CRUISE – Rules are enforced, or obsolete

17 May

It is “$$ALE$$ DAY”! (Don’t blame me – that title is actually written on our daily schedule.) Today ends another cruise. Technically it ends tomorrow, but this is the last day we see most of our current passengers, before they all disembark tomorrow morning, and immediately get replaced by a new load of Italians, Germans, Spanish, and other cruise veterans. So, today we try to sell whatever is not glued to the walls of the Photo Gallery, in the vain hope that it will please the masters, and grant us a pay bonus. I am awfully content with my position as makeshift counter clerk, considering that the whole consumer mentality of this cruise business goes against everything I believe in. It’s just part of the job, and I always try to excel at my duties. That’s just German, I guess. My actual troubles are of a more human nature.

Goemon5 aboard the ABC RypMeOff

The job and attire give me the look of a car salesman.

My ignorant cabin mate, (my “buddy”, as he is referred to by ABC regulations) has purchased a new torture instrument – the vaporizer. For the past few days he has been entertaining me not only with his rancid cigarette smell in the bathroom, but also with the stench from his small electronic pipe. Last night he went farther than usual, happily vaporizing away in his bed. Since I sleep on the upper bench, and the elemental laws of physics cannot be ignored even on cruise ships, I was nicely enveloped in his grand puff, kept awake by a sour-bitter smell of burning herbs. Knowing that an immediate complaint would not eliminate the cloud of nicotine vapour, I took a long walk around the crew corridors, taking deep breaths, and looking for a decent bathroom.

The contract of my cabin mate Pancho terminates in two weeks, at the end of this very cruise to Norway. In the recent past I have kept telling myself “only two more weeks”, just to prevent myself from strangling Pancho in his smallclothes. However, this time he has gone too far, and I can no longer avoid talking to him. Although my store duties don’t require much intellect, it is genuinely advantageous to sleep for more than four hours every night. It doesn’t help that my hours of slumber are kept short by a “buddy” who snores more often than not, smokes in my bathroom, and now also stinks up my bed.

When I confront him with the effects of his deeds he seems genuinely surprised. I don’t even doubt that reaction. He appears to be the kind of person who is startled by simple occurrences, such as smoke rising, or apples falling. Pancho is not an idiot, but he often is wrapped up in his own world of misconceptions and dreams. In many ways he represents the perfect crew member of ABC Cruises – he does not complain publicly, performs his task with invisible reluctance, and spends a good part of his salary on snacks and liquor aboard the cruise ship, guaranteeing that at least part of his pay remains in the family.

My shared non-smoking toilet aboard the cruise ship

The toilet in our shared smoking parlour (bathroom) usually smelled the way it looked.

On the other hand regular rules are meaningless to Pancho. Crew members have always been smoking in the bathrooms, and the Security personnel has always been complicit in this. The issue is not likely to be resolved by me, because it is far greater than I am. Before taking new crew aboard ABC Cruises sends out a 20-page rule book, which provides a guidance for what life aboard should look like. It provides a virtual safety net for new crew members, as it lays out all the rules that the crew must abide by. However, what the book does not tell you is that “some rules can be bent; others can be broken”. For example, security personnel smoke in their cabin, even though smoking aboard is prohibited anywhere but in the disco or the casino. This disconnection between rule and reality destroys any guiding effect of this document; rendering it just another deception of the company that now runs my life.

I am not a confrontational person; I try to avoid conflict whenever possible. That also means, if I do complain, I want to be taken serious. I don’t see that happening on a cruise ship where the captain personally scrutinises my facial hair, while security does not care about elementary health concerns like smoking indoors.

Pancho and I have come to an agreement – I will try to be quieter when I get dressed for breakfast, and he will not vaporize herbs when I try to sleep. Resolving this incident took another forty minutes of sleep time that I barely have. Luckily tomorrow is embarkation day. One reason why I love embarkation shootings, despite the stress it induces: I’m constantly moving around, so there’s no chance of me falling asleep on the job.

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