Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cruise Control - Part 13: Passion Flowers

Click Here to read the previous entry in this series…

  So I’m standing there, with body parts of complete strangers somewhat blocking my vision, trying to figure out if the captain of the ship just said what I think he said. I glance down at niece Baylor beside me. She’s got that mid-teen expression of being firmly convinced that anything that comes out of an adult’s mouth is essentially pointless or offensive, so she’s good. Then I hear Tiffany make a noise that would not be out of place in the primate exhibit at a local zoo.

  Oh God.

  My eyes cut in her direction, and I see that she and Terry are in the throes of full-spasm hilarity, clawing at each other and the wall just to keep from dropping to the ground and rolling around. Tears are streaming and cackles are echoing up and down the ship, with their immediate neighbors quietly edging away from them and looking for available exits. Okay, then. I guess I did hear something a little untoward tumble out of the captain’s mouth.

  I glance the other way, and I see one of the Benetton-ad Carnival workers toss aside her demonstration life jacket and try explaining to a passenger what the captain actually meant. “He was saying to use caution around the wet decks. Wet decks!” (Judging by the slightly-irritated tone of the worker, it was clear that the captain hits this particular enunciation speed-bump quite often.)

  Trouble is, Benetton was directing her words towards the tiny Asian woman who had insisted on standing right next to her husband, all Tammy Wynette and pushy. Tammy looked like she didn’t understand a wet anything, glaring at Benetton like a bug just smacked into the windshield of her overpriced convertible. (I made a mental note to avoid Tammy at all costs for the remainder of the trip. She was wearing too much jewelry for us to ever be friends.)

  I studied the rest of the jostling and sweaty crowd, and no one else seemed to be expressing dismay or confusion. What they were expressing was an intense desire for this whole mess to be done with so they could get back to whatever overindulgence they were partaking in when the horrid Muster Summons had interrupted their various revelries.

  As if on cue, Captain What-Did-He-Say came back on the intercom, thanked us for our extreme patience during this critical meeting and related time of temporary drought (no alcohol was allowed to be served throughout the exercise, the horror), urged us to now enjoy ourselves (like we needed any encouragement on that angle), and then he turned things over to Hennie the Cheerleader so the captain could go get this boat out to sea.

  Perky Hennie (probably performing a herky while he did so) let us all know that we had completed the last official thing we had to do. We could now be completely irresponsible for the next two and a half days until we got to Jamaica. As for entertainment options, there were simply oodles of things (another herky, this time with cowbell) that we could do, such as-

  The rest of Hennie’s words were drowned out by the sound of thousands of guests racing to get off the Muster decks. You don’t tell people they are free to do whatever they want and then expect them to keep listening to you babble about activities you have no desire to experience. Hennie eventually just turned the intercom off and went to go watch old reruns of Blossom.

  And with that, ladies and gentleman, my personal enjoyment factor on this cruise began to rise. It was just the drudgery of that first half day, what with getting those millions of people on to the boat and getting them situated. I don’t do well in crowds. Or standing in line. But now that all sections of the ship were open (way more sections than I realized even existed), massive amounts of people simple disappeared and were never seen again. (Until we got back to Galveston, but that’s a whole different story worth at least 5 separate blog posts.)

  Of course, that’s not to say that we didn’t run into some misadventures on the high seas (Teaser foreshadowing: Tiffy sticks her finger where it doesn’t belong. Yep, she do.)

  But for the next few days, the primary goals were relaxation and decompression. So of course we immediately raced back up to the Lido deck and resumed our seats at our already officially-favorite bar before some other fools stupidly attempted to take our positions. Another round was ordered and we got to work on that important relaxing and decompressing.

  Now, let’s venture into a little side story, one involving a torrid love obsession that grew in strength as the days rolled by. It was a decidedly one-sided affair, and no physical transgressions actually took place, but there was definitely an attraction, one resulting in innocent but increased flirtation as the ship plowed onward, much to the extreme amusement of myself and the other family members who were paying attention.

