Sunday, March 14, 2010


We just returned home after a week's vacation. It was spring break for my son, so we'd decided to take a cruise, something we'd never done before, to the Bahamas. Here's the issue: it happened to be spring break for about 85% of the other vacationers on our ship as well.

I have nothing against young men and women enjoying themselves during spring break. I'd done it too, years ago. But for some reason, it had all seemed so much different this time. How different? Well, for starters, shortly after we checked into our cabins, it was time to line up for safety instructions on the fourth level of the ship. Many of the spring breakers joined in, as instructed, and lined up around us. Lines and lines of people, dressed in nothing more than small bathing suits, filed in alongside us. Rows of people everywhere. The smell of alcohol was everywhere, too, along with the verbal disinhibition that goes with it. Lots of curse words were tossed about, as well as laughter, and college kids yelling from one end of the row to another, as if we were in the middle of a tailgate party. I occasionally looked down toward their hands hoping to see wedding bands, wondering if perhaps some of the young couples were celebrating their honeymoons. No dice. Belly rings uniformally replaced wedding rings. And after our safety session ended, laughing young couples strolled arm-in-arm into their cabins. It seemed like they hadn't a worry or care in the world...

Let me backtrack a bit. I have nothing against belly piercing. In fact, if I had been a college kid along with these young women, in the year 2010, I probably would have been marked as an outcast without one. So, given my need to conform back then, I most likely would have had one, too. But any metal post and gem that I'd pierce into my stomach these days would most certainly get lost within the layers of the fat there, so belly piercing is not something I want to do at my age. I'm not one to judge others, however.

But the one thing I noticed was that the majority of the wait staff was comprised of humble individuals who were, for the most part, foreigners. Alex, for example, our waiter for the four days, was from India. Alex served us our three meals, never wavering in kindness, patience or promptness. We quickly became friends with him. I asked Alex if he had a family, and he replied that he did not. I couldn't help but think how lonely it must be for him to return to his cabin, alone and tired, well past midnight each night after a long day of waiting on tables. How lonely he must feel each night. I wondered if he felt at all like an outcast.

I also wondered what he thought of "us," as Americans. I wanted to tell him that we don't all act the way those college kids do, that we don't just live lavishly off of our parents' credit cards, that we don't all party on cruise ships, or walk around in public wearing practically nothing, and that we don't swear in lines or act disrespectfully to others.

The truth was that in a way, we had more in common with Alex from India than we had with the American college kids. Ironically, during the days on that ship, I began to realize that my family and Alex were on the same boat, so to speak: we were all somewhat lonely "outcasts" on a tossing ship.

Times have changed. I just hope that Alex doesn't think that those college kids represent what Americans are really like. Being an outcast can be lonely. Behaving with respect and honor is, too.


WhiteStone said...

Makes me feel old when I see things like this.

Debby said...

Makes me feel sad when I see things like this.