It has been a bit if a theme now for a while on Tuesdays to present some silly questions asked by the general public. Today we have a selection of questions that cruisers on cruises have asked of cruise crews.
Apparently you can have enough money for a cruise and still be dumb!
It really is a good job that they don’t make people walk the plank any more.
“Do you make your own electricity on board?”
“Why can’t I get cable stations?”
“Are you the Captain?” (Asked of crew who are clearly not the Captain)
“Do you actually live on this ship?”
“Do these stairs go up or down?”
“Does the crew sleep on board?”
“Could you call the captain to stop the waves? I am getting seasick.”
“I just saw the Captain in the dining room. Who is steering the ship?”
“Is the water in the toilets salty or fresh?”
“What time does the midnight buffet start?”
“What do you do with the ice sculptures after they melt?”
“Can you get these chips on land?” (Referring to casino chips)
“Why is it so windy outside?” (On a cruise liner traveling 30 miles per hour at the time)
“I see them!” (The inevitable response from a member of the crowd whenever a casino dealer on a cruise liner played a favorite joke — pointing out “penguins” on a “little piece of ice” during a cruise through Bermuda)
“So what is the elevation here?” (On an Alaskan cruise)
“Why can’t I find a USPC post box in town?” (In Ocho Rios, Jamaica)
“I want to change cabins! I paid good money for this cruise, and all I can see is a rusted crane in the harbor!” (Asked before leaving port)
Today was originally scheduled for the latest part in the short series about the curious and amusing phobias some people seem to have. But it’s a holiday week for most of us and I have put that post back until next week.
Instead I feel the urge to say something else. Two things actually.
First one is, have you heard of the herd? In particular the herd mentality, where people do something they have no need to do just because other people are doing it?
It happens a lot. Far too much in fact.
We witnessed it during the recent election campaign where people formed opinions not on the basis of their own analysis of the candidates and policies, but because of something someone else said or something they heard on tv.
We saw it again very recently after the dreadful murders in Connecticut where the unthinking herd ignored the real problem and jumped on gun control as a solution to senseless attacks such as this. They might as well call for a ban on knives, axes, chainsaws, bows and arrows and gasoline when they are at it as any of these could do the same job in the hands of a mental defective.
And on December 24 we witnessed another example in grocery stores throughout the country (throughout the world even) as hoards of the unthinking joined the herd and bought up bread and food supplies like the shops would not be open again for at least a month. They are open again today you dummies!
These three examples have been going on for years and people never seem to learn, they just keep on following the herd without a thought in their heads.
And this leads me on to point two which is how little thought most of us give to what we are doing and what we are buying the already well off and pampered.
I know for a fact that Santa had orders for laptops and ipads and iphones and all sorts of other expensive playthings. And I also know that he hadn’t the sense to say no, but just bought them anyway. Mea culpa as much as anyone.
Then I got to thinking that life was a lot different when I was a kid. Yes we liked to get presents at Christmas, but they were a lot less sophisticated and a lot less expensive – even in relative terms. When I was eight, for example, I didn’t need a smart phone, or any phone come to think of it, nor was my social life so complicated and hectic that I had to have a chauffeur for all my must-do activities for every day of the week.
When I was a kid we had our toys, but we also had a thing called an imagination and we could make our own fun out of very little.
So what is the problem today? Why are kids so incapable of making their own entertainment? Why are they constantly “bored” without clicking a button on a computer consol or without someone else to do their thinking for them?
Like a lot of other things, it all boils down to money at the end of the day. Now I’m not advocating poverty as a solution to the world’s ills. Far from it. I like to make money, the more the better, and the thought of being, perhaps not rich, but comfortably well off is a very nice one. But if we had to we could all make do with a lot less. And I don’t think we would be any less happier in the process.
People in other countries seem to manage quite well. And they still seem to have the mental capacity to enjoy what little they have and make their fun out of next to nothing. In other words they are happy. If things do ever deteriorate to the extent that some of the doomsday preachers are telling us, there are a lot better prepared people in the world than there are in rich countries like America, or Britain, or Germany, etc.
Think about giving your kid or nephew or niece an old oil drum from the local garbage dump next Christmas instead of an ipod touch or some other overly expensive apple. I wonder how much music and entertainment they could get out of that?
They call it Black Friday nowadays. It could just as easily have been Red Friday or Purple Friday or Green Friday or Any-Color-You-Like Friday. But the marketing men called it Black Friday and we’re stuck with it.