  Tiffany found herself a little girlfriend.

  Of course, Tiffany was not in the market for an international lover, especially one with body parts that match her own. Tiffany is only interested in callers of a gentlemanly nature, shall we say. But La Tiffany, a sophisticated woman who is accepting and supportive of all the colors in the rainbow, is not above slightly working things to her advantage, should the opportunity arise. And if that opportunity should involve the quality and expediency of bar service aboard a cruise liner? Well, all the better.

  And now let’s introduce Fuchsia, a charming woman from an exotic land not our own. (This is not her real name, naturally, we must protect her identity from the overlords at Carnival, especially that hyperactive and cheerleading Hennie the Cruise Director, who has far too much time on his jazz hands.) We met Fuchsia the very first day, working as she was behind the counter of what became “our bar” on the Lido Deck. She had a blazing smile, a pleasing personality, and we loved her instantly. We loved her even more as the drinks kept coming.

  Fuchsia treated all of us with professionalism and charm, promptly satisfying all of our needs. But it soon became evident that Fuchsia’s sparkle was brightest when Tiffany had a libation request, especially once Fuchsia determined that Terry and I were not possible suitors of Tiffany. (This revelation was probably most obvious when the two of us would drool as yet another finely-muscled member of the male species would walk past shirtless. Or the Madonna references. Or the singing of show tunes. Quite a lot to pick from, actually.)

  Anyway, the one-sided tropical crush soon took on a decided rhythm when Tiffany and Fuchsia would encounter one another, and it went something like this…

  Tiffany, always mindful of paparazzi that she envisioned surrounding her, would purposely choose the further away and less-convenient elevator bank on the other side of the deck, away from our bar. This would increase the amount of sun-kissed wooden planking that Tiffany had to cross in order to quench her lushly-glossed lips, allowing her ample acreage on which to stroll saucily while pretending to be disinterested in all her adoring fans in the deck chairs along the way.

  Fuchsia, upon spying her beloved making such an enticing entrance, would rush to clear a section of the counter, even if it meant lying to a patron about the availability of free iPads at the back of the ship, just so they would vacate a barstool. Fuchsia would then thoroughly sanitize said section of counter, polish said stool, and plop down a small crystal vase holding native flowers that Fuchsia had brought all the way from her home country for just such an occasion.

  Tiffany, once done with her promenade among the fans (and this alone could take hours), would finally wander toward the bar and then pause just shy of it, glancing around contemplatively, as if not certain where she wished to purchase her next cocktail, there were so many choices. If necessary, she would pepper her performance with a dramatic, unresolved sigh.

  Fuchsia, quivering in anticipation, would stand as tall as she possibly could, doing her best to look warm, welcoming, and completely available. If one of her co-workers stupidly walked into the visual gap between her and Tiffany, Fuchsia would shove that person under the counter or over the side of the ship.

  Tiffany, releasing another small sigh along the lines of “well, I suppose this will do, in a pinch”, pretends to reach a decision that she fully intended to reach all along. She sashays up to the open barstool, and then pauses again, as if she can’t actually see the engraved, golden nameplate and the single rose that has been lovingly placed in the seat by her trembling admirer.

  Tiffany finally makes full eye contact with Fuchsia. “May I?”

  Fuchsia, sporting a smile so big it nearly splits her head in two, nods vehemently, unable to speak, what with how the glorious gods have just blessed her day and her libido.

  Tiffany smiles briefly, then proceeds to arrange herself artfully on the stool, making sure everything is just so, and remembering to hold each movement for the requisite three seconds the paparazzi will need to get an adequate photo. Finally settled, she parts her shining lips to make a request. “Could I trouble you for-”

  Fuchsia instantly slams down a drink in front of Tiffany, one carefully concocted of such exquisite flavors and colors that merely contemplating the consumption of such beauty is more than enough satisfaction to last a lifetime. Fuchsia tenderly and carefully removes the last bit of paper from the straw, instantly jealous of the lucky plastic that will soon be nestled between Tiffany’s lips, and worshipfully slides the treasure forward.

