Like Roam About Mike (aka RAM), I too have a love of travel and while he is off test-driving the urban legends of Japan: menus of plasic food, dance abilities of the guys from the Peter, Bjorn & John video ( Nothing to Worry About ) , nuclear reactor meltdown related monsters and the skirt length of Harajuku girls…. I thought I would send you a ramble.
Unlike RAM, I make a living on a cruise ship herding the hoards of inspired Golden Girls and Grumpy Old Men from port-to-port on educational cruises sponsored by their highbrow alma maters. Boil it down and I am a living, breathing, moderately attractive, somewhat amusing banister for seniors whose logical decisions in their 30’s-50’s enable them to now travel to places they studied in college while quoting Homer and Virgil at me. I help them stay upright; hold their hands and encourage them to persevere on the climb up to the Acropolis; ply them with band aids, Purell, and G&tT`s from the open bar; and listen with varying degrees of interest to their opinions on the world and handbaskets.
Asides and pertinent learnings….
Having worked on a ship, I highly endorse RAM and his family’s rebelliousness aboard the Rotterdam waterway express. (See his post LINK) Most importantly if I have learned anything from the Seniors, as the Baz Luhrmann song says “wear sunscreen… take care of your knees, you will miss them when they’re gone.” Oh and I would also place a huge emphasis for the ladies on the fact that kegel exercises are your friends.) Wear Sunscreen
Now, back to the reason we are here…
This job allows me significant free time to ponder life’s next steps and to freeload on my friends’ vacation homes. Said suckers friends are loyal, loving and lovely; and have adopted me into their family. Hell they have even offered to take me with them to the home they are building on Long Island, Bahamas several times over the last several years.
Being part of the family however does not mean that they should trust me to chaperone a one-day resort dive course with their two sons, Jude and Quinn. Trust me with Seniors whose lives could end at any moment, sure. But trust me with agile young teenagers who have a road ahead filled with mistakes of their own making…. probably not a good idea.
Nevertheless this past summer, the three of us headed off to enroll in a 3-hour scuba class. We tried desperately to concentrate on the guy lecturing us about the Bends while battling the island’s merciless no-seeums and mosquitos, followed by sitting in a 2″ deep swimming pool for 45 minutes playing with dive vests and masks, before we were finally off to do the deed with Colin (parent A), and a sundry bunch of experienced divers.
Colin and Jude paired up quickly leaving Quinn, the 14 yr old, stuck with me as his dive buddy. Luckily, Quinn, boy genius, is smarter than me. Having showed some trepidation and good sense, he asked loads of questions about the reasonableness of this adventure before we even enrolled in the course. He googled how to beat a shark in a fistfight, and what the equipment would look like; seriously I cannot stress enough that the boy asked a million questions about what we could expect and why.
I, however, seasoned world traveler, queen of flexibility, tackler of things on the fly, firm believer in “living in the moment”, was in all bravado completely and utterly fearless. Don’t get me wrong, a good plan and understanding of safety issues is important to me in all adventures.… However I also think that if you have done the work then you let if fade into the background and enjoy yourself! Otherwise what is the point, people?
We got in the water… Quinn was a star, completely relaxed and in his element…
I immediately proceeded to have a panic attack which sadly included stutter-breathing and crying in my mask.
I tried to cover as the dive master gave Quinn and I the go ahead to descend. I could do this; I was ready; I was the “banister” … Negative Will Robinson… The banister had met her match… I was scared and every time I tried to lessen my buoyancy to descend, I felt claustrophobic and the vague sensation of suffocating. Quinn just kept going… and the dive master looked at me firmly to say with the slightest impatience, “Hey, are you gonna be ok – cause we gotta get moving?”
My logical brain was screaming “get a grip” but panic got the better of me and between staccato breathing that would have impressed a flamenco dancer, my voice said “No – but take care of my baby” as if a Dingo shark was going to eat Quinn below…
Humbled I proceeded to doggie paddle my way back to the boat. There is where the story heads down the road to awesome….
At that boat, hanging off the back, continuing to panic, and crying in my mask, I heard a big Bahamian voice say to me “It is going to be ok Boo… I got you.”
That voice aka “Dreadlock Rasta the Captain” was witness to the complete collapse of my fearlessness, and humiliation in front of strangers and children… But he didn’t make me get out of the water and he didn’t make me feel silly for realizing my mortality. Rather he with his awesome dreads sat dangling his feet off the back of that boat, waiting for me to get my shit together and just kept calling me Boo.
Sitting there, he offered to hold my hand until I stopped crying, and to continue holding it all the way to the bottom of the sea if I wanted to try again. After all that is what I had come there for. He let me work through my “oh fuuuucccck moment” and then put on a tank and mask to show me his playground beneath the waves and at the bottom he made sure I was ok before handing me off to Quinn. Giving me a thumbs-up he ascended and I got lost in the reason I put myself in this situation to begin with. It was amazing, magical even; loads of fish, gorgeous colors and yes, sharks.
So that’s it; that is the story… Essentially, I got schooled by a 14 yr-old and a generous Bahamian boat captain, and it was awesome. I walked away having seen something I had always dreamed of. But even bigger than that I realized that even when you think you are the most fearless, experienced traveler, roving banister to the world… you still need to have someone to hold your hand from time to time and help you get to the top of the Acropolis (or the bottom whichever the case maybe).
I love Paige.
That’s all I was going to write in this space, but she deserves more. Paige is my adopted big sister; my curly haired, hard dancing, lady-loving sister.
Paige just gets it, you know? She’s a world traveler; she’s seen more than I ever will, and is ridiculously fucking smart.
Paige and I went out one night when I was living with her and her partner in NYC, and she danced so hard, she gave herself whiplash. She gets after life.
It’s an honor to have her on Roam About for the first of (hopefully) many columns on her adventures.
I love Paige.