Monday, January 23, 2012

Cruise Control - Part 21: Searching For Zero

Click Here to read the previous entry in this series. Click Here to start at the beginning.

  The breaking dawn of Wednesday morning brought something with it we hadn’t seen in a while.


  Terry was the first to make this joyous discovery. Sadly, he did so in a time frame that is not one of my favorites. I do not leap out of bed with the first ray of sunshine. (And I don’t understand people who do.) I wake slowly, reluctantly, and anything miraculous that might transpire during early morning hours is simply unimportant to me. I’m not invested in anything until I have exhausted all valid excuses for further slumber. Then we can talk.

  Speaking of conversation, Tiffany, who also does not believe in societal interaction until after 10am, spoke up from her little daybed mere inches from my head. “What is that noise?” It was quite clear that she forced these four words from her mouth whilst barely controlling the urge to cut someone.

  “It’s Terry,” I reported, half-heartedly thinking about opening my left eye but getting no further than that. “He’s out on the balcony. I believe pictures are being taken.”

  Just then, we heard a burst of rapid clicking, as if one of those super-thin beings was strutting down a runway and wearing an ensemble that had just provoked a legion of photographers into a frenzy. (We also heard what might be the sound of someone tripping over a poorly-placed deck chair and slamming their head into the side of the ship, but this second noise was never fully investigated.)

  Separately and instinctively, we both decided that the safest and best-advised response to these developments was to remain exactly where we were and not do anything. However, these precautionary measures soon proved irrelevant, as the balcony door was suddenly ripped open and Terry bounded inside. “We’re here! We’re in Jamaica!” (Or something like that. I’m sure the reportage was much more detailed, but I was distracted by the flood of sunshine which was now pouring in said door, causing my skin to begin sizzling and my fangs to drop.)

  Tiffany sat up in her petite daybed, tossing aside her sleep mask with admirable Joan Crawford-esque disdain. “Are we in port yet?”

  Terry shook his head. “Not yet, but we’re almost there. You’ve got to see this, come on!” He was very excited, and I felt the first stirrings of actual interest in the day, but I remained steadfast in my brave and noble intentions to stay bed-bound.

  Tiffany, however, took a traitorous turn, throwing back the covers, lunging out of bed, adjusting things that needed to be adjusted, and then tottering toward the dual-beckoning of Terry and balcony door. They joined hands and skipped through the portal, with Tiffany releasing a squeal of delight once on the other side.

  She continued squealing.

  I continued pretending that neither of them existed.

  Finally, after one nearly orgiastic howl of delight, I caved. Cursing, I bid adieu to the warmth and sanctity of the bed (I shall miss you, my beloved), and stumbled out onto the balcony, joining Ansel Adams and Joan Crawford at the railing, where I couldn’t help but let out a gruff little squeal of my own. Let’s just say that there is something quite satisfying about pulling up to an island, by boat, in the middle of nowhere. I approve heartily.

  But the vision of the island soon caused another important piece of information to click into place in my grudgingly activating mind. We had to be on that island within an hour or so, ready to board a bus and be transported into the advertised jungle. This was Zip-Line Day and we had to get a move on. No piddling around or there would be no zipping.

  Thus commenced the delicate give-and-take ballet of multiple people attempting to freshen and spritz at the same time in a space roughly the size of a cigar box, with the requisite accidental breast-fondling and tripping over toothbrushes and air. But we had done this choreography many times in many places by now, and we had it down to an art, rushing out the door 37 seconds after the first person had stepped into the shower.

  Breakfast was also a quick affair, especially on my part, because I had never been on a zip-line before, and I did not want to shamefully discover that one should not fly through the air with a full belly. I ate only enough to ensure that I did not drop dead from hunger halfway up the mountain, especially since my family would probably just leave me by the side of the road since it was entirely too hot to be carrying anything about.

  At some point during all these preparations, probably due to a bad decision on my part, I became separated from the group of clan members who were going on the zip-line excursion. (The rest of the family was going on a different tour, something that involved splashing in the water and humping whales, not really sure. I wasn’t going on that one and didn’t really study the details or care.) I decided, considering the clock was ticking, that I should head for the deck where we were supposed to disembark and hope for the best.

  Another poor decision.

