Speedy Communication

December 1, 2008 -

John Heald

Good afternoon
Before we start today please join me in wishing Stephanie well. She will be going into the hospital for surgery tomorrow and we will all be thinking of her. Tom and Tony will continue to post comments and the blogs and although they are not as pretty as Stephanie, they will do well……actually Tom is quite good looking in a boyband sort of way.

Now I am going to admit something to you now which Heidi thinks I should not write about in case you all bugger off to another blog and never come back ……but I have decided to come clean and tell you all a secret I have been keeping from you……I like wearing women’s underwear …. kidding …………………..well…………only on Saturday’s…………….no, seriously……….I have to admit to you today …….I have a criminal record………….well………I nearly have one……let me explain.

As some of you may remember I left the Carnival Splendor with Heidi in October and had three nights at home before I headed to the States for my month of marketing thingies. Well, it was during these three days that my dastardly crime was committed. I have never been in trouble with the law before, unless you count the time Alan had has both arrested on holiday in Spain for peeing in a shop doorway.

My crime was committed in Southend on Sea as we went to visit my parents. A speed camera caught me on the Eastern Esplanade.

It clocked me at 39 miles an hour in a 30-mile zone. The UK has more speed cameras than anywhere else in Europe, there are hundreds of them and our idiot of a prime minister should have been able to beat the credit crunch with the revenue created from these cameras …..In 2007, £11.6 million was paid in fines captured by these bastard cameras.

OK, speed kills………well, actually, not stopping kills…..and I understand that people who drive to fast should be punished. However, they place the cameras behind trees and in areas that do not have speed control problems and are not accident black spots and the cameras are clearly placed there with one thing in mind…..to make money. Put them where they are needed…..in areas that are prone to accidents …… in school districts ….there are rumors that the government are going to put them on our driveways at home.

Now, I can’t divulge my feelings about American politics because I am not American and that’s not what this blog thingy is about. But being British I feel I have to right to say that Mr. Brown has the brain capacity of the lesser spotted Mongolian bog pig. His ideas have turned the UK into a country with more debt that Michael Jackson and Botswana combined.

Anyway, I digress……….”What a shocker,” I hear you cry……………..so back to the story.
The inevitable notice of prosecution and “hand over the money” demand landed on my doormat a couple of days later. He fine was £80 ($120) and three points on my license. The point system means that if you have 12 points on your driving licence, i.e. three speeding fines or other road offenses, and your licence is suspended for a year … and if that Scottish prat Gordon Brown has his way, you will also have a spike put up your bottom and be locked in the Tower of London.
Again…….I know we must obey the rules but when cameras are placed just to make money………….well, you can see why so many people creep out in the middle of the night and set fire to these cameras………I would never do that………..pour concrete over them maybe………….but fire can be dangerous.

So, there it was………..Three points and a fine – what a hassle, but wait, what was this? There was an alternative on offer.

If I agreed to attend a “Speed Awareness Scheme,” then I would not get three points or a fine. I’d still have to pay £15 for the course but I just had to turn up and listen “with a positive attitude” for four hours. I signed up and, today I set off for my “reprogramming” ……….I am Borg.

The session was in an anonymous industrial estate deep in the heart of Essex. It was like going back to school. We “offenders” parked up our lethal weapons and trudged towards the entrance like recalcitrant truants. There was a real random assortment of people – all classes and ages that would never normally be in a room together. Heidi has warned me not to be “smart ” and be the grey man……”Sit at the back and say nothing,” she said.

I had all intentions of doing just that but those intentions were tested right at the start when the instructor “Peter Edwards” walked in…..he had a beard…….of course he did …..and for some strange reason he was wearing one of those high visibility yellow jackets. Why would he wear one of these in the classroom?…….Was he concerned one of us wouldn’t see him in the brightly lit classroom? I resisted the urge to laugh and we got on with the class.

We were all very defensive, some sitting sulkily and others trying to appear relaxed. We were in the blandest of bland “classrooms” adorned with “speed kills” posters and posters advising us to take public transport in the form of buses and trains.

I was guessing we were going to be shown lots of photographs of dead children and mangled cars in an attempt to shock us into line. I was not unaware of the dangers that cars can pose, but this was hardly the traffic chaos that can be found in Beijing or Rome. This was Southend on Sea, for God’s sake.

