I think I’m pretty low maintenance: not too particular, not too hard to please. I don’t need most of my stuff ‘just so.’ Of course, such a measure is taken relative to others in vicinity. On our very crowded flight to Seattle, we sat behind a more maintenance-intensive woman. “Do you have lime slices?” she asked the flight attendant, who formed a practiced, eye contact bead on this gal.
“No, ma’am. We DO have lemon.”
“But I MUST have lime slices. Are you certain you don’t have even ONE?”
“I will check ma’am, but I’m pretty sure we do not have them. How about a lemon?”
“Oh, no. I MUST have lime in my soda. You DO have Pepsi products, don’t you?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. We have coke products on Delta. Perhaps I can find you a substitute? “
Oh NO!!! I was sure I read that you have Pepsi products. I MUST have Mountain Dew with my vodka.”
(ICK ICK ICK)
“I’m sure we can find you something else…..”
“Well, you DO have bottled water, I assume,”
DEEP, face-stretching smile………………..”Yes, ma’am. Let me get you some.”
“But only cubes of ice, not crushed.”
“Let me see if I can find some cubes.”
“And that lemon slice, I guess.”
Behind this little drama were several thirsty passengers who would have grabbed the Mountain Dew, the crushed ice, the lemons. (Her head.)
THAT’s what I call high maintenance and I require less than her. My only complaint, really, is that I’d prefer that when flight introductions are made, it’s not Captain Skippy at the helm. Sounds like a pup, you know?
One little treat I give myself, though, is breakfast in a restaurant. Now, even I can prepare the first meal of the day almost as well as any short order cook, and since my standard fare is scrambled eggs, English muffin and coffee, the attraction is not fancy food. (I DO give higher marks if the café serves real half/half instead of that fake stuff.) The appeal for me is the being served. Really. I’m just a little needy. Give me a newspaper and fill up my coffee cup discreetly, and I’m a happy camper.
Even if I venture into a new restaurant where they hand me a menu and I scan it, I end up getting the same item. It’s one decision I don’t want to make early in the morning.
So as I am a sampler of morning restaurants, I can report that in every one, you will find the same kinds of people at 6 AM. There are middle-aged women, usually alone, who are enjoying their morning meal and the solace. You may see a few couples, but not often. They are basically also eating alone, passing the salt back and forth. A few workmen, gearing up for the day, sit at the counter, sip coffee and flirt with the waitresses. An occasional businessman, dressed up, sits alone but his phone interrupts about every 2 minutes.
And then there are the old guys. There’s ALWAYS a table of old guys. 4 or 5, it’s obvious, meet here most mornings, take their usual table, order their usual item, and then tackle the topics of the day.
Are they divorced? Widowed? Retired? Out of work? Maybe. Maybe. Yes, Only by choice.
And do they have opinions? Absolutely. About what? About everything.
The other morning, I could not help it as I had no newspaper, their around-the-table went like this:
“You know why they don’t have a drug problem in China? If they catch someone with drugs in China, they just assume he’s a dealer and they shoot him. Or chop his hand off, one of those.”
“We awtta shoot everybody sneaking over the border.”
“But what about the woman with kids?”
“There ain’t no women and children sneaking over.”
“Just drug dealers and criminals.”
“Is this the last day of school?”
“That oil spill. They outta be scooping all that gunk up and putting it on a truck.”
“They could dump it over a landfill. Kill the smell.”
“I heard they could vacuum it up but BP won’t let them.”
“Hard to get the oil out of that vacuum bag.”
“BP? Who’s that?”
“I don’t want no flavored coffee.”
“Me neither. Just some sugar.”
“Gotta watch the blood pressure, doc says.”
“How’s the knee?”
LOVE IT. Makes you smile. The conversations are remarkable unchanged over the years except for occasionally contemporary references. However, I’ve noticed one alteration. The old guys are getting younger.
(Pause to reflect)
So on the cruise to Alaska, when I rose and got coffee, there were the early risers dotting the window seats and then there was a table of OLD GUYS.
Now I’m fairly certain every one of them is cruising with the wife of his youth, still asleep somewhere below. These guys are up with the sun, watching the water and getting acquainted.
Retired? Absolutely. A farmer. A banker. A realtor. And something generic. How do such men connect?
By ‘knowing’ stuff about the ship, the cruise, the company. And that’s important. To wit:
“Why are we listing?”
“I heard that the stabilizers don’t work in cold water.”
“Why are the buffets NOT self serve?”
“They wait to see if anybody gets sick and when nobody does, they open the buffets to help yourself.”
“How long does THAT take?”
“Mebbee 3 days. Depends.”
Good to know.
“Why does the room steward pull our drapes shut?”
“They have to block the early morning sun from fading the couches. Sun’s a lot stronger up here.”
Ah. Mystery solved.
“Where does the cruise line get all these friendly workers?”
“They’re all immigrants. If they don’t do a good job, they get deported.”
(smile or you're out!)
“Is there a doctor on board?”
“Yeah. Two. I checked in, you know, because of my hip replacement.”
“Which is the front?”
“The stern.”“No, wait, the bow.”
“What does it matter? We’re paying for it, call it what you want.”
“Can we eat breakfast twice?”
“They don’t check.”
This last is true. On a cruise, you can eat 24/7 if you are so inclined. On the first day aboard, the young man who serves as a native guide dropped this bomb: The average cruiser can gain 9 pounds in a week. Kinda put a damper on my appetite.
Anyway, the old guys will finish their coffee and then retreat to awaken their spouses. Then they will reappear, women in tow, (and bringing up the rear, by the way) to enjoy breakfast.
Although it’s NOT true that cruises passengers are all geezers, there is that retirement/bingo playing element that is prevalent. Lots of marathon-married people who are enjoying this time.
I remember reading once that long-time spouses begin to look alike. I reject that but I DO think that they develop team behavior. Just think of how many daily routines they have formed in their years of living together.
For a trip: Who packs? When, the night before or a week ahead? Who checks? Who carries the money? How many credit cards? One kind of toothpaste or two? Share toiletries or no?
And although on a cruise, no one is called upon for major decisions, there’s still: When do we eat? Where do we eat? Which movie do we want to see? Which of the three showings? Casino? Shopping? Just what IS Tanzanite?
Amid all these long-haul couples, you can see shared actions for moving through a task, like passing the salt or picking out a seat, that they don’t even think about. It’s part of their living patterns.
Nothing too profound here: it’s comfortable here with those of the championship marriages. It’s where I want to be.