Memoires with Richard Bleil
They said it was a singles cruise. You’ll have fun, they said. Well, they were half right.
The year was 1986. I was one year out of college, working as a chemist in Cincinnati. My friend had just finished his five-year stint with the Air Force. We hadn’t been able to spend much time together, so we thought it might be fun to take a Caribbean cruise. His girlfriend had just broken his heart and, well, I’m me, so of course I was single. But something did seem off. The cruise line didn’t advertise it as a “singles cruise”, but they told us that usually there were a lot of singles on these cruises. Well, I guess that was true.
My friend and I were hoping to meet some companionship on the cruise, but there were only six single women on the ship. We met five of them. The sixth met somebody as soon as she boarded, and the two of them never came out of his room. There were also about thirty single men. These women had no trouble finding companionship, and we had a major strike against us. See, on cruise ships, they always tried to put people with something in common together at the tables. The five single women were seated with the thirty single men. My friend and I were seated with an elderly couple because, well, apparently all four of us were from Ohio. So, while the thirty men were able to get to know and enchant the five women, the four of us were talking about if any of us had ever been to Canton. Spoiler alert; no.
As for the rest of the cruise, it was more or less split evenly between old retirees who spent their entire time in the ship casino, and, as if just to torture us, young married couples on their honeymoon. Now THOSE women were gorgeous. And, no, they were not in open marriages. Damnit.
Eventually, we decided that, to hell with it, we would have fun anyway. Once we resigned ourselves that the five were too worn out for us, we just decided to enjoy the cruise. But we kind of had our revenge. At one of the ports, all of the passengers seemed very excited because it featured a nude beach. Oh, there was so much talk among the singles who were “in play”. My friend and I decided instead to go visit an old fortress instead. I didn’t want to see his junk, and he didn’t want to see mine, and nobody else seemed interested either. It just seemed too cruel to go and see gorgeous women who had no interest in us in all their glory.
The fortress was cool. It was a fun trek to the cannons on top, and interesting to look out over the bay which it had at one point protected. The show, however, didn’t happen until we returned. See, nobody ever stopped to consider that there were certain parts of their anatomy that had never actually seen the light of day, nor did they consider that the Caribbean sun is stronger than from their hometown even if it had. It was so fun watching all of those single players walking funny, afraid of the fabric of their shorts touching any newly burned and very sensitive skin. At least it was sensitive; I wonder how many of their favorite nerve endings ended up getting burned off that day.
There is one odd story that I should tell, just to let you know the kind of person that I am. See, there is limited space on cruise ships, so every activity room was booked back-to-back with very little lag. My friend and I didn’t have any lovely ladies that we had hoped to get to know better, so we went to the stage where the talent show was scheduled to be, but we arrived a little bit early. The bingo game was going, and they were just about to begin the final round wherein the winner had to fill their entire card and the prize was big enough to have paid for the cruise for the winner. We grabbed an open table, but apparently, that table had been abandoned by two people as there were two bingo cards laying there. They cost a dollar at the door, and even though we hadn’t paid for them, we decided to go ahead and play them. As the numbers rolled on, my card slowly filled until, sure enough, I had had the winning card.
But I hadn’t paid for it. In a moral dilemma, I considered that somebody had paid for the card, it was a winner, but I hadn’t been the one who paid. So, should I call bingo or not? In the end, I decided not to call it. It wasn’t really my card, and the rotations continued. It took another half dozen turns before the runner-up winner called it out. My friend was rather disappointed in me, but ultimately, I did what I felt was the honest, moral and right thing to do for myself. Ethically, I think I would have been fine to claim the winnings, but morally, I just couldn’t.
So, there it is, my Caribbean cruise, with the typical Bleil Style luck. Except for our last meal. I was fine with pretty much everything that happened. No, we didn’t meet any young women, but we had fun. That older couple from Ohio were not swingers (yes, I was that desperate) but they were nice enough. As we were eating for the last time, a porter came to our table and handed a bag to the man and woman. It was a simple gym bag, with a photo of the ship inside and a few other trinkets to remember the cruise. Then the porter looked at my friend and I and said, “since your mom and dad have one of our bags, we didn’t think you two needed one.” That was just too much. I had accepted reality as it was, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let it slide that they had forgotten that they were the ones who sat us there, instead of where we had wanted to sit. I kind of blew up at them, explaining that they were not our parents, that my friend and I had each paid for our own ticket, and insisted on a bag for each of us. It was a silly thing to do, but it really was just the last straw. Yes, we got the bag, and yes, it was ridiculous. I don’t have it anymore, and I doubt that my friend does either. Even the bag was too cheap to withstand the test of time.