We weren’t shown any horrid photos – in fact, it was a bit like one of those uber-dull Powerpoint presentations.

We had to guess where most collisions take place (in urban areas) and where most fatalities occur (rural roads). Motorways (freeways) it turns out are the safest of places to drive, with no head-on traffic (except when the occasional driver decides to go the wrong way) and little distraction, apart from the odd junction.

We were in the borderline offenders group (34-40mph in a 30-mile zone). Everyone felt it was ridiculous that we’d been done for such a trivial offense. This was the only issue that the day dealt with convincingly.

Eighty percent of people hit by a car doing 30 miles an hour survive. Fifty per cent survive being hit at 35 miles an hour, while only 10 per cent survive at 40 miles an hour.

There was also a very persuasive argument that going even two miles an hour faster has a far greater knock-on effect on braking distances than I would have thought.

Then, there was bit of propaganda on behalf of Essex Police and its defense of speed cameras. A large portion of the money raised from speeding fines is “ring-fenced” for road safety projects. I asked our teacher what the percentage was. This was not public knowledge, but he said that the treasury and the police, who get the rest, assured him it was a “significant” amount … yeah, right.

By now the end was in sight and everyone was relaxing.

“What’s a sign that there’s fog about?” asked teacher.

“We can’t see anything?” I suggested……………….”Class dismissed,” said Peter

I’m not sure how much good the session did us – I will watch my speed…………I have to ….. and as I drove home. I was thinking about everything Peter the Beard had taught me but then nearly hit a chap on a bike while doing so.

I think I need a chauffeur – anyone interested, apply here

A thank you once more for all the extraordinary comments, criticisms and suggestions that have come to the blog thingy. Your participation gladdens my heart inexpressibly. We are working on the look and feel of the blog pages all the time thanks to the brilliant work of Stephanie, Jordan, Tom, Tony, Walter and the team they make it possible that all the 3.4 million readers who have wiped their feet on its doorstep in the past 18 months have a great site to visit. Many thanks to all of you: you are very, very welcome and I will be answering comments tomorrow. Thanks also for the day off today and you will be glad to know the Imodium has worked its magic.

Many of you have been asking for information about our blogger’s cruises, so here is Stephanie with some information.

Hi Everyone,

On Saturday, 12/6 at Noon (12 pm) EST we will be posting a registration form for the New Orleans charity event. Please note that due to volunteer organization requirements we will be restricted to 100 volunteers. The registration form will also ask if you will be needing transportation to the charity event. We look forward to seeing you in a few months (2 1/2 to be exact!)

Now, for the Nov. 15 and Dec. 3 blogger’s cruise sailings, please note that they both have the same farecode: PBL. This farecode is required to receive the special give-a-ways and ensures you are invitied to all the special onboard activties.

If anyone has any questions just submit a comment and mark it with “please reply”.

Thanks and have a great day!

Many years ago, when answer phones first became commonplace, my Mum was supposed to make a duty visit to some friends.

She dialed his number, and when she heard his recorded greeting she grinned with relief before rearranging her features so that they would convey suitable disappointment for the message she was about to leave: “I’m so sorry you’re not there,” she lied, “We were hoping to pop in for a cup of tea. Never mind, we’ll have to make it another time.” Then, with the active handset still in her hand, she said, “He’s not there, thank God. We’ve got the afternoon to ourselves.” These charming words were, of course, preserved on the machine.

The mixed blessing of the answer phone has been on my mind since I recently changed to my new Nokia Crap600. It hasn’t been an unbridled success. The new phone has terrific coverage everywhere except within a five-mile radius of my home. Ring me there, and I have to go outside, stand in the road and swirl the handset around like a Bon Jovi fan waving a Zippo lighter, in the hope of catching a signal.

So uncertain have I been of the future of our working relationship that I have only given the new number to people on a need-to-know basis. But I didn’t really think about what would happen when people dialled the old one. I suppose, much as a toddler thinks they’re invisible if they cover their eyes, I imagined that by putting it in a drawer, everyone would know not to ring it.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my bank last week complained that they couldn’t get hold of me. My old phone, it transpired, was still diligently taking messages for me, in the vain hope that I might remember the good times and give the old faithful another go. When I switched it on for the first time in months, it vomited forth a narrative of frustration from companies, delivery men and friends, all unable to fathom why I wouldn’t return their calls. All that was lacking was the missed call of one’s dreams.

