Laughter and Tears

February 20, 2009 -

John Heald

When my great friend and colleague Stephanie Leavitt told me she had started me a Facebook page thingy my only worry was that someone might post a photo of me naked with a rose sticking out of my bottom, with a pencil up my nose. Or that an ex-girlfriend would tell the world that my thingy was the size of a baby carrot.

However as I got dressed this morning CNN told me that there are apparently more formidable risks attached to social networking on Facebook, MySpace and Titter ……….. Totter or whatever it’s called.

CNN showed a psychologist Dr Aric Sigman who blames social networking for, including narrow arteries, heart disease, cancer, genetic alterations, dementia – and death.
So, as I have 1,500 Facebook friends and write a blog everyday ……………. goodbye.
Your friend
John

But, as Monty Python said in the Holy Grail………….”I’m not dead yet………I feel happy.”

Dr. Sigman who indeed does have a beard said his research links isolation and the lack of face-to-face contact with health problems, but does not appear to prove that the likes of Facebook are causing that isolation in the first place. He stated that these online thingies cause people not to exercise and eat healthy, etc. etc. and thus they are directly to blame for serious medical conditions.

Well, my first thought was to say bollocks to Doctor Beardy and then I gave it some more thought and I guess he may have a point all be it a weak one. But, if social networks can’t be blamed for causing actual death, what about the social death meted out to anyone whose “clicks, slaps or pokes” on a Facebook page go cruelly unreciprocated, or who’s dumped by their partner using a little cracked heart icon changing their relationship status to single?

On the face of it, Facebook is a cruel, public arena in which friends, family and colleagues can spread gossip and tell the world that you like to dress in women’s clothes and on Thursdays you feature as drag act called Easy Elsie down the local bar. A bitchy remark that once might have been whispered behind backs suddenly carries an electronic legacy that could I guess hurt someone immensely.

Facebook – sign in, tap away, update your status, write on a wall thingy, upload some photos, zap a few friends off your list, click, click, click – encourages impulsive, even reckless behavior. The cold light of day is no use if the night before while drunk you informed your entire circle of friends that one of them had rumpy pumpy with Judge Judy.

And yet, for all of this, I can’t help but feel that the problem isn’t Facebook or Twitter – it’s us. Social networks are the medium, not the message. If we care about our friends and are sensitive towards their feelings in the real world, this will be reflected online. If someone on your friend list drops you, you have to ask: do you want to be associated with them in the first place?

So, here’s a message for Dr. Beardy Sigman and your message of sickness and death. The new era of ever-present electronic relationships may not be without its pitfalls, but as far as this blog thingy goes……… It warms my heart ………not stops it.

Now, just in case some of you may have missed the big news about the House Party events in yesterday’s blog, here is the information once again.

In partnership with House Party, we’re bringing the fun of a Carnival cruise to selected living rooms across the US with an event we’re calling Carnival Sunday Fun Day taking place March 29, 2009.

Just click on the invitation to apply to be a host…remember, space is limited.

Once selected, hosts will receive the Carnival Fun Kit which contains all the necessary goodies to recreate the fun of a Carnival cruise in their own home.

Hosts will use the House Party website to send invitations and download games, activities and recipes for their Carnival Sunday Fun Day.

Good luck!

Please click on the invitation below or on the side of the blog to apply.

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Now, I wish all of you will be chosen to host one of these special parties but unfortunately I don’t know if that will be possible. However, I have told my friends at Carnival that there is nobody better to do this than my blogging family so go on ………….. register and hopefully you will be chosen. Good Luck.

I want to introduce you to the amazing work of Barb Harmon who made this incredible quilt for Heidi and I.

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Thank you is just not enough. So many of you have spoiled us and we can never repay you.

So, this morning at 8 am I was on Lido Deck watching the ship arrive into Cozumel, Mexico and my invisible status allowed me to listen to a conversation. You know, I often have dreams about being invisible most of which involve me being in Angelina Jolie’s bedroom.

Anyway, these past six days as most of the guests don’t know me I have in a way been invisible and that’s been wonderful. I have heard people tell each other what they have enjoyed and how brilliant the crew are, etc., as well as being able to witness a kid throwing a piece of melon at his Mum and seeing first hand the rudeness of Mr. Bacon and his orange juice demands.

This morning though I heard a different kind of conversation and one that had me taking off my invisible cloak and talking to the guest. Two guests in their 50’s sat nursing their cup of coffee both looked a bit sad but as I munched on my bagel and cream cheese I thought little of it. I began to concentrate on my raspberry which annoyingly for the last two days in Roatan and Belize had bugger all reception. Now in Cozumel, the raspberry was working overtime and showed that I had 56 e-mails to catch up on. I hated being out of communication with Heidi. I am not in the CD cabin until Sunday and therefore don’t have full use of the phone and the computer yet.

Anyway, I started to read the emails including one from Heidi which had me worried because she had been to the doctor as her wrist was hurting her and he in turn had sent her to the hospital for an X-ray…………..you can imagine how that made me feel and I was just about to go to the CD cabin to use the phone when I heard sobbing from the table where the 50-something coffee drinkers sat.

I watched them for a few moments as did the many other guests on Lido yet nobody said or did anything and most just kept their eyes down on their breakfast plates.

