The ringing phone woke me up and a woman unceremoniously asked, “Are you ready?” Her voice was husky, accent sexy. Surely this was a dream…? I blinked and rubbed my sleep-stung eyes. “Cabin swap,” she explained brusquely, squashing any fantasies. I asked her what she meant. That was a mistake.
“You not ready yet?!” she exploded angrily. “We only have hour before check-in! What the Hell you been doing you #@%$& lazy %#&$*!”
“I’ve been sleeping!” I retorted, waking fast. “I work midnight buffet and went to sleep three hours ago. Who are you and what are you talking about?”
“Go to purser and get your new key,” she snapped. “We have one hour to swap cabinas. Go!”
Body aching with fatigue, I stumbled through the noisy, crew-packed metal corridors to the purser’s office. According to a list posted about two hours earlier, my girlfriend and I were scheduled for a cabin change before noon today. She worked breakfast shift and we both worked lunch. Both of us had crew boat drill before lunch, too. I don’t know which was more absurd: that we had only a few hours between notification and compliance—despite her being in the dining room working breakfast and me sleeping after a late shift—or that she was going on vacation in just one week and we would leave the cabin anyway! Bianca had been in this cabin for 39 of her 40 week contract. Why change her now? I suspected it was because I was a boy-person. Our cabin shared a toilet and shower with another cabin, which was occupied by two girl-people. Two couples sharing a toilet was OK, but one boy-person and three girl-people was bad. Considering that I was one of the few crew aboard who understood the function of toilet seats, they should count themselves lucky. Or so I grumbled to myself as I readied to move both Bianca’s and my stuff.
I returned to the cabin to see two attractive and very angry Czech women waiting outside our door. They immediately commenced verbal abuse, barging into the cabin with me and throwing their suitcases on the bunks. Standing in the cabin with their arms crossed beneath their breasts, they stared at me with daggers for eyes. “This goddamn cabina is smaller!”
I was a new arrival and my stuff was not yet dispersed, but because Bianca had been blessed with no previous cabin swaps this contract, she was dug in. Her two huge green suitcases, which she lovingly called her ‘frogs’, were amazingly not large enough to hold all of her clothes and shoes and make-up and mysterious girl-person things. I shoved what I could in them and just hauled armloads of her clothing to the new cabin, which was only two doors down. Through it all the European ######-fest flared ever hotter. “This place is mess! You basura! Why not your woman pack for you? You not man enough to control her? Why not you check purser’s board? Idiot, we have only half hour left! Don’t you give me no cabina so dirty!”
I reached beneath the bed for Bianca’s shoes, disturbing a family of dust bunnies in the process. Having no broom, I used wadded toilet paper to sweep them up. The witches just hovered over me and kept the verbal abuse sharp. Finally I told them to either shut up or help out. They quieted instantly.
Finally done and on my way out the door, one of the women threw a quarter at me. “Hey, blood clot,” she snarled. “Your tip.”
By Brian David Bruns, author of national best-seller Cruise Confidential.
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