This is the day when people queue up for hours in the hope of getting something they don’t really need at a discount price they can’t really afford. And sometimes they lose their minds and fight and trample on each other for the dubious privilege.
Ah, the dumbing down of the dumb and the dumber!
When I say dumb and dumber don’t just think I am talking about the uneducated. Not in the least. Some of those for whom schooling was anathema have a lot more street savvy than most, something they have learned in what is sometimes known as the school of hard knocks – in other words, life!
I have learned that idiots come in all shapes and sizes and with all forms of learning and skills. There are smart football players and there are dumb ones. There are smart doctors and there are dumb ones. There are even smart academics and there are the well educated fools who may be exam passing machines but who haven’t the common sense to go to the local store and buy a loaf of bread.
A friend of mine, let’s call him Fred, was a guy like that. He had degrees by the yard, undergraduate, master’s degrees and even a PhD. I suppose I should have called him Dr Fred.
Academically he was brilliant. And a great teacher of academic subjects. He traveled the world and lectured in various schools and colleges to great acclaim.
But Fred hadn’t the common sense of a gnat when it came to commerce. All his life he bought things far too dear but always thought that he had bought them cheap. He was a car salesman’s dream customer, manna from heaven for a realtor, and bread and butter – and chocolate cake with icing – for any shopkeeper selling computing or electronic gear.
The reason Fred comes to mind today is that he was also one of the idiots who would queue up half the night for a sale bargain, particularly where rare books were concerned. Fred was an avid collector.
Every year our local University bookstore held a one day sale where most of their books were discounted by at least 10 or 20 percent, but where one in particular was discounted by a massive amount, at least by half and sometimes by even more.
One year Fred spotted a book he had been after that was in the sale. It had been reduced from $500 to little over $100 and Fred was determined to have it.
So he spent the night and day before the sale getting as much sleep as he could. Then he made a flask of coffee and a few sandwiches, got a sleeping bag and set off confidently about 3 am in the morning to go to the bookstore to camp out until it opened.
When he got to the store there was no one around, in fact nothing at all on the street, except for a large cardboard box sitting at the entrance to the shop. Fred quickly surmised that it was extra stock that had been delivered after hours for the sale.
He rolled out his sleeping bag, climbed inside it and settled down for the night. It was about this time of the year and cold, but not freezing or anything too extreme. He was comfortable enough.
The time passed slowly as it usually does at night when you aren’t able to get to sleep or when you are nervously anticipating some event that will happen in the morning. Four o’clock and five o’clock came and went, and at around six o’clock Fred ate his sandwiches and drank his coffee. He was very content. Just another couple of hours to go and the book would be his.
By seven-thirty it was just beginning to get light. Traffic had started to move along the main streets as people began to make their way to work. The side street where the bookshop was however was still deserted, apart from Fred and the big cardboard box.
And then about ten minutes before eight the staff of the bookstore started to arrive. They smiled at Fred as they walked past and opened the door of the store. They switched the lights on and closed the doors again. Fred knew that they would open them again soon, when they had got themselves organized. Just a few more minutes he thought. Fred stood up and rolled up his sleeping bag, ready to enter the store.
That was when he heard the alarm. It wasn’t very loud and at first Fred thought it was coming from another street nearby. It wasn’t. Then he thought it was coming from inside the bookstore, possibly part of their security system. But it wasn’t that either. And then, before he could think up any other possibilities the alarm stopped just as suddenly as it had started.
Then to Fred’s complete and utter amazement the flaps of the cardboard box flew open and a head came out. It was a young man and as he got to his feet and stretched his arms he looked over at Fred and said, “Morning. You here for the book sale too?”
It was a classic ‘WTF’ moment. But Fred was having trouble grasping what had just happened and he couldn’t get any words from his brain to his lips. So he just stood there, mouth slightly open, trying desperately to piece together what was happening in front of him.
“I’ve done this before,” the young man said cheerfully to Fred. “Best place to be on a cold night is inside a cardboard box. Those old homeless guys know a thing or two I can tell you.”
This time words started to come to Fred. “Were you… did you… have you been… were you in that thing all night?” he eventually spluttered the question out.
“Sure thing,” the young man replied. “Had to get that first edition of..” and he named the book that Fred had his heart set on. “There’s only the one copy, you know.”
Fred did know, boy did he know. But it never occurred to him that someone else might know the value of the book or that they might want it too. It never occurred to him to look at the cardboard box, even though he had been there beside it for most of the night. And it certainly never occurred to him that there might be somebody inside it!
