I haven’t spent a birthday on board a ship before, and I’m not entirely sure I can recommend it.
The makeup of passengers on the Atlantic crossing is a weird one. More than any cruise we’ve been on so far, these people are more “travelers” than “holiday makers,” a distinction I hadn’t yet thought of that was mentioned to me by a guy named Mel with an awesome moustache.
Mel is the ship’s historian and lecturer, which is an interesting profession, since most of the passengers on a cruise ship are thought anemic. So he sort of does a couple of dumbed down historical lectures full of anecdotes about things like girl pirates. And I get the impression they’re not very well attended.
I don’t know. I’ve never been to one. I have my reasons for this. Reason number one is that I’m in survival mode and that means not doing things unless I either feel like doing them or else because I feel like not doing everything else. So the timing hasn’t worked out yet for a “Yes, I want a dumbed down 45 minute lecture about girl pirates. Right now.” I also don’t get the ship’s daily newsletter delivered to my cabin, so I never know what’s going on. Plus I figure I’ve got nothing but endless time if I should ever decide to see one of this guy’s lectures.
So I’m off the hook.
Anyway, I’ve found the “travelers vs. holiday makers” distinction to be prophetically appropriate. Because there are a lot more “travelers” on this crossing than there have been. It’s a bizarre demographic, people who have the money and time to spend on floating across the ocean rather than flying. Some of them have more time than money, which is pretty much my basis of operations. Those guys usually keep to themselves, though. The ones you’ve got to look out for are the people who have too much of both.
This cruise has seen greater, more annoying heights of ship fame than any I have encountered thus far. By far. It’s no contest. I basically have a small cult of dysfunctional individuals, each with more money and time than sense, who want nothing more than to be near me, talking endlessly about themselves. Sometimes it’s been a real drag. Other times it’s been a real drag with a few free drinks attached.
Anyway, I can’t tell if I like this more than I like the “holiday makers,” who are generally less savvy about things but who mind their own fucking business every once in a while. I mean, I guess it’s more interesting to hear a drunk 60 year old drone away about his marital problems and how he went to prep school with the President of Thailand than it is to, say, not ever talk to anybody. But it’s a pretty close contest. Closer than you’d think.
So I’ve been trapped on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean for nine days with a bunch of people whose sense of entitlement includes me. Without my consent being a particular issue for them.
And here I take pause to lament the death of my crew bar privileges. I haven’t spoken much of the crew bar recently. Because I haven’t been there much recently. Because I’m not allowed to. I’m only allowed to go to bars full of passengers who want to tell me where they “summer.” The verb. “To summer.” It’s probably the worst single word in the English language. “I summer in Nantucket.” If you ever see me and think, “I’d really like to make Ben want to hit me in the face with a shovel,” then use “summer” as a verb. Is it that much more difficult to say, “I usually spend the summer in Nantucket?” At least that sounds like you’re not trying to be some sort of fucking bygone era American aristocrat.
I’m sorry for the venom, but it turns my stomach. These people are dropping unasked for verb form summers to the hired help. Isn’t that supposed to be considered tacky among actual rich people? I felt like I should respond with, “Yes, massa, das a fiiine place tuh spend deh summah. Yassuh. Nantucket sho’ is nice.”
It would be nice to be able to go to a bar where there’s no chance of that happening, but I’m not allowed to anymore. I can only go to my own cabin and order booze from room service, which is depressing and antisocial. But then again, if nine out of ten conversations I could hope to have outside of my cabin are going to be with people who are depressing and antisocial, then it’s kind of a good idea.
The point is, my birthday was fun overall, but left a little to be desired in the department of nighttime fun. I had a lovely dinner with my castmates and some of my closest crew buddies, got a “surprise” cake and room decoration that would have been much more surprising had it not happened already five days earlier to our musical director, and I got to perform in Liar’s Club, which I enjoy even though it’s starting to enter the “diminishing returns” zone.
But then instead of celebrating another year of my life more or less successfully navigated, I was cornered in a cheesy cruise ship nightclub by a young aspiring aristocrat who uses summer as a verb. And I wish I could report that I took it well. Instead, I launched into what amounted to a character assassination in the drink-induced hope that cruelty might be kindness. Not my proudest moment. And not entirely good business, either.
The only justification I can think of was that it happened on my birthday, and my own sense of birthday self-entitlement involves doing things I enjoy doing for a day. Since things I enjoy doing are in murderously short supply on a cruise ship, I guess I had to settle for the momentary respite of “telling people off if they’re being a twat and ruining my night.” It’s not enough to hang my hat on, but it at least felt like a normal human reaction to a situation I wasn’t enjoying. It was kind of nice that way.
And that was my birthday. I’m pretty sure I made somebody cry, and upon reflection, I’m more glad than ashamed about it.
Happy Birthday me.
Of course all this means that I’m going to really enjoy getting of the ship and living just one day in reasonably normal fashion tomorrow in Boston. I think it’ll be healthy for me to not have a seething ulcerous toxic hostility destroying my will to live. I’m just guessing.
And I think I’m going to call it my real birthday. This year my birthday’s on the 12th. Officially. Write it down.