  First, I had to make my way to “Deck 0”. I found this to be a troubling name for a destination. Deck 0? It didn’t sound like good things would happening in a place like that. Why didn’t it have a “real” number? Was it less important than the other decks? If people had to go there to get off the ship, I’m thinking that’s a very valuable function to have and the deck deserves a better name.

  Adding to these concerns was the somewhat-confusing directions about how to get to this numberless deck. As in, there weren’t any directions. Well, there might have been some valuable instructions somewhere, I just couldn’t find them. I only had the vague notion that one must head toward the bottom of the boat, which is the same thing some people were doing in The Poseidon Adventure, and we saw how well that worked out.

  Of course, none of the elevators and stairwells that I selected actually offered a straight-line run to The Land of Zero. So I had to wander around, making random choices and haphazardly working my way toward the ocean floor, repeatedly gaining (losing?) two floors and then having to back up one. I was beginning to hate life and the concept of physical movement.

  Slightly sweating, I became concerned at one point that I really wasn’t seeing a whole lot of other people. As in no one. I was on Deck 1, very near my goal and yet so far, off in some super quiet section with lots of closed doors, standing in a stairwell where the next section of steps, presumably leading to the mythical Zero, had been roped off. In a noticeably hurried manner that indicated “something very bad has happened on the next floor but we haven’t told the right people yet so please go somewhere else and not talk about this”.


  Well, I could just step over the rope and head on, which would at least get my ass on the right deck, finally, even if I still had a lot of maze to get through before I found the cheese. On the other hand, I didn’t want to become another statistic in whatever situation had led to the roping of the stairs, a surprised participant in destruction and mayhem.

  Thinking of possible victims and grisly fates, I studied all those doors around me. Why were they all closed? Where was everybody at? Why was it so quiet? Was this the serial-killer section of the ship? It was certainly big enough to have one. There was just something not right about the area, like Shelley Duvall was hiding behind one of the doors, trembling and holding an eventually ineffective butcher knife.

  Perhaps I wouldn’t be jumping rope right at the moment. Maybe the next recess.

  I turned and headed back up my current choice of stairs, down a hallway to another stairwell that I swear hadn’t been there mere seconds before, down a flight on that one, my heart racing a bit as I did not discover a warning strand of rope, down another flight, and I came to a halt in a landing area with a door in each of the three other walls. Well, I was finally on the damn Zero Deck. Now I just had to choose a door. Maybe Monty Hall was standing around somewhere, waiting to assist me?

  I picked the middle one. Because that’s how you win elections. I stepped through, discovered another short stretch of hallway, followed that, made a turn to the left, and found myself at the top of three short steps.

  At the bottom of the steps was a massive room, packed with roughly 4 billion people who were pouring off two packed elevators and heading toward Security lines where they where scanning room cards as people stepped off the ship and onto Jamaica.

  Well, hell. Why couldn’t I have just found those elevators? Geez.

  “Uncle Brian!”

  I turned in response, and I spied Crispy heading toward me. The expression on his face was transitioning from “I have no idea where I’m at and no one will ever find me” to “Cool, I know that person, we can be lost together and it won’t be as painful”.

  “Have you seen anybody else?” I asked, scanning the crowd.

  He shook his head. “Nope. Everybody was right there and then all the sudden they weren’t.”

  I knew the feeling. “Well, let’s wait a sec, and see if anybody shows up.”

  We stood there as people streamed past. People who were looking at us the way people do when something happens that breaks the monotony of life. (Why are those two guys standing over there? Why aren’t they walking with everybody else? Have they done something wrong? Is that why that one stairwell was roped off? I better openly stare at them in case I need to pick them out of a lineup later.)

  That quickly got on my nerves, so I decided it was time for Plan B. “Let’s go on through Security, just in case they’re waiting for us on the pier. Surely they wouldn’t just get on the bus without us.”

  Yeah, right. If any of them had already gotten into the Bloody Marys this morning, they were probably driving the bus and halfway up the mountain by now. But you gotta have faith.

We quickly got through Security (they scan your card and shove you along, nothing intricate there) and soon stepped out into the beautiful Jamaican sunshine that had started the day. It was very nice. We got to enjoy it for roughly two seconds before a crazed, drug-addled man sporting dreadlocks attacked us with exuberance, dragging us off the gangway and away from the ship.


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