“FFS!” Fred exclaimed, more to himself than anyone else. He didn’t say another word after that. He didn’t go into the bookstore either. He turned and walked away, still not entirely sure, I think, what had just happened.
As for me, you wont get me near a shop tomorrow, bargains or not. If you are going shopping then good luck, this might be what you are letting yourself in for.
When I was a kid I loved going to the beach (still do actually).
Every summer, or what passed for a summer, in those days we lived very much up north, there was always great anticipation about an imminent trip to see the sea. First, however, there was the tedious part, the journey there. When you are a kid things like that seem to take forever, but the excitement kept us all going and eventually we were within sight of the beach.
Finding somewhere to park was the next problem. It seemed everybody had the same idea as us. But we always found a spot and quickly gathered up all our beach gear and headed as fast as we could towards the salty fresh air and the inviting water.
While Mom and Dad took care of all the important stuff like organizing towels, seats, even a big umbrella for a bit of shade, we stripped down to our swimwear and ran as fast as we could towards the sea. (I keep calling it the “sea”, but actually it was the Atlantic Ocean.)
Each year we did the same thing, and each year we learned nothing from the year before.
On we galloped into the water and approximately 1.25 seconds after that we remembered.
The water that looked so inviting was so very, very cold.
For an old person the shock might well have been too much for the system. But when you are young you tend to shrug off these minor discomforts. We were at the beach, and we were in the sea. That’s all that mattered.
After a while it didn’t feel so cold. Our feet and legs had grown accustomed to the temperature. Actually our feet and legs were probably numb by this time and would not have felt it if we had been standing in boiling water either.
And then just as we were starting to enjoy the whole experience, in would come a big wave and it would splash all over our upper bodies which had not been in the water yet and had not been given the chance to go completely numb.
It was always a “WTF” moment, even in the days when we didn’t know what “WTF” meant!
But there was nothing else available so we were none the wiser and made the best of it. There were also a few laughs too.
A friend, George, was always good for one or two. George fancied himself as a bit of an underwater expert and he always had a face mask and snorkel with him. Trouble was when George launched himself for an underwater expedition only his head ever went under the water. Most of the rest of him was in the fresh air. He must have had great natural buoyancy.
That was funny enough, but then someone (yes, sometimes me) would push the little ball thingumy into the snorkel pipe which soon provoked a serious amount of splashing and gasping for air as George’s head resurfaced. He was never very pleased, but the rest of us cracked up.
Then there was usually some unfortunate kid whose granny had bought him (or maybe even made) his swimming trunks. On dry land and even going into the water these were fine and looked quite normal, but coming out to go back up to the beach was quite another thing. You see the material they were made of often as not was water absorbent and these poor souls lumbered their way out of the ocean with a crotch full of icy water dragging between their knees. They must have weighed a ton and it’s a miracle they stayed on at all. It was so funny and I daren’t say what names we called them. Kids can be so cruel.
That was the “refreshing dip” over. We spent the next hour or two on the beach, first getting dried and then lying in the sun thawing out. Then it was off to get something to eat and on to the amusement park to go on a few rides there and spend more pennies in the various slot machines and games.
When it was time to leave both us and our money supply were exhausted. The trip home was a lot shorter, mainly because we slept most of the way. But the day had been good. Enjoyed by all. And the memories were selective. We’d do it again, soon, but we would never remember the coldness of the water, just the warmness of the day.
I used to be friends with a guy from Northern Ireland. We are going back thirty years here so quite a while ago. We’ve lost touch since as you tend to do with some if not most acquaintances.
This story is about his Dad.
As you may or may not know the weather in Ireland is awful. Cold, wet, windy, rains every day with a ‘y’ in it, or so the locals say. One traveler from Africa once remarked that it was like living under an elephant!
The result has been a continual decline in vacation resorts, towns and villages there. People still come for the golf, there is renewed interest in that with the recent success of Rory McIlroy and Darren Clark. But on the whole the locals prefer to get away for one or two weeks to a location with at least the chance of a bit of heat and sunshine.
But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the period in which this story is set, foreign travel was a fairly new phenomenon for most ordinary people.
But my friend’s father and mother thought it would be a nice and different break for them and they booked two weeks in the south of Spain.
They arrived without incident, booked in to their hotel and that first night just had a meal in the hotel restaurant and went to bed. Traveling is always tiring.
The next day they partook of the buffet breakfast that most of the touristy hotels in Spain provide and after that went back to their room, got their towels and creams and so forth, and headed for the beach, which was only about 100 yards or so from the hotel.
