Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Travel does not bring out the best in people. The first really big vacation Beaven and I took was to Alaska. We kept adding and adding options until the trip was far more complicated than usual. It had a whopping twelve days in Alaska, including five days in the interior and seven days on a cruise at sea. We were thrown together with 1,200 strangers who were, to put it mildly, pretty strange. By the time the trip was over we had been on a crowded bus over 20 times as well as a train, trolley, tram, ocean liner, kayak, raft, motor boat, canoe, and a helicopter. Yes. Let’s all go on vacation and REELAAX.
The first day I was ready to throw Beaven overboard. The second day I wanted to sink the ship and all 1,200 people I was travelling with. By the last day, I was ready to jump into the ocean myself.
Part of our trip was two days on the train. Beaven loves trains. We were looking forward to this being the highlight of the trip; a quiet and peaceful ride through beautiful scenery. Wrong. A woman we later dubbed the “Moose Lady” sat three rows back. But her voice projected so well that we could have sworn she was directly behind us. Not only was she loud; she had a grating accent that was part screech and part nasal and a whole lot New York. Moose Lady carried on a four-hour non-stop monologue of moose jokes. In between the jokes, she would call out the window “Here, moosie, moosie, moosie!”
We knew that the following day we would get back on the train for not four, but eight hours. The thought of repeating another day with the Moose Lady sent us into earnest prayer. Knowing what a sense of humor God has, I was not surprised to see the Moose Lady gone the next day and replaced by the Cackler.
The Cackler had a laugh that was even louder than the Moose Lady. Where the Moose Lady depended on projection, the Gackler went for sheer volume. Instead of dumb moose jokes we were treated to every detail of every member of her family’s life. A lot of details I didn’t need to know. As interesting as it was, it was distracting. The conductor finally asked her to hush.
Another one of my prayers that God apparently got a laugh out of was that we would have quiet dinner partners on the ship. I knew we would probably be assigned to a table for eight for the entire cruise. I didn’t really want to spend my time with a bunch of loudmouths telling me how smart or successful they are. Instead, we ended up at a tiny table for four with a very nice but boring couple. The most interesting conversation we had was his story about installing gutters. I almost fell asleep in my Baked Alaska several times.
The trip did include one of the most awesome things I’ve ever done in my life. It was a flight on a helicopter to a glacier. The glacier itself was surreal. It reminded me of what the moon must be like. The surface was total deserted and gray from pollution but had deep, frightening cracks that went God Only Knows how deep. And inside the cracks was a gorgeous azure blue. This was a popular spot for tours so it looked like the opening scene from MASH with helicopters coming and going. And the flight in the helicopter to get to and from the glacier was a carnival ride in itself. I was a little distracted however because I was scared to death of the height to start with and couldn’t stop noticing how young the pilot looked. I’ll bet the guy wasn’t a day over 14. I kept watching his face for any sign that he was old enough to shave. I kept thinking “Please, dear God, just a little stubble on the chin.”
On Sunday, the last day of the cruise, there was a worship service on board the ship. I figured there might be maybe 12 people, thinking most people aboard were shallow and materialistic and not interested in worshipping God in the slightest. I was surprised to see the room filled to its 200 capacity.
As we stood and sang the first hymn, I became aware of the gentle motion of the ship beneath my feet. I was reminded of how vast and powerful the ocean is compared to even a huge boat like ours. This ship was over 10 stories high-a regular floating hotel. Yet the ocean was bobbing it around like a cork. Then I looked around at the people in the room with me and realized, “We are all in the same boat together.”
This included the couple at dinner who didn’t meet my standards for conversation; it included the Cackler and yes, even the Moose Lady. We are all in the same boat together. Even on dry land.