I should say captains; for reasons I cannot fathom my husband and I have ended up at the captain’s table more times than is warranted. Especially since we always have a cabin much closer to the oilers and wipers than to the Lido Deck.
There must be some reason: perhaps there is a lottery or perhaps there is a need to keep an even keel by making a selection from both the upper and lower classes since even steerage passengers have the run of the ship in these modern times. Whatever – the dinners have often proved to be far more entertaining than the host intended.
The most spectacular event came off the coast of Albania. We were eleven seafarers. Our captain made twelve. Somehow one couple, a doctor and his society wife, breached protocol by seating themselves to the captain’s right before the rest of us entered the main dining room ceremoniously so that all the other guests could sigh with envy. Led in by the ship’s “hostess,” we, the remaining nine, traipsed in: two normal-looking well groomed Scottish ladies, an American psychiatrist with large round spots of rouge on her cheeks and red hair worn Angela Davis style along with a nondescript husband. They were followed by a grandmother, broomstick thin, her daughter with plenty of ballast and a plump two-year old grandchild. Hubby and I brought up the rear. Presaging trouble, the table was only set for eleven, resulting in a scramble to find an extra chair and squeeze us all in. When I found my misspelled place card I saw that I was cozied up with the captain on his left.
As soon as the wine was poured the stick thin woman jumped up to make the toast. “What happens at the captain’s table stays at the captain’s table, just like Vegas” she announced. The captain, who was just starting to open his mouth to propose his own toast, sat down, silenced by the outburst while we all wondered just what would happen “like in Vegas.” Hi-stakes gambling, ladies of the night cavorting on the table or ????
It didn’t take long to find out. The answer was we were to be the recipients of fascinating stories from the woman’s life. She proceeded to tell us in depth and non-stop about the fascinating grocery business she owned, the enormous price of her waterfront condo and its fees and all the sports stars she knew. She then shouted across the table to address the doctor, who was from the same area. Where were his seats in the pro-football stadium? He reluctantly admitted that his were only on the 40 yard line although he assured us that he knew a lot of sports stars too. Thin woman crowed that her season’s tickets were on the 50.
Meanwhile the waiter was told that the child would only eat ice cream. The poor tot had her nose resting on her i-pad screen while the mother regaled us with stories about taking the little girl to New York to see her favorite play, How to Succeed in Business Without Trying. A precocious entrepreneur it seemed.
The captain tried to steer the conversation elsewhere by asking the two Scottish ladies about their experiences but it was too late – thin woman had already launched into an interminable story about all her Prada handbags, alligator and ostrich being favored, and her private tours to outlet malls. The tired child started to whine. Then the doctor suddenly announced that he and the other two male guests had to change places like musical chairs. After they settled the psychiatrist’s husband, who had been silent throughout the meal, looked at the whining child and said, “Jonathan Swift said that children should be boiled until tender before being eaten.”
Well, at least this captain didn’t try to feel me up like on another cruise.