Cruising for Trouble

Lori Osiecki Illustration

In New Orleans we got two directions: river side and lake side. In St. Bernard, if it ain’t down the road, it’s up the road. That ain’t news if you live around here.

But go someplace else and ask for directions, and people start jabbering about north, south, east, west and pointing every which way. You don’t know whether to spit or go blind.

If you get on a ship, it’s worse. They got fore and aft; port and starbucks; a promenade deck, a main deck, and God help me, a poop deck.

I know all this because I’m actually on a cruise. Not the Algiers ferryboat, but a actual romantic cruise ship going to Hawaii.

With my mother-in-law.

I got to explain. Ms. Larda bought a raffle ticket for a Hawaiian cruise for two at her church fundraiser. Unfortunately for the church, the raffle was in the same week that luxury cruise ship got stuck out in the Gulf, and all the passengers were on TV day in and day out saying it was awful, and the toilets were broken and they had to use plastic bags. Maybe on the poop deck. That was never explained.

So the church didn’t sell a lot of raffle tickets. But they did sell one, to Ms. Larda. Her TV happened to be broken that week. Anyway, she won.

Then she couldn’t find nobody to go with her. So I got drafted.

Now, I like an excuse to get out of town during hurricane season, although, come to think of it, maybe fleeing to the open sea ain’t such a brilliant idea. Still, I look at this cruise as a dress rehearsal for the cruise me and my gentleman friend Lust will take one day when I talk him into it.

So I’m hoping for no disasters.

Once we figure out how to get around – “fore” means the pointy end of the ship and “aft” is the other end, for instance – we find plenty to do. We sign up for hula dancing lessons for the talent show. The ship provides grass skirts made out of cellophane strips and coconut bras, but we all wear exercise suits underneath for modesty.

Leeloe, the hula teacher, has us all move to the right as we hula, and when the first dancer gets to the edge of the stage, Leeloe gently taps a little gong and we hula to the left.

On talent show night, Ms. Larda gets seasick. They give her a pill for it, and it almost zonks her out, but she lurches to the show anyway. Since she’s a little unsteady, Leeloe says that instead of dancing she can be in charge of the gong.
Bad idea. Ms. Larda clangs on it when we’re only halfway across the stage. Some of the dancers immediately hula to the left, like Leeloe said, but some keep hula-ing to the right, and we have a hula collusion. It ain’t a pretty sight.

Me, I step out of line and keep on dancing, just like I learned way back in Mr. Tony’s Dancing School – no matter what happens, keep on dancing. By the end, I’m the only one still swaying and I get a big hand. And l got to keep the coconut bra and grass skirt. Ms. Larda takes home the gong.

In Hawaii, we look at all these islands, and sample all the tropical cocktails, and completely forget to buy anything for the grandkids. But we got six hours between the time we leave the ship and we board our plane home, so we plan a shopping blitz.

The last night, we’re supposed to put our luggage – except our carry-ons – in the hall before we go to bed. The crew will take it to the airport. We decide that, after we shop, we won’t have room for carry-ons, so we pack everything but our clothes and toothbrushes and makeup for the next day. We will shower and jump under the covers without nothing on.
 I shower first, and while Ms. Larda is in there, I wrap a towel around me and start shoving the suitcases into the hall.
 Right at that moment, the ship lurches big-time. I lunge out the door and drop my towel. The door swings shut behind me. It locks.

And Ms. Larda, singing away in the shower, can’t hear me pound on it. The suitcases are locked, but one has a combination instead of a key. I press 1-2-3 and open that. It has got our souvenirs: cups shaped like coconuts and bamboo and pineapples; the gong; plus my transparent grass skirt and coconut bra. Which I put on.

I know what will happen. Ms. Larda will come out the bathroom, avert her eyes from my bed, thinking I’m naked under them covers, flip out the light, say “Good night Modine,” and I’ll be crouching out here in my hula girl outfit all night.
I put my ear to the door. The singing stops. The bathroom door opens. I hear “Good night ...” and I hit that gong hard. Not once, but a whole bunch of times. People probably levitate in their beds all over the ship. Heads with their hair standing on end lean out up and down the hall, and I’m pressed up so hard against our door that when Ms. Larda ­– who took awhile because she had to wrap herself in a sheet – finally pulls it open, I fall in. She lets out a screech even louder than the gong, and keeps screeching, so the entire ship hears that Modine Gunch is dancing around in nothing but a grass skirt and coconuts and is she crazy?

So that was the grand finale of our Hawaii cruise. Next day we get on a plane and head for home ­– the best direction.

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