Monday, January 17, 2011

The Dude Abides, Even On A Cruise.

The beautiful olive skin lady, wearing the white dress uniform of the Disney Cruise line, made her way through the crowded Parrot Key dining room looking straight at me. The expression on her face was one of calm and pure professionalism but it contrasted sharply with the merry Caribbean décor of the onboard restaurant and the shape of her athletic body the tailored uniform showed off.

Right from the start, I somehow knew she was coming to talk with me even though the very idea seemed beyond silly. The lady was someone very important and was often seen at the captain’s side during the cruise and when separate had her own small entourage following her around. Still I entertained the notion mainly because the general conversation at the table last Friday night had drifted toward lawyer talk carried on by my attorney wife and our tablemates, a couple from Rhode Island who were also attorneys, leaving me slightly bored.

Much to my surprise the lady crewmember did in fact continue to weave her way towards my table and came to stand beside me placing her soft hand on my shoulder and went as far to lean over to whisper in my ear.  Her shoulder length brown hair, which matched her eyes, fell over to one side of her neck as she brought her lips close to my ear. Her touch was like that of an angel and it matched her Italian accent leaving me in wild anticipation of whatever she was going to say.

“Mr. Johnson,” she said in a soft voice, “I need to talk with you privately for a moment.”

At that moment I think the extremely surprised look on my face was pale in comparison to the one my wife wore followed closely behind by our tablemates. Despite whatever fantasies that had tumbled across the largely barren plains of my mind as the beautiful crewmember approached it was clear as spring water that her tone was one of total business and that I better get up and follow her. Just for the record, I will state even though most who read my posts should be able to guess, I would have followed this lady any place she suggested. Unfortunately, our destination was only a small alcove a few feet away used by the waiters to store things like utensils and other small items.

Still standing very close to me the crewmember, whose nametag had “Marta” printed on it, handed me an envelope. “Mr. Johnson,” Marta began, “we have received word from Customs and Border Protection officials that they want to interview you tomorrow once the ship docks at Port Canaveral but before you disembark. It is just routine but it would be unwise to be late, or heaven forbid miss it.”

I opened the envelope she handed me, pulling out the letter inside and read the same thing she had just told me but in more official and legalistic terms. I was dumbstruck as to why Homeland Security types might want to interview me. Yeah, I had done several stupid things out of the country and on my past Disney cruises but never anything that might warrant such attention. The only things that came to mind were a couple of unfortunate occurrences.

The first happened while on a weekend pass during my basic training in 1984 and had me sleeping in a dumpster in Juarez, Mexico hiding from a guy and his buddies upset I was with his ex-girlfriend. The second was a regrettable incident involving the lady playing Ariel the Mermaid and my hand that landed in a place she did not care for while posing with my daughter and I for pictures.

The former was an issue because it could have been a nasty problem between the United States and Mexico had I turned up dead forcing my drill sergeants to fill out mountains of paperwork but nothing Uncle Sammy would remember over the long term. The second was a deeper concern since I have heard rumors that the Mouse has a long memory to the point of making people “disappear” from their parks for their transgressions. My only comfort was that I had trouble believing that one simple country boy could ever draw the joint notice of both a Big Brother acting Uncle Sam and an irate corporate rodent.

With no other options I listened to Marta as she told me when and where to meet her in the morning and how she would escort me to see the Homeland Security people. After being mesmerized by her eyes and trying to pay attention to her words she gave me a dazzling smile and lightly touching my hand, which again reminded me of the touch of an angel, she turned and walked away.

Returning to the table my wife, in her lawyer frame of mind, read the letter Marta gave me several times trying to figure it out. “Well.” she said, “It’s probably nothing but if I don’t see you in a couple of hours after you go to meet them I will figure they carted you off to some prison.” With that, she handed me back the letter and went back to her crème brulee dessert and talking lawyer babble with our table mates.

The next morning the phone in our stateroom rang at 6:00am and I found Marta on the other end. “Just wanted to make sure you were up and ready to meet our guests.” She said in a much too cheery voice that challenged my angelic assumptions about her.

