Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stick Your Face Out the Window

The Cats have noticed that Eddie is gone and are taking advantage of unsupervised time at home. What a shocker. At least they changed the sheets this morning. They like sleeping in the sunspot in the afternoons and rolling around.

Here comes the time of year I love best. My brother and I were cruising Scotland in late March of 2005. Orkney, near the Arctic Circle to be exact. Higher in latitude than Oslo, Norway. Yeah. In late March.
We had gotten there the night before in a very large, modern ferry (Norwegian) through one of the worst storms seen in the North Sea that year. Norwegian ships built for storms have 'stabilizers' to control the ship in the choppy North Sea. They look like the blades on an Hawaiian know; those thingys off the side to keep the ship from capsizing.

I only know what they look like because I didn't hear the general announcement and panicked screams in the lounge. I was smoking outside. A native of Orkney was standing there with me smoking, and getting some air (it takes talent to do both simultaneously) when this raucous, BLAWWWWW went off in our ears and the deck heaved. I thought Moby Dick had us.

He casually turned to me and said, "We're sinking. You'd better get inside."

It's not that I couldn't hear him, which I couldn't. We were standing in the gentle, warm draft venting from the ferry's enormous engines. If I stepped out of that zone, my face was whipped with sleet and driving rain. I kept having to clear the ice forming on my glasses, thanking God for the 'sports protection' layer I had so thoughtfully ordered the year before.  I will admit, I was thinking more of my horseback riding 'skills' than anything else then.  

It was simply that the words, "We are sinking." activated a part of my brain that has rarely been tapped. At first, I thought he was speaking Norwegian. But he had plainly been speaking English the moment before. Then he shouted, "Are you daft?" Then, he screamed it. I ran away from the maniac and shot through the door of the lounge to get away from the nut and noticed that I was on the ship alone, except for my pursuer.

who ran past me like the speed of light and disappeared further into the ship. No, wait. There was one guy behind the bar, holding onto it while the ship tilted, swayed and jolted like like we were coming into LAX on a 767 during a monsoon. The engines were so loud, I thought I was on the 50 yard line at Daytona, or wherever. You get the point.

He was the guy who had been feeding Marc and I 'Americanos' since we hit the ship. (Black, decent coffee. Scotland is very, very, very far from South America and the Scottish are cheap.) So I walked up to the bar and held out my cup hopefully, "Americano, please?"

It was hard to hear his response over some crashing, and I looked behind me and  video games were on the floor, you know the big ones the size of old pinball machines? I couldn't see how that was possible, as they appear to have been chained to the wall, but I wasn't taking much in at the moment. We had had a hell of a journey across the Atlantic to get to that point; I just wanted coffee and cigarettes. Then, I noticed that the expensive jewelry shop next to the gaming room was missing some displays and windows.

Anyway, the guy kept shaking his head 'No' and I kept insisting and pointing to the coffee machine. Apparently he was curious about me. He sidled around to where I was holding onto the bar and shouted friendly-like at me, "Did you grow up on the ocean?"

and pointed toward the window. That's when I caught a glimpse of a stabilizer. I really couldn't tell the difference between it and and deck and the storm surges at this point. I can just say I have seen one. He moved closer and I thought he was flirting with a tourist, and remarked, casually, as if I was to keep it secret, "If we go down in this water, we'll die as soon as we hit, with the temperature being what it is."

Tomorrow: my introduction to the Scottish.

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