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Scenes From a Vacation

John on January 19, 2007 at 8:41 pm

It’s Wednesday aboard the cruise ship and my wife and I round the corner to find 300 people waiting in line for the midnight buffet. We go to the back of the line and wait. About ten minutes go by and a couple of kids — I think they call them tweens because they’re nearly teenagers — walk up and insert themselves in line just ahead of me. Both of them are dressed in black with scruffy hair. They’re not scary just impressionable with perhaps too permissive parents who are nowhere to be seen.

I looked at them and they tried hard not to look back. I wasn’t sure if cutting in line was supposed to be an act of rebellion, like anarchists at a G8 summit, or just ordinary rudeness. Normally, I would have been amused at the thought of these Misfits fans trying to maintain their street-urchin-cred while on a cruise and waiting for the chocolate buffet. I think the irony was lost on them.

“There’s a pretty long line back there.”

The boy who looked 10 said “I know” as if to say, “yeah, that’s why we cut.” Then they both caught my eye…and my thumb. The girl, who was maybe 12, rolled her eyes — a look I’m certain her parents have seen 1000 times by now — and they slouched off to the back of the line.

Anyway, the buffet wasn’t that good.

Thursday afternoon. The cruise ship is docked in Ensenada and my wife and I are taking a bus around the harbor to see “La Bufadora” which I’m pretty sure is Spanish for “tourist-trap.” I’m not far off. The actual water spout (generated by a cave) is actually pretty neat. With each wave a spray of water shoots 20 to 30 feet in the air creating a fresh rainbow every time.

There’s an old man playing a nylon string guitar that looks nearly as old as he is. He’s singing Spanish songs for the gringos like me. I don’t know if he’s there every day, but I sort of have that impression. He’s got a voice that sounds like what might happen if you sing 5-6 hours a day everyday. And despite the fact that this is a tourist trap, I have the sense it’s probably also very real for this man. I leave him a tip and he interrupts his song half a measure to thank me, then plays on.

Walking back from the water spout, we face the real tourist trap. A long street, lined on both sides with “authentic” Mexican shopping stands. Most of the stuff is the kind of knock off merchandise you’d find on any big city street. You can buy a Rolex for $50 and a genuine Gucci purse for $25. My wife wants to check out the silver. We look at some opal items that don’t look anything like the beautiful Mexican opals I’ve seen before. Mexican opals are a fiery orange color. I’m pretty sure the “jewels” we’re looking at are made of shiny paper and metal glitter but I’m not going to say so out loud. The price drops from $125 to $40 and we finally get away. Only 100 more to go.

Eventually we find one guy who doesn’t seem quite as desperate. We buy a couple little dresses for the girls and leave completely broke and exhausted. On the drive back we’re pretty sure we over payed for the dresses. Somewhere in Ensenada the story of our foolish purchase is being shared over a cold margarita right now. Somehow that makes it better.

Later that night we attend the final dinner in our assigned dining room aboard ship. The first three were different somehow. Tonight people are dressed down and they seem to be talking louder. But it’s not comfort and friendliness I’m seeing, only a kind of desperation. Everyone has realized that tomorrow the cruise is over. This is their last chance to have one more beer, one more extra dessert, share one more story with people they’ll never have to see again. This is the cruse ship equivalent of a big Saturday night. Get it done before the Sunday funk sets in.

It’s sort of sad and I wonder if the wait staff — most of whom seem to come from Trinidad — see this same thing every week. My wife and I, honestly, can’t wait to get home. Five days is the longest we’ve ever been away from the girls (one day being the previous record). We miss family, friends, home and our jobs. We both have great jobs.

And, yeah, I miss the blog too.

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