Truth of the matter this whole turn of events had spoiled my last night on the Disney Magic. After dinner I just retired back to the room my wife, daughter, and I shared leaving them to attend the final party next the Goofy pool alone. To say I was worried would be an overstatement but even while in the military dealing with authority types on a daily basis I hated being hassled by the Man.


I arrived at the Guest Services desk just a few minutes later to find two other people like myself waiting for similar “interviews.” One was a bald dude nervously fondling a different colored passport than mine and the other guy was clearly American and it was obvious he had not let the impending arrival of Uncle Sam’s paid monkeys ruin his final evening onboard.

Marta marched the three of us down to the Walt Disney Theater, a huge auditorium where they have Broadway-like shows, and to seats close to the stage but off to the far side. On stage at that time was a collection of seven or eight Customs and Border Protection agents sitting at a table reviewing the paperwork of the foreign-born workers that ranged from waiters to ship’s engineering. The line of people waiting for their papers to be reviewed stretched down the stage and out a side door with no end in sight.

Each of the agents were going through the paperwork handed to them, looking them over, and asking the crewmember questions. After the agent was satisfied that particular person presented no threat to the Republic the crewmember was dismissed and would march down the stage, visibly relieved.  This would have the Customs and Border Protection agent bark for another person in the line to come forward and begin the process again.

It may just be my distaste in having to deal with the Man but I found the agent’s demeanor coarse and rude to a bunch of people who fall over themselves continually to make fat Americans, Canadians, and Europeans happy. If any of the crewmembers, almost all from Third-World countries , wanted to do nasty and horrible things to anyone they had more than enough chances on a regular basis.

Finally, Marta, who had been standing close by, was able to catch the attention of the chief government monkey who marched down the stage with all the self-importance of an egotistical military general after retrieving a few papers from the table he shared with the other agents. Marta introduced both the agent and us to each other and stepped back to allow the monkey to do his job.

The first thing that came to mind as the scene in the auditorium rapidly developed was one some movie involving a POW camp with the guard walking in front of the nervous prisoners watching for any sign of rebellion. The agent stepped in front of Bald Guy and reviewed the papers he brought down. After asking for the Bald Guy’s passport, he immediately told him he owed the United States government nearly a hundred dollars in unpaid duty fees from 2006.

Bald Guy in the space of five minutes went from claiming he did not owe any money to thinking his wife might have paid it already. The Customs agent, clearly enjoying bald guy’s discomfort, then said that he could either pay it right there or go ask his wife and find a receipt but that he would hold unto his passport until the account was settled somehow. Bald Guy then quickly ran up the steps and out of the auditorium like a scared rabbit.

While Bald Guy was being interrogated Mr. Agent allowed one sheet of his collection of stapled papers to fall free and I was able to read some of what was on the print out. Much to my surprise I saw my name but the picture beside it was not me, along with that was a long list of crimes with “murder” standing out among several lesser crimes. Because of that, I had some understanding when Mr. Agent focused his laser-like attention on me.

Mr. Agent asked for my passport and I handed it to him with all sorts of stories about mistaken identities and innocent people spending decades in jail for crimes they did not commit going through my mind. Despite my sudden growing trepidation, I had to stifle a laugh when I realized Mr. Agent looked like a Disney character.

Because of Mr. Agent’s full and bushy mustache and his more than average arrogance, I could not shake the thought that he looked like the sheriff police car from the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars.” After what seemed like an eternity Mr. Agent handed me back my passport with a grudging acknowledgment saying I was free to go.

Not looking a gifted horse in the mouth, I pocketed my passport and got the hell away from the Man. Now that left one final guy for Mr. Agent to check out, but through the whole thing I believe he was asleep in his chair feeling no pain. I’m all for solidarity amongst the oppressed masses but I’m also about taking it easy and not ruffling the feathers of the Man for no good reason, plus I was close to missing my last breakfast on the ship and you always have to keep your priorities straight.

