair. “Whew… that was a close one. I thought for sure he wasn’t going to bite. It might be time to give this up…” he thought to himself before a huge grin appeared on his face. “Nah,” he laughed to the empty room, “Practical jokes are my trademark, what would I do if I couldn’t sneak around the ship and play my jokes? If they crew knew, surely they would understand?” chuckling to himself, the captain looked at the manifest for the upcoming voyage and closing his eyes, he wiggled his forefinger and then plopped it down in the middle of the page. “Ah, Bernard Schuck…welcome aboard the Century… I promise to make it a trip you will not soon forget!”
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
Feeling better today…. Still a bit rushed writing this… I’m on a cruise for goodness sakes!
The above story is based upon the following tidbits from my day:
ONE: The central idea of the crew playing pranks of passengers came as I was sitting in the main dining room, following yet another superb meal. Watching the wait staff buzz around, their professionalism, friendliness and level of service was quite impressive. A nice, older Columbian couple sitting at the table next to me must have observed my admiration, and soon we were sharing experiences about these lovely, I’ll be it, primarily anonymous people, who were dedicated to our every need. What did these industrious people do when they were not at our beck and call? Surely they must have some way to relax and decompress. Then a funny thought struck me. What if they started playing practical jokes on one sorry soul? What if every other passenger aboard was receiving service above and beyond, while this poor sap became the butt of the entire crews’ practical jokes? How crazy would you feel if you were that person and no one believed you?
TWO: The reference to Clermont, FL was in referral to the Columbian couple I mentioned above, as that is where they now live.
THREE: The hypnotist. Actually this happened yesterday, so I guess I’m cheating a little but I’m fine with it if you are (rules are created to be broken, right?). Last night we went to see the hypnotist, which I found happily ironic since I just wrote about it in a prior story.
FOUR: The captain of the story is based on the Master of our ship, Captain Kostas Patsoulas…although I’m quite sure he has never treated a guest with anything but absolute courtesy.
Love & Squirrels.