  Tiffany embellishes her performance with more dramatic delaying tactics, pausing to turn and intimately wave at what she thinks is Gwyneth Paltrow standing near the chili dog station (“Let’s do lunch, sweetie! Call me!”) but it’s totally not. Then she deftly uses her manicured hand to insert the straw into the favorite part of her anatomy and begins sucking, extending one pinky outwards, because really, shouldn’t you always do that?

  Tiffany pauses again, this time unplanned. “Oh my, Fuchsia, darling. This is extraordinary, simply beyond words. My tongue is tingling with satisfaction. What does one call this?”

  Fuchsia is barely able to remain standing, thoughts of Tiffany’s satisfied tongue battling with her need to remain coherent and eventually marry her fashion bride. “It does not have a name, I leave that for you to bestow, if you find it worthy. It has 22 different liquors in it, 12 of which I distilled myself, last night, using a colander and a hair dryer.

  “Oh heavens,” mutters Tiffany, basically unable to stop with the sucking because the liquid glory is satisfyingly irresistible. “You really shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble, with the distilling and all.” She pauses yet, again, this time to belch discreetly, and eyes her now half-empty container. “But since you did, how about we fetch another one, yes?”

  Fuchsia, gratefully willing to do anything that is remotely thrilling to her beloved, immediately races to the ice machine and begins hacking away to break the chunks, with great exuberance, thusly relieving at least a small amount of her burning desire. Little chiplets of said ice go flying through the air, tinkling down on the two co-workers at the other end of the bar, but they aren’t really a part of this particular story and therefore we don’t care.

  Speaking of unconcern for the lesser characters, it is at this point that I arrive on the scene. Well, not arrive, exactly, because I’ve been standing just off to the side the entire time, mentally filing blog notes about the tawdriness and desperation. My own beverage has become depleted, and steps must be taken.

  So I take steps to the bar.

  Fuchsia is busily adding love-scented garnishes to Tiffany’s second offering when she notices me standing there. Her eyes briefly spark with the horrible implications of what my arrival might bring. (“Go away, little gay friend of Tiffany. Do not take her away from me. Bad gay boy!”) But then she recovers and retains her professionalism. “What can I get for you?”

  I wave my empty beer bottle. “Another one, when you have a minute.”

  Now her eyes are expressing another situation. Of course she has a minute, that’s what she’s here for, once Tiffany is happy. But replenishments for my particular brand of beer are way at the other end of the bar, with the ice-chip people. If she leaves Tiffany’s front for any length of time, horrible things could happen, like distracting gay friends suggesting other places that Tiffany might wish to visit, places that correspondingly do not have a Fuchsia. Her eyes hate me again.

  On the other hand, if I have something to drink, maybe I’ll just go away. Or at least sit down and be quiet and say witty gay things that are mildly amusing. So Fuchsia takes her chances, and takes off running.

  I turn to Tiffany. “What should we do next? Should we go see what everybody else is doing?”

  Down at yonder bar end, Fuchsia hears my words, her ears being finely-tuned to all things Tiffany, lying in bed late at night and listening to the sounds of Tiffany’s eyelids fluttering several decks away. (Whoosh, whoosh.) She turns and races back, leaping over a co-worker who chose that moment to bend down and retrieve a dropped maraschino cherry.

  “I don’t know,” breathes Tiffany, absently fondling her second offering of love nectar. “What do you think?”

  Fuschia crash-lands in front of us, practically hurls my unopened beer at me, and completely fails at any pretense of nonchalance. Her eyes implore me beseechingly. Please do not abscond with the fair maiden.

  “Well,” I say. “I suppose we could just wait right here and see if anybody comes along. Sound good?”

  Fuchsia’s eyes, instantly dewy with mingled lust and gratitude, whip toward the damsel.

  Tiffany pauses, artisan of pausing that she is, taking another slurp before responding. “I believe I find that satisfactory. For now. We shall see.”

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