This is the letter I mentioned, as usual I have changed names and blacked out portions that would identify the lovely "Marta's" true name. Covering my butt slightly more the Disney Magic was a totally fantastic experience that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys cruising. Please do not think I will abandon this avenue of posts, I have tons of pictures that I will get to posting whenever things calm down around here.  Also excuse the typos, Since we returned home late Saturday I do not think I have had more than thirty minutes where no one was screaming my name. 


Teresa said...

You always know how to weave fantasy with reality ! Glad you made it back

Bill's Big Bamboo said...

Dude --

When the "Man" approached, you should have blurted out -- "I confess. I did it". Then see what happens for the next few hours. The wifey could represent you Pro Bono.

I see ... ah ... "Marta's" name is Valeria.

Need to do a better job of hiding the name ??

Windsmoke. said...

Well done, although i seen it coming from very early on. Quite enjoyable all the same bring on another story.

Pixel Peeper said...

Good to hear you made it back, despite border security and Marta. Did you get to see any of the snow in South Carolina?

Lowandslow said...

"Hi. We're from the government and we're here to help." hahaha!

Was there a guard posted outside your room overnight or did they just leave a possible murderer (for all they knew) free to roam all night?

I never have been too impressed with the intelligence of most gub-ment types. :)


Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

As one of those people "familiar with your posts", I absolutely concur, this olive-skinned, brown-haired, brown-eyed woman is an individual the likes of which you would have followed preTEEmuch anywhere (as I also would have).

Beach Bum said...

Teresa: Seriously loved that cruise, just being on the ocean with the wind blowing and seeing nothing but water all around was awesome.

Bill: Yeah, may have to cut that piece of the letter out. Actually worried whether my wife would be on my defense team or belong to the team trying to put me away.

Windsmoke: I have several, may space them out which is something I often do. The pictures are the big thing for me, meant to post something everyday but that would have cost me an arm and a leg.

Pixel: Didn't know about teh snow until last friday night when I went to bed. Frustrated over the letter I watched some news and finally heard about it. When we got home late Saturday afternoon there was still a lot of snow on teh sides of the roads and in shady areas.

Low and Slow: Seeing that print out of that other person with my name freaked me out. Thank the Lord I didn't look like the guy. Now this is unconnected to what happened on the ship but many times over the years people have come to me thinking I was there friend or just someone they knew.

While in the army stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado a new arrival from Korea swore up and down I looked exactly like a buddy of his still stationed there.

Will: She was awesome, I figure at some point she will be captain of that ship or one of the ships in the Disney Cruise line.

Akelamalu said...

Cruising is magical. Glad you made it back OK.

MRMacrum said...

So, who'd you murder?

Beach Bum said...

Akelamalu: They made me leave the ship despite my pleas, protests and outright begging.

Mike: The whole episode of one of those strange events that can freak you out. Just glad that I looked so different from the guy they wanted that they kicked me out right away.

Of course my attorney wife chimed in later saying that I'm probably on the No Fly list because of this.

Randal Graves said...

I bet Mohammad Akbar al-Hussein was very happy that you weren't permanently detained, you terrorist.

lime said...

good grief. how to totally ruin the buzz of a vacation....glad you were able to high-tail it out of there.

David Barber said...

Laughing at Randals comment. That's f*****g awesome, Beach, being accused of a murder you didn't commit! That'd be a great tag-line for a movie...or as it already been done? Ha!

Glad you got your last breakfast though. Good to see you home safe and murderer!!!


Beach Bum said...

Randal: I had my concerns, of course as I drove home Saturday already missing that Caribbean breeze and clear water I found myself wondering just how bad Gitmo could be. I hear some of the cells have great ocean views.

Lime: Leave it to the Man to be able to ruin anything and everything.

David: Yes, I have to admit that I would have been highly pissed if I had missed my last "free" breakfast. I think I regained nearly twenty pounds on that damn boat.

goatman said...

Yup, Homeland Security is everywhere.

Just try to open a checking account sometime.

I think I will leave Disney to others', thank ye very much.

Chef Cthulhu said...

