Friday, September 23, 2011

On the Verb "To Share"

My sister left Chicago today to fly to Paris for a river cruise north to the Normandie beaches. Today is also her husband's birthday, but since they've been married 41 years, it is doubtful this will have the impact it might have 40 years ago.

Naturally I'm thrilled that she gets to make this trip. She and the girlfriend who talked her into it have been buying clothes for at least a month by now. She mentioned in passing that because she will be sharing a cabin with a "total stranger" it necessitated buying $100 worth of new pajamas. Now my pajama buying is done exclusively at Target. Given their low prices, that would be 10 pairs which means one could just put them in the trash every morning like disposable underwear.

But, as usual, I'm straying from the point here. Sharing a cabin with a total stranger. This gave me such a frisson of horror that parts of me are still trembling. I told her that no matter the cost, I would pay it to have my own space. I added that I needed it for my nightly rituals - the goat sacrifice, the chicken dance and so on ... If that doesn't scare her about her new roomie, I doubt she can be scared.

Why my horror, you ask? It all started on a seven-day cruise of the Mexican Riviera 21 years ago. We were given assigned seating in the dining room with three other couples. Instead of being allowed to yank out a chair and start eating like wolves, manners compelled us to make polite conversation. Conversation is hard to pull off when you have run into these people here and there on the ship all day long. By the second night, as I approached the Table of Death and Dessert with the rictus of a grin on my face, I was thinking, "It's show time!"

One of our fellow diners, a woman from Bakersfield, ordered the exact same thing for dinner every night. A baked potato with all the trimmings. No soup nor salad, no meat, just a baked potato. Between bites, sour cream dotting her ample chin, she bragged about their wealth. She flaunted a very large diamond ring. The last morning of the cruise, when it's customary to tip your waiters, they didn't show up. Stiffed those poor bastards, pure and simple.

Okay, people are weird (and cheap) all over the world. What I objected to was the forced necessity to make conversation. It really was torture. But infinitely worse would be having to bed down with perhaps a baked potato-eating woman from Bakersfield.

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