CRUISE – Irish Cobh, and facial hair

14 May

This morning I had a lovely chat with the human resource manager (HR) of the ABC RypMeOff. It would seem that I angered the captain once too often, and manager Mihai angrily sent me to the HR, so that perhaps he “can make [me] understand the groom”. Arguably I do understand the groom (and the groove, but that is a different story). And whenever I try to enhance Mihai’s understanding, he silences my attempted explanation. Thus, I went to HR, and chatted with him instead.

Goemon5 aboard the ABC RypMeOff

This was the state of my hair when I worked as a cruise photographer.

The whole story started about a week ago, when I was standing all alone in the Plaza, waiting for unwilling passengers to not have their pictures taken. A middle-aged lad stopped some six metres away from me, and photographed me with his mobile phone. When I asked whether I could now photograph him in turn, he only replied with the word “inspector”, waving an orange-framed ID card in front of my face. Events escaladed from there.

Our photo manager received various angry phone calls from the captain, who complained about the strange figure with the obscenely long facial hair, and the way too short pants. I had the tailor fix the pants problem (once I managed to track him down), but my facial hair won’t pass as easily.

Before I agreed to take the photography job with ABC I messaged my manning agent, and inquired about the limitations of the ABC “groom policies”. I sent him one of my advertisement photos, and asked whether this appearance would meet the company standards. As it turns out the masters of ABC Cruses can be quite the sticklers when it comes to hair, even forbidding more than shoulder-long hair for female crew. In order to avoid unpleasant surprises I inquired about details, and after only two weeks I received an official reply.

According to the manning agent I needed to go through three major changes, some of them more easily met than others. 1) Cut my hair so that it would not meet my shoulders. – I opted for a 5-mm cut, because it is easy to care for. 2) A clean shave, apart from selected areas of the face. – That is already a chore, because I now have to shave every other day. But as long as it keeps people happy, I shall oblige. 3) The moustache “must not touch the upper lip”, and all “facial hair must me constrained to the plane of the face”. – This is the point where the monkey meets his banana, and realizes that it’s rotten.

Goemon5 in Calgary, via Alyssa Hanke

Around 2015 Goemon5 still had lucious hair, and paid little attention to his moustache. Photo credit: Alyssa Hanke.

In retrospect the last demand leaves considerable space for interpretation, but for the moment I felt safe enough. During my last trip to Berlin I had to visit six different shops before I found a hair gel that was thick enough to replace my dwindling supply of moustache wax. It is far from ideal, but under the given circumstances it is a good working solution. The “hair dress” keeps my moustache in line, and my goatee pointy. It comes with a commitment of about fifteen minutes for facial hair styling every day, but the visual results seem worth the effort. At the very least I can groom my beard into a two-dimensional framework that edges along the official guide lines.

However, none of this is good enough for Captain Hitler (not a name I made up), who strongly demands that my facial hair be trimmed down to meet company policies. And therefore, this very morning, when I could have been wandering through lovely Corb, I had a long discussion with HR in an attempt to diffuse the situation. I told him about the official e-mail, about my commitment to the beard, and the constant struggle with the captain. I also mentioned, not quite in passing, that I had been growing this moustache for twenty years, the goatee for six. The army didn’t get my moustache, the university didn’t get it, and ABC Cruises won’t take it from me either.

I feel that this entire conflict has grown out of proportion. But should it come to a showdown between the clean-shaven (and bold) captain, and my extravagant facial hair, the captain will not win. If I am confronted with the choice between moustache and this job, “beard” will be my preferred option.


The moustache always wins. Probably not the girls, but certainly the Weird Face Competition.

HR patiently listened to my reasoning, and explained that he was here to help in any way he could. And I believe him. We watched the ABC grooming video, and re-read the grooming policy. We compared those with the email, with the state of my beautiful face, and with Captain Hitler’s demands. And the beard won. Hooray! HR promised me that everything would be alright for now, and that he would deal with any future demands from the captain personally.

Today I have made one more powerful friend aboard the ABC RypMeOff, and have defended my unique facial hair against the darkness of ABC policies. It has been another victory, for all the bearded bards aboard.

Sadly, that means I won’t get disembarked any time soon, and may even have to finish this stressful contract. Well, let’s see what other trouble we can stir up. There’s gotta be a way to get me fired. In the meantime, I will enjoy a lovely walk through the scenic town of Cobh, Ireland. For some scenic photos click here.

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