066:336 HazMat

It wasn’t until the summer of the mid-2000s that I went on my first cruise.

My antipathy towards a floating vacation can partially be traced to the 1970s television program The Love Boat. From my viewings, as a young lad, of this hour-long promotional program for Pacific Princess Cruise Lines, I developed the idea that cruise ships were not places of fun. The passengers on these cruises all seemed to be either having dinner, preparing for dinner, or walking around the ship after dinner.

As a teen and young adult, my antipathy towards cruise ships grew as more and more stories hit the newspapers and airwaves documenting cases of viral outbreaks causing passengers to become violently ill.

Plus, the swimming pools always looked incredibly small in all the commercials.

However, in the first decade of the new millennium, my parents decided to honor a milestone in their lives by inviting myself, my two siblings, and our families on a cruise down Mexico way.

Long story short – we had a wonderful time, but it didn’t start out that way.

This is that story.

We have three kids and so as to save any one of them from embarrassment because their doofus of a father spends his time filling up the pages of a blog with stories, we will simply refer to the protagonist of this story as Child.

Even before we left Child was somewhat apprehensive about spending time on a tiny dot in the middle of a large ocean. My lovely wife and I attempted to reassure Child that all was well and that while the concerns were valid, there were many safeguards in place.

The life jacket drill did little to assuage Child’s fears because Child was bundled up in an oversize orange vest while listening to the crew member talk about what to do in the case of an emergency such as a ship sinking. Yep, that’s exactly why Child’s worry needed – fuel to fire the imagination of all the things that could go wrong.

Our boat (ship? vessel? I never remember which is the more correct term) left port shortly before dinner. As this was my first time aboard a gigantic moving piece of transportation, I felt a little wobbly and perhaps even a tad nauseous. At dinner, we found our table and sat down all the while the gentle rocking of the boat was doing little to ease the quease.

“Ease the quease”. Gee, I should trademark that.

Oh, never mind.

As wrapped up as I was in my own discomfort, I neglected to see the green creeping up on Child’s face. We hadn’t even had a bite to eat when Child announced that s/he was not feeling well and was most likely about to throw up.

I quickly gathered up Child from the dining area (because according to the principles of feng shui vomit and carpet clash) and ran out to find the nearest bathroom.

We only made it just past the doors when Child “released the Kraken” (so to speak) and spilled his guts all over the fine smooth floor.

A well-dressed crew member hurried over to me.

I began to ask where the nearest bathroom was so that a) I could clean up Child and b) give Child a proper receptacle to vomit into.

Instead, this crew member began to repeatedly ask me what was my room number.

There are conversations that take place where the participants are at cross purposes. This was one such instance. I, concerned over Child’s safety and well-being, wanted to know the location of the closest restroom. Crew Member, concerned over the safety and well-being of the entire passenger list, wanted to know my room number so that he could monitor Child’s health to ensure that Child was not a carrier of any sort of norovirus, hantavirus, or megavirus.

I was not understanding Crew Member’s rationale for needed our room number so my agitation grew until I was crossing the line into incoherent and indignant.

Then I had one of those moments where I see something so incongruous – so funny – that it is as if a record player has skipped and I am snapped back into my normal self.

At that moment, I saw three ship personnel dressed in white HazMat suits set up a perimeter around the contents of what had been inside Child’s stomach. Yellow cones were placed on the ground surrounded by bright yellow tape. The sight of people in gear normally associated with bio-medical disasters was just enough to jar me out of my rage, but what completely brought me back into the world of the sane was the fact that, to a person, each HazMat suit was ripped in a different place (legs for one, back for a second, front for the third).

It was just that moment of surrealness that this cruise outfit thought enough about bio-security to outfit their staff with HazMat suits, but didn’t think nearly enough about them to provide them with operational suits.

If there is a company that sells second-hand bio-containment materials, I seriously hope their motto is “Ease the Quease”.

That’s the story.

To finish, Child recovered after that initial bout of queasiness and the rest of the family had a wonderful time on our first cruise.

P.S. I have been fortunate to have gone on many more cruises since that inaugural voyage as I enjoy floating vacations now. If you want to know what my favorite activity is while onboard…well, that’s a story for another day (but probably not hard to guess).


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