This post is part of a throwback series to my cruise ship days.
When working on a ship, I hardly sleep. It’s a 24 hour job. My phone can ring at anytime and I have to be prepared to accommodate the request, whatever it may be. I’m usually up and about at 6:30 in the morning, as it’s the quietest time to walk the deck. Just the sound of the waves crashing against the bow and crackle of my cigarette with each inhale. It’s peaceful and humbling. My version of a morning prayer.
My routine was especially appropriate this week, as I was tasked with escorting a religious group.
About an hour after my first cigarette, I was walking across the public spaces on the seventh deck when I heard a scream in the distance. I quickened my pace toward mid-ship, but when the single scream turned into a chorus of screams, cries and banging, I broke into a full sprint.
A Dead End
As I ran, I prepared myself to see a dead body. Probably one of the church grandmas dropped out of her motorized scooter right in the middle of morning service. After all, given the average age and sodium intake, it’s not unlikely for guests to drop dead on a cruise.
I turned the corner, with a mental check list of what I was going to do:
- Push through the crowd.
- Assess the body, check their pulse.
- Ask the calmest person to call the doctor’s extension.
- Ask the second calmest person to get a table-cloth from the dining room to cover the body.
- Collect the deceased’s personal items to ascertain her identity.
But when I pushed through the crowd in the ship’s dance lounge, (despite the disco ball and neon upholstery, this is the place that the group chose as their make-shift chapel), I realized that my mental check list was no use. As a matter of fact, there was no check list that could’ve prepared me for what I was witnessing.
I was smack in the middle of a moment of religious ecstasy.
One woman was shaking while she screamed gibberish at the top of her lungs, while men and women fanned her. When I tried to back out of the fun-time circle, a man stomped across the dance floor waving his arms and aggressively screaming, “Hallelujah!” The screams and hysteria made me feel nauseous. The room started to spin and goosebumps covered my entire body.
“Should I just join in?” I thought.
Before I could wave my arms, I caught the stares of two of my colleagues standing near the exit. Their eyes sympathetic, but their bodies frozen in the doorway. It was exactly like that scene in Jaws, when people on the shore just watch in horror while you get gobbled up. Somehow I managed to walk toward them without receiving any major contusions. Both of them grabbed me, one on each shoulder and we walked away from the madness like the survivors of a dinosaur attack.
I looked at them both in disbelief. I asked rhetorically, “What the fuck was that?”
“I think they said it was the Holy Spirit,” one of them offered.
“In the disco?” I asked sarcastically.
“I vomited there yesterday,” said the other.