My friend’s mother lay down on a towel to take some rays, as they say, and his father who wasn’t really the type of guy who liked to lay about all day, got a beach chair from which he had a better vantage point to survey the beach and sea activities.
We’ll never know whether it was the heat, or just the sight of bare heaving glistening continental bosoms, (they are not a bit bashful in some parts of Europe), but after about half an hour on the beach it all became too much for my friend’s Dad. All of sudden, without any warning whatsoever, he jumped out of his beach chair, started to yell like Tarzan, beating his chest at the same time, and ran towards the Mediterranean Sea.
There was a slight slope in the beach and by the time he had reached the water he had built up a considerable head of steam. His momentum took him quite a bit into the water, not quite waist deep but getting there.
Now, I should say that the Med is no Pacific Ocean, but there are nevertheless waves and as everyone knows the seventh is usually bigger than those preceding it.
And just when my friend’s father reached about as deep as he could on his feet he decided to dive through the next wave, which was a relatively big one. According to his wife, who was looking as this spectacle with more than a little bemusement, he was still doing his version of a Tarzan yell and beating his chest. And so into the sea he dived still yelling and open mouthed.
I forgot to tell you he wore dentures, which is rather crucial to the rest of the story.
Yes, when the wave passed and he resurfaced not a tooth of any kind had he in his mouth.
Of course he frantically searched for both sets of gnashers.
I love watching when people who don’t know how to dive underwater try it. Their ass goes way up in the air, their head maybe six inches or a foot under, and then after maybe two or three seconds they re-emerge gasping and spluttering as if they’ve just been down to the bottom of sea. I imagine that’s what he did.
But you know what the sea is like. Both sets of false teeth were long gone, never to be found again.
I have heard tell of people packing extra underwear, or shoes (hey ladies), or even glasses as emergency back-ups. But I have never heard of anyone packing an extra set of teeth.
My friend’s father wasn’t to be the first one to do it and so he had to spend the next twelve and a half days of his vacation completely toothless, only able to eat soft mushy stuff and soup, but having to avoid the juicy steaks completely.
And he looked like a prat, maybe not quite as bad as the photo below but you get the idea.
Well, as I am sure you (particularly the folks in the good old US of A) are well aware, today is the last Monday in May, otherwise known as Memorial Day and the official start of summer. I hope you have been and are enjoying a long leisurely holiday weekend.
There are lots of blogs doing pieces on Memorial Day, so I’ll try to make this one slightly different.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day and was established after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers.
Slight rant for a moment. I get irritated when I hear idiots talking about the US Civil War. The Civil War in America was fought between Union forces (made up of Americans) and Confederate forces (made up of Americans). This isn’t going to turn into a history lesson as to the why’s and the wherefore’s, but the point is that at the time of the civil war the States of America were anything but “united”. Use the term “American” please. End rant.
The chances are that you may already have seen Ken Burn’s fantastic documentary series called Civil War. When it first aired on PBS something like 40 million Americans tuned in and it has been distributed and shown on the BBC in the UK and in many other parts of the world since. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend that you do so. It is a gem of historical information, photography, narration, music – the whole thing is just wonderful.
I have always been fascinated by the Civil War. I have visited numerous battle sites and know some people who have little museums and take part in re-enactments and so forth. Because it was fought in the mid 1800s and featured such well known historical figures as Abraham Lincoln and Robert E Lee the impression I had (for no logical reason, as sometimes happens) was that it was an event that happened a very long time ago. Then I discovered that the last Union veteran of the Civil War, Albert Woolson only died in 1956, not quite within my lifetime, but close enough to make me realize that this was not so long ago at all.
So could it happen again?
In America I very much doubt it.
Civil Wars are part of the teething pains that most countries go through. They have happened in England, France, Spain, Portugal, China, Russia, Cuba, Korea, Vietnam, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and on and on; and they seem to be a constant phenomenon in one part of Africa or another.
There will probably be periods of increasing civil unrest in the US as the government ham fistedly tries to get itself out of the mess that it has caused by trying to steal more money from the ordinary people, but that’s a different thing. So I wouldn’t worry about it too much yet.
As for Memorial Day nowadays, it encompasses all Wars that American forces have been involved in, and it is a convenient marker to remind us of those who have willingly put their lives in harm’s way to protect us. The political decisions that lead to wars are not the fault of those sent to fight.
This weekend I have been remembering some of my friends who are no longer here. They are in a better place for sure, but they got there far, far too soon.