The Beach 7/21/22

Memories with Richard Bleil

The year was 1986.  I had graduated with my bachelor’s degree in chemistry and was working as an analytical chemist (my favorite practical branch of chemistry).  My friend Mitch had just finished his five-year obligation in the Air Force.  We had been friends since our first year in high school and decided that maybe we should celebrate by taking a Caribbean cruise.  We were both single, so we were hoping for a singles cruise, which we were told it would be.

It wasn’t.

There were six single women, although we never saw one of them.  She met a man as she was getting onto the cruise, and neither came out of their cabin after that.  On the other hand, there must have been thirty or forty single men about our age.  The rest of the passengers were split relatively evenly between seniors and, as if to rub it in, young newlyweds. 

Needless to say, it wasn’t fun.

To make matters worse, they didn’t have enough room on the tables in the dining room where the single women were seated to include all of the single men.  Because we were from Ohio, my friend and I were seated at a table with a middle-aged couple who were also from Ohio, the thinking being that at least we would have something in common.  By the end of the cruise, even the staff assumed that they were our parents. 

They weren’t.

But eventually, we decided to make the best of the situation and just simply gave up on meeting women.  In a way, it turned out to be more of a blessing than a curse.  We’d enjoy the activities, get out at each port and soak in the culture and didn’t have to worry about that frantic half-witted moronic behavior of men on the prowl.  In fact, at one port there were two main attractions, an old fort being one, and a nude beach being the other.  Honestly, my friend and I had no interest in seeing each other’s naughty bits, so we opted to go for the hike to the fort.  It was a lot of fun and turned out to be a pretty great day. 

That night something happened.

For the next couple of days, it seems as though pretty much all of the passengers our age were walking funny.  Apparently, in their rush to show off their privates to each other, nobody thought about the fact that the sun was particularly harsh in the Caribbean, or the fact that their most prized anatomical pieces had never before even seen the light of day.  It wasn’t exactly Montezuma’s revenge, but lord it was sweet justice in my eyes. 

Thank God for that fort.

You can pretty much take this post as another “make the best of the situation” lesson.  In our modesty and disappointment, we avoided what could have easily been a similar fate.  Without meaning to boast, I’m sure that all of the men on the cruise would be happy that I didn’t go to that nude beach if they knew, but I keep thinking of sex with a sunburn in that particular piece of meat and, well, no thank you.  And the peeling?  How would that even work?  Guys playing with it for a distinctly different reason than usual. 

Ooh, look at this peel.

These days, the issues with cruises are a little more significant than whether or not to visit a nude beach and how to apply sunscreen while remaining calm.  Back in the ‘80’s we had to worry about the plague, not Covid.  Sometimes, I can’t help but think about the logistics of a cruise ship stuck in the ocean for medical or mechanical trouble, the issues of restocking food for a longer-than-expected journey, or the mental health of people trapped on the ship anxious to get off of the ship.  They pack the ships very tightly, and much like rats in an overcrowded and enclosed space, how long will it be until the passengers turn on the crew, or each other?  And, just a quick comment, I don’t think I’d want a cruise on one of these new ships.  They look like floating hotels, which is basically what they are.  The build the upper deck up as high as possible to cram as many passengers onboard as possible, much like the seating on airplanes.  To me, the joy of the cruise was not just visiting ports, but going on deck and enjoying the ocean, but the more they build up the ships, the less deck is available relative to the number of people. 

But I’ll never go to a nude beach.

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