Now ………. I must admit I got up and started walking away anxious to call Heidi but then I realized I had to see if I could help and I turned back ……..introduced myself and sat down with Ben and Martha from a place called Traverse City, Michigan. ………..and today they are flying home from Cozumel to be with their son who was seriously burned in an industrial accident at work……….he is 24 years old.

And there I sat for the next two hours, listening and talking and looking at a photo of Ben Jr. who was in a special burns unit and in a serious condition. Ben Sr told me how wonderful the guest services department (pursers) had been arranging everything but now this was the worst part………..waiting for their afternoon flight home and the fact that after connections they wouldn’t be able to be with him until late tonight. It was then that Martha started to cry hysterically, so much so that I considered calling the doctor to come.

However, as the comforting arms of her husband enveloped her she calmed down a little. I looked around me and saw families and friends having fun, enjoying their breakfast excited about the day ahead exploring Cozumel, yet here was a couple whose vacation ended suddenly and tragically. Eventually Ben and Martha left to go to their cabin and I walked with them. I gave them my business card and asked that they e-mail me to let me know how their son does and after a handshake and a hug I left feeling totally drained. I hope they do let me know how Ben Jr. does but I doubt they will as they will have far more important things on their mind. However, I hope that me being with them this morning helped them get through these hours waiting to board their flight and I already know that Ben Jr and his parents will be in your thoughts tonight.

Now, as far as Heidi is concerned……….well she has something which is common in pregnant women where water retention softens the bones. The doctor told her that some have it in their legs and feet and she has it in her wrist. So, she has some cream and they gave her an arm brace and sling to wear which she says makes her wrist feel much better. I already have bollocked her about doing too much and that as we pay for a cleaner to look after the house if I see a duster or a vacuum in her hand I will put itching powder in her knickers. I also feel totally guilty that I am not there to look after her.

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As you can see from those photos we are in Cozumel………me and 10,000 cruise ship guests. We are joined by the Costa Fortuna, Holland America’s Westerdam, a NCL ship……I have no idea which one as apparently Walt Disney vomited over the hull which is now covered in obscure colours and The Ihavebeensittingherewatchingtheshipdockednexttousandnobuggerhasusedtheclimbingwallinthreehours of the Seas.

Wow, how Cozumel has changed since I was first here 20 years ago. As I sit here at 3:30 pm the guests are returning from their excursions, some from the mainland and the Mayan ruins of Tulum. They are returning by a jet boat which is also a big difference from the old ferries we used to use and back in the early nineties I had a trip to the mainland that I would never forget.

I was an assistant bar manager on the Holiday and myself and a few pals were going to go and see Tulum. The day before I’d had a delicious meal of goat curry cooked by the chefs and shared with the dining room staff and management. As curries are wont to do, this one was lingering. But still, it was only a curry. I can handle a curry. So off I went to the ferry.

Now, back then, I’ll admit, ships and I didn’t always get on. It was the up and down, you see, and the side to side and even though it was my second year working for Carnival, I was still getting used to the movements……. But I was dealing with both until the curry got involved.

Just as the boat left the pier it performed an enthusiastic lurch to the left, followed by a compensatory whoops to the right, my stomach made it known that something was amiss.

The lavatories were at the side of the boat, just so you wouldn’t be denied the full rollercoaster effect if you happened to be indisposed for a moment. I entered at a fair rate, dived into a cubicle and felt the blessed thrill of release. I breathed a sigh of relief. Which was my first mistake. That breath told me two things. First, these toilets were none too well ventilated, and second, they were none too well cleaned. They stank of many days’ of continual use, by many people – not all of them well. I did what all hardened travelers would do, and retched.

It was then a simple race between me and the contents of my stomach. And while the contents of my stomach only had a foot or so to go to reach the finish line, I had to grasp and secure my shorts, unlock a door and make it to the sinks across the bathroom.

I won. Just. But the effort involved had triggered something downstairs, so I just needed to pop back to the cubicle and… oooh……….my arse looked like a chewed orange

This wasn’t fun. Still, at least the ferry had stopped rolling all over the plaaa… Oh hell. Quick, where’s the sink?

I’ll spare you the rest. If this were a movie, you’d fade to black, and then rejoin me, wrapped around the toilet bowl. Sobbing. At some point, I had lost a race and was now wearing my curry. I had, in fact, given up on races altogether and had spent an hour and a half locked in my cubicle, alternating between vomiting and… Something else, worse.

Toward the end, with no liquid left in my body save my own blood, I had retched, dryly, for nearly two minutes, totally unable to draw in a saving breath. To anyone unfortunate enough to be watching this movie, it would have looked as if I were trying to expel my toes through my mouth, such was the force of that desperate but empty barf.

Finally, as I accepted this was to be my legacy, that this was how I was going to be found – dead, half-naked on a toilet floor and covered in something that might once have been curry – I heard a blast on a horn ………I had arrived, alive, in Playa Del Carmen.

I had stared death in the face and it had stared back – confused as to why it was meeting me half-naked and covered in curry – and had turned, at the last minute and buggered off.

I got gingerly to my feet, abandoned my T-shirt and made my way off the ferry wrapped in a Carnival towel to join the Food Asst. Managers Alan Ainsworth and Brynn Roberts, already dreading the trip back and seriously considering sacrificing myself in a Mayan temple. As I walked up to my mates, Alan turned and said: “Oh, there you are. You look rough. Anyway, we’re off for something to eat………fancy some Fajitas?”

Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy.

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.