In an ideal world, everyone should have a defunct phone, to help them explain life’s niggling disappointments: I’m not in Hollywood, because I missed the call from Spielberg. It’s not due to lack of talent or ambition, it’s because I never worked out how to transfer voice messages.

That’s why I’ve never had dinner with Brad and Angelina and why I missed out on rumpy pumpy with Jessica Simpson and why no one’s yet asked me to turn the blog thingy into a comedy hit. Then, of course, there is the wrong number syndrome which, coupled with the answering machine, is a recipe for disaster……look at what happened to my mate Danny’s wife Nadia.

She received along, tearful message that sounded as though it came from a teenage girl. The caller had decided to admit to her best friend she was gay, and hoped for more than just friendship. It had clearly taken a huge amount of courage – and probably alcohol – to steel herself to call. And she’d left it on the wrong phone. Did she ever confront the friend for not responding? Are they together now, or doomed to a lifetime apart …. simply because she called the wrong number.

Talking of cell phones, I guess it had to happen. I have been talking to some of my fellow cruise directors who have told me that they have now added something to their pre show announcements……..please turn off your cell phones and two-way radios ………………… who would have thought that this would ever happen?

It’s great that Carnival ships now have cell phone coverage whether you are at sea or in port and most people don’t carry them the entire time they are on the ship. But some do. I have been in a situation where I have been in the middle of a show when that cell phone rings. I remember once when it happened that I actually asked the chap whose phone it was to me on stage and I had a full on conversation with his business partner back in the States.

Communication onboard has never been better with not only cell phone coverage but wireless Internet thingy ship wide and of course Internet cafe’s for staying in touch with your e-mail and favorite blog. It may be a little expensive now, but as months pass I am sure improvements will be made and prices will come down and that goes for the direct dialing phone calls available from every cabin. Gone are the days when guests and crew used to have to wait until reaching port where lines would form at the pay phones and calling centers as people tried to contact their family and friends.

Actually….and please don’t tell anyone this……..I miss those days. When the ship reached port, the captain and senior officers had to go to our port agent’s office and once a cruise we would check in with the office in Miami. Most of the time though any decisions were made onboard and, because of the lack of onboard communication, we usually asked for forgiveness rather than permission. Yes, we had the radio rooms where for $3 billion dollars a minute you called the high seas operator who would connect you……..but the line was always full of hiss and static.

Nowadays the office can call you directly into the cabin, e-mail you and now we have shipboard cellular phones which Mr. Boss can also call you at. I even have a phone in my cabin bathroom which means I can talk to Carnival executives while doing my number two’s. Yep, communication has never been better and as much as it can be annoying that the office can call me even during the most intimate of times…..it’s great that I can call them and, of course, Heidi and the family whenever I want.

There is one form of communication that really gets on my nerves ……those Motorola two-way radios that everyone buys from Brookstones and have a radius of about 50 feet. They do however make the most annoying “weebeee” sound when people try and contact you and that sound has echoed around our show rooms during the last few years. One time, a guest had one and it was doing its “weebee” noise throughout my Marriage Show. So, I asked him who he was on the radio with……..he said his wife……now I thought that his wife was by the pool or in the cabin……nope…….she was in the balcony watching the show.

So……they were both watching the show and talking to each other while it was going on. Well, obviously they became the center of my attention much to the enjoyment of the 800-plus watching. I then had an idea…….I asked the lady to bring her radio to the stage. She did and while she was doing so I grabbed the husband’s radio, some gaffer tape from backstage and enlisted the help of Stephanie, the assistant CD.

I waited for Stephanie to carry out her instructions and then explained to the bemused audience that Stephanie had taped the radio under the lid of the toilet seat in the ladies bathroom just outside the theater and that she had placed an out of order sign on two of the three stalls. I then carried on with the show watching all the time for a lady who had not been at the show to go in. I didn’t have to wait very long as from the lobby walked a guest into the bathroom.

Waiting a few moments for the lady to get comfortable I got on the other radio and remembering that a lady is sitting on the toilet with a walkie talkie taped underneath her I said……”Hey lady….do you mind……..we’re painting down here?”

Your friends
John and Heidi

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.