I’m never going on a cruise vacation. In the past, I’d have agreed to a cruise vacation if it were free, but now? Nope.
I read one article about the quarantined Diamond Princess, and now Google won’t stop giving me updates on the situation. In case Google hasn’t been keeping you updated: since February 3rd, a coronavirus outbreak has trapped thousands of people inside their rooms on the ship.
In an interview, two of the quarantined passengers came to Princess Diamond’s defense, saying that the circumstances hadn’t spoiled their opinion of the cruise operator, Princess Cruises. I found this to be weirdly understanding because, in my experience working in bike shops, customers continue to direct their anger at us whenever there’s a delay with getting parts from the manufacturer. Somehow, they think we either benefit from the delay in some way or that we’d be able to conjure a part that isn’t in stock if we tried harder.
All that is to say, I’m not singling out Princess Cruises. However, because I live quite close to the Victoria cruise port, and started coughing on Sunday night, I did Google “coronavirus symptoms” out of paranoia.
I feel like I’ve experienced a wider variety of illnesses, more frequently than my peers. I’ve had meningitis, fifth disease, bronchitis, multiple ear infections (how ironic), strep throat, pinkeye, head lice (not a disease, but others treat you just the same), and a slew of more obscure ones that I’ve long forgotten.
Surprisingly, I have not had chickenpox. Upon learning this, people cannot resist reminding me of how dangerous it is to get chickenpox as an adult. I know. They also like to suggest that I eat healthier and exercise regularly. I already do. It just so happens that I was born with an unmotivated immune system.
It’s made me a bit of a germaphobe. Yann is the opposite: he uses his mouth as a fifth hand. I’ve found keys in there, as well as his phone, wallet, unwashed fruit, and teeth. He keeps things exciting for his antibodies.
When exiting public restrooms, I retract my arm into my shirt sleeve like fifth graders do when square dancing in PE class. I never outgrew the mentality that jersey material makes for a good barrier against cooties, or that rinsing fruit under running water counts as washing it.
It’s hard to believe I’ve had some of the jobs I’ve had. I’ve had to sift through clothing donations, check the ladies’ underwear for panty jam and men’s briefs for skid marks before rolling them onto the floor for resale. I cleaned cars before they were delivered to used car dealerships. I’ve cleaned people’s homes, including the private washrooms of rich teenagers who would strew their toe nail clippings all over the washroom floor or store moldy plates under their bed. My desperation for money often outweighed my need for sanitation.
Back to the subject of being trapped on a filthy hotel of the sea: In 2013, I spent three days aboard a 23-passenger tall ship, sailing around Australia’s Whitsunday Islands.
That was just barely enjoyable.
The crew was amazing, but it was an otherwise punchable lot of early 20-somethings. These people loaded up the coolers with Mylar bagged wine and tapped into their supply early and often to sustain a state of inebriation. I knew I wasn’t in good company as soon as everybody stripped down to their swimwear, revealing an infestation of terrible tattoos. The worst was a large blackwork tattoo of a star with a pair of dice inset that one of the guys had on the side of his abdomen. It was the only tattoo he had, and I spent three days wondering what it meant. Was he a Yahtzee fiend?
I shared a cabin with three Norwegian gals and an East Indian guy. The first night, they came into the cabin long after I had fallen asleep and started taking photos of each other in the dark, with the flash turned on. They had the advantage of me being deaf, and could have stuck with screaming all night long. Yet, they figured out the most accessible way to piss me off.
I was jolted awake by the first flash. From the cramped space of the top bunk, where there was no room to even sit up, I expressed my displeasure by whipping my towel at the paparazzi. Then, in an act of defiance, one of the girls SNAPPED A PICTURE OF ME. I promptly rolled off the bunk, marched over to her side of the room, yanked her phone, squeezed back onto my bunk, and rammed it in between the bed frame and mattress.
I then laid in the dark thinking, “Holy shit, did I just do that?”
“Oh no, how are they gonna retaliate?” I continued to ponder.
I became increasingly paranoid with every passing minute, “They’re scheming the fuck out of this.”
Hearing people have the advantage of being able to communicate in the dark. I had only the moonlight coming through the dinky porthole to see by.
“Is she gonna start whaling on me?”
I was relieved when the cabin light finally came on, and the girl pleaded for her phone. It likely took her drunk ass all that time to understand that she couldn’t negotiate with a deaf person in the dark. Before agreeing to give her phone back, I stared right through her bloodshot eyes at her soul and mouthed, “STOP.”
That was the end of it. The next time I woke up–in the morning–it was to the smell of piss. There was a bedwetter in the midst. Had my rage been so terrifying, that the girl wet herself?
I wasn’t on that boat for long enough to develop rickets, just a clear aversion to travelling in confined, inescapable spaces.
On the upside, I did get to see a school of bioluminescent cuttlefish feed around the side of the ship one night, so there were more unforgettable moments other than the smell of pee at sea, fighting with Norwegians in the darkness, and dice tattoos.
Still, I’d rather gargle spare change than go on a cruise vacation.