The crowd we cruised with was a little different from the Alaska bunch we hung with last summer when we cruised there. Possibly it was a little more spectacularly obese, but possibly not; people with weight problems seem to love cruising and I respect them for it; the food is unlimited and it’s a way for them to get places in a far more comfortable manner than by cramming themselves in an airline seat. I don’t criticize them. I never say “Shouldn’t you be saving the money you spent on this cruise for a gastric bypass?” when I watch them loading up at the buffet, because that would be nasty, and also because they could reply “What’s the co-insurance on your liver transplant going to set you back?”
There was a distinctly more Southern flavor to the guests as well. Among the men, the favored daywear was a T-shirt denoting fandom of a college football team. There is a T-shirt that says, simply, “Southern Girl” on the back, and southern girls like to wear them. At night they dressed far better than I did, because people from the South still dress for dinner and because I had made a resolution not to wear any footgear apart from flip-flops for the entire cruise, and it’s not tough to top that sartorially.
We met some people from Arizona as well, and interestingly enough, they were all what I would call unabashed gun nuts, if I wanted to use an uncharitable short phrase to describe them. I am sure there are people from that state who would not bring up their enthusiasm for gun-toting within the first few sentences of meeting a stranger, but we did not encounter those people. Instead we met a single woman of about thirty who the moment I told her we were from California, told us, “I open carry. You Californians can’t,” in a tone that implied that walking around unarmed, as I am wont to do, was as foolish as sprinkling Ebola on your breakfast cereal.
This is a true story. It happened in while we walked the dock in Cozumel, as did the moments we spent dining next to an Arizona couple who regaled us about their private ammo dump and the enthusiasm they have for firing fully automatic weapons at gun ranges sanctioned for that practice. “The heavier the caliber, the better she handles the weapon,” the man boasted about his wife, something I would probably not say about my girl, even if I could document it.
They were a biracial couple, which meant they were probably sensitive about racism, which many of the Southern guests were not. Now, it’s highly unlikely that Southerners as a whole are more racist than the rest of us, but they seem to be considerably less shy about expressing it. As soon as we got on the boat, I overheard a woman using her dulcet Dixie tones to snarl at a Filipino porter “DO YOU CALL THAT ENGLISH?”
Going on a cruise ship to foreign ports is not for those who fume at being addressed in variously accented English. Her travel agent had apparently failed to mention that to his customer. Next time she’ll know to take a river cruise with stops at some NASCAR events. For the duration, however, she was stuck with pleasant, smiling, non-American workers willing to accommodate her every need with unfailing politeness, a veritable hell on the high seas for this unfortunate belle.
Others expressed their distaste for the un-American on land. One lady shopper in Costa Maya said a word of Spanish in a stall full of trinkets in front of my girl, who asked her “Do you speak Spanish?”
“Some,” she replied, although I suspected it was limited to the “Gracias” she had just muttered. “We got plenty of them Espanols where I come from.”
She moved off in a huff. “Where did she come from?” I asked my date.
“Arkansas, or some stupid place like that,” my girl replied, in a well-timed burst of retributory intolerance.
Another woman asked us the obligatory fellow-tourist question “Where are you two from?” when we were mingling on the deck. When we said California, she observed “I went to San Francisco once. It was nice. A few too many Asians for my taste, though.”
“Wow, that’s racist,” I blurted out.
She took offense at that. “I am not a racist,” she said sternly. “I come from Ferguson. Ferguson, Missouri. You’ve heard of Ferguson, right? So how could I be a racist?”
She stomped off as if she had just made the most devastatingly and unassailable logical point since the Greeks had invented the stuff.
But enough about my fellow wanderers. You have to hear about Belize. I’ve come to today’s limit, though, so it’ll have to wait for another post.