Snippets from the cruise ship
I am hopelessly inept at making small talk with strangers. Although I am really interested in other people’s stories, I have never mastered the art of cutting through the mundane and getting to the heart of things.On a recent cruise I got a 30-second lesson on the art of moving small talk into a meaningful discussion on the elevator between deck 6 and deck 9. It went like this:Husband of a congenial-looking older couple to me: “Where are you from?”Me (yikes): “Colorado.””Where in Colorado?”(Note how friendly and forthcoming, in truth a little embarrassed to say it) “Aspen.””Do you know Eve Homeyer?”Turns out they had known Eve from before she moved to Aspen, she was godmother to one of their sons; in moments we were bubbling about Eve and as the elevator stopped they said, “We’re the Rassmussens – tell Eve we send our love.” One of the things about being seasick is an intensified sense of smell. Every time I opened my bedside table drawer, I was overcome by the fumes of my (untouched) supply of M&M’s bursting out of a sealed plastic freezer bag. This being something of a codger cruise, odoriferous farts were a constant olfactory hazard. At breakfast one morning an elderly Indian man cut the cheese with such an astounding trumpet that diners at the surrounding tables froze with their forks halfway to their mouths, the only time on the trip that I longed for my oxygen tank.* * * *Veterans of one previous cruise on Holland-America’s Zuiderdam, we leaned towards comparisons with Celebrity’s Galaxy, an older ship well overdue for renovation. I missed the sliced bananas floating in fresh-squeezed orange juice. “Holland America wouldn’t serve reconstituted,” I sniffed.Indeed, H-A’s food was all-around better, and the beds were miles better than the sprung mattresses of the Galaxy. On the other hand, the international staff was refreshingly egalitarian compared to the stratification of the H-A crew. Crew members on the Galaxy signed up for eight months or less and had days off – rather than a 365-day grind – were less bitter, and it showed. Their casino was user-friendly, while the snotty dealers on H-A seemed like hard-assed recruits from Atlantic City. In all, it came out a wash. Comedian at one evening’s show: “They had a benefit for underprivileged children in Aspen, and only two people showed up.” Within 24 hours of being at sea, hangnails disappeared and our sandpaper hands were as soft as a baby’s. Without lotions or potions, wrinkles and rough spots disappeared. Should Aspen spas humidify rejuvenating rooms with salt water? An hour into the foothills of Denver, my lips were so chapped I couldn’t smile. Exciting rare moments when we saw dolphins leaping out of the sea. The best dolphin exhibition of all came when we pulled into Galveston, where pod after pod of them gamboled among the oil rigs. We didn’t know what to make of that! Su Lum is a longtime local who has her land legs back. This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.