Excellent story, BB! Way to take a bunch of know-nothing jackasses and make them look like a bunch of know-nothing - heeeeeyyyyyy....I see what you did there!!!

Ranch Chimp said...

Good Morning Bum! (4:11am Dallas)

When I first was reading the story, I thought it was going to be more of a romance story (your a romantic like myself, I just never wrote about it) ... but hey dude ... a "cruise"? ... sound's cool! I mean ... I never even been on a cruise, but heard about them, just never got around to it. Sorry to hear of the worry part ... I like Bill Big Bamboo's comment ... "I confess, I did it", knowing me, I do stupid stuff like that for a laugh. I remember once in jail/ confinement, they wanted to give some standard medical check, and woke us up at 4am in the bloody morning, but they wanted us to sign a paper to have $15 taken from our jail house account to pay for the test ... I wouldnt sign, this smart ass guard said ... "No breakfast for you man, if you dont sign" ... I said "Good, I been considering a diet anywayz ... take me back to my cell, Boss" (boss is the proper name for gaurd's by inmate's)... needless to say he was pissed, and I already knew they had to give me breakfast by law, or I would have sewed their ass. :) I reckon Bum, alot of these HS security folk's also have to routinely do stuff like this to make it look like their busy, with all the budget cut's. :) But I reckon it's also for security. Hell dude, I didnt even know they can bring up stuff like what you "owe" Uncle Sam or whatever, I reckon it's a slithering way also to get around illegal searches and stuff now, where they can just randomly run "make's/ check's" on you ... dont look like I'll be taking any cruises soon, thanx for that info though. Sorry about your experience. Unlike Bill BB ... I had to enlarge the letter 400%, then it got so bluured, I couldnt even read half of it anywayz, sure as Hell couldnt make name's.

Later Bum ....

Ranch Chimp said...

BTW Bum ... I just posted my "China" sleeping giant part 3 ... which was partly inspired by your comment question concerning China's trade and move's ... and I did mention you and your site in the post cause of this.

Mother Theresa said...

Come on, 'fess up! Who'd you kill? ;D

Liberality said...

Hi BB! Glad you made it back and can regale us with your adventures.

I looked myself up on an internet white pages and sure enough I was listed. But there were also 17 other women with my exact name all across the country. The site gives you the option to remove yourself from the listing, which I did. Wouldn't want a case of mistaken identity :D

Marja said...

If you hadn't posted that letter I would have thought this story is drenched with wild imagination. How the heck do you get involved with these people, what are you hiding from us?

Cloudia said...

Ah cruising!

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral



Steffi said...

I see the big cruiseliners just here in the port of Hamburg.It´s always magical and I hope someday in future I can make such a journey...

Beach Bum said...

Goatman: Yeah, Homeland Security is becoming quite the growth industry.

Chef: The Customs boys and girls more than slightly pissed me off with how they treated the workers. Dear God, someone could have easily messed with countless items causing all sorts of havoc, to be checking AFTER the cruise seemed a bit ridiculous. But I guess the bureaucrats are just practicing proportional ass covering.

Ranch: I wish like Hell it could have been a romance story. "Marta" was gorgeous but I figure my wife would have dumped me overboard as shark bait if I had tried anything. Not that Marta would have had anything to do with me, that lady was classy.

I know the cops catch utter Hell doing their job but I have never been a fan of the many overly obnoxious authoritarian types that seem to flock to that profession.

Mother T. No one, but I am open to dirty deeds done cheaply.

Liberality: Was looking over the assorted 400 pictures I took while on the trip and was highly disappointed. I figured I could ring out at least three posts but it looks now that I will get only one. As for stories they will have to ferment in my mind for a while.

Lies and damn lies are actually pretty hard to create.

Marja: What am I hiding? LOL!!! Now that is a story that will only come out long after I am dead.

Cloudia: It was AWESOME!

Steffi: Welcome and please come back! Cruising is very fun, its hard not to enjoy yourself while on one.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Let me know when you're ready to "cast", dude. I have this smokingly hot Guatemalan co-worker who I think would be purrrrrrrfect.

kate said...

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