3 Hour Tour – LP Snyder

Then I heard it, a faint rumble of thunder in the distance. The sky was blue and the sea was calm. But there was something out there. Now it was a matter of time. The sky darkened. A cloudbank had formed and blocked out the sun. People were able to spread out on the decks again and move back to their seats. The PA came on, “The ship says they are headed our way. It shouldn’t be long now.” Jamal looked at me and asked, “You believe them?” “I hope so.” “It does look like it could storm,” threw out Mike as he looked to the horizon. “It could, or it could pass us by, or dissipate. Hopefully the launch will be here soon,” I answered. The sky grew darker, and a small breeze picked up. The waves formed a light chop.

We drifted faster. People moved back under the canopies and closer together. Everyone buckled in and adjusted their life vests. “I don’t think they’re going to get here,” said Angelic. Keno nodded and said, “Something is not right.” “We don’t know what kind of storm it is, if any,” I said. “It could be wind, it could be light rain, maybe a few waves, we don’t know.” “But we do know that it’s going to be dark soon,” replied Mike. I looked at him and nodded. I pulled my scope and scanned the horizon again.

I couldn’t see anything but an approaching storm. I held the scope across my leg. “The storm is coming. I can see it on the horizon.” We were in the back third of the launch, well under the canopy, in as good a place as any. If we got swamped, we should get out. If we got flipped, it might be tougher. People were milling around now. Nothing came from the PA. The crewmen were watching the sky.

Lightning crackled, and after a long pause, the thunder rumbled. The storm was here. PART I THE 1ST HOUR THE CRUISE Six Days Earlier That’s a big boat. I guess they don’t call it a boat, they probably call it a ship, I thought to myself as the cab stopped at the dock. I was taking a cruise on my own for the first time. I decided on the spur of the moment to do something new, different, have fun in a new way. I love the water, especially the Pacific, and I love boats, but then this is a ship, and I don’t know much about ships! My first cruise was a three day thing that wasn’t much bigger than a houseboat. I’ve spent most of my time around the Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, mostly Key West. But, I have a special relationship with Hawaii. I spent several years there while growing up.

I want to see Hawaii again. I want to see Tahiti and Fiji and the South Pacific! I paid the driver, retrieved my luggage, and started toward the end of the long line that had already formed. It was five in the morning at the port of Los Angeles. It was warm and promised to get hotter. It was late summer or early fall. It’s hard to tell in LA, the weather doesn’t seem that different from season to season. I flew into town the afternoon before, had dinner on the strip. I’m from Nashville, Tennessee, and involved in the music industry. No, it’s nothing like that. I’m an accountant, not a singer.

I look after other people’s money, country music stars, and people in the industry. The public doesn’t generally realize there’s a lot of different music in Nashville, not just country music. The city is full of top-ranked musical talent. Everybody that lives there plays or sings or plays like they do. Anyway, I’m around famous people on a regular basis, so LA’s crowd doesn’t really impact me, and I’m a pretty low key guy anyway, being an accountant. I queued up at the back of the line. That morning I dressed casually and resisted the urge to wear a Hawaiian print shirt. Looking ahead of me there were people of all ages, sizes, and colors in the line. This promised to be interesting! As we crawled forward, I remembered someone at the office told me an 8-day cruise is really a 6-day cruise. You should always subtract two days off of the brochure because you spend a day at the dock boarding before you leave, and a day at the dock deboarding when you return.

That same person told me that a cruise was really just a big floating buffet. If I get hungry, I guess I’ll be okay. I looked back at the line of people working their way to the check-in. Ahead of me was a younger woman in short shorts and flip flops standing next to an older man in a navy blazer and boat shoes. This must be an equal opportunity cruise. I say that only in jest. You see, I’m also the human resource guy where I work. A few years ago, in a costcutting move—an accountant is only dangerous with a pencil—the company combined the HR function with the business and accounting functions. I earned a certification in HR, as well as the one I have in accounting. So, I’m a CPA and an SPHR.

Yes, I’m a double threat. You can stop laughing now! It really was my job, and I was looking forward to taking a break and going on this cruise. THE LİNE MOVED SLOWLY, and the sun got higher, and the temperature and the tempers got hotter. People were muttering and stomping their feet. I detached myself by studying the harbor, the dock, the ship, anything but the line. As I looked back to shore, a black limo pulled onto the dock. It was three extensions long. I wondered how the driver negotiated some of the turns into the port. The car stopped. The doors opened, and three big, burly men in suits stepped out.

They were followed by three women and a silver-haired older man. Based on his uniform, an officer from the ship, hurried up to them. His cap had enough macaroni on it to remind me of the pasta bar at an Italian restaurant. There were all sorts of stripes and markings on his jacket and shoulders. The officer extended an arm as if to indicate direction. He turned, and the group fell in behind him. They started down the dock. The back of the line was the other way. The silver-haired man was in front. He was flanked slightly back and behind by two of the blondes.

They were tall and thin with slender shoulders and big feet. They were wrapped in designer high fashion and skinny heels. Those three were followed by the remaining blonde, similarly attired, followed by the burly men in suits. They made a big wedge moving down the dock. I looked past them and down the way, where there was an elevator tower like you might see on a construction site. It ran upward for six stories, halfway up the ship. They boarded the elevator from the dock and ascended to the summit. Several other people had noticed the group as well. I overheard, “who was that,” and “apparently not everyone has to stand in line.” I grinned and thought to myself, somebody’s always got a backstage pass.

I MADE it to the front of the line. “May I see your ticket?” the attractive young woman asked. Smiling in return, I showed her my copies. She validated them and gave me a cabin assignment. Like I said, I wanted to enjoy this cruise so I reached deep in my pockets and paid for an upper deck, exterior cabin with a small balcony on the starboard side of the ship. Now if I could just find it. Walking along, trying not to run into anyone, I glanced around the ship. I was inside a large atrium, and I could see multiple decks. Looking at my phone I tried to find the way to my cabin. Struggling for a moment I decided just to stroll.

My luggage was checked, and I only had my shoulder bag. I was going to relax. Climbing a deck I went back into the sunshine. There was a beautiful view of the harbor, but I hoped we would be leaving soon. Moving slowly, I soaked up the fact that I was off work, letting that relaxation seep all over my body. Walking on I saw one of the pools and a little beyond, a shopping arcade. There was a bowling alley, followed by a movie theater, another pool, a casino, and several gyms. At least I could get some exercise. No shortage of things to do, but there’d be no time for taking it easy. I hoped to spend some time on the water, feeling the breeze and the sun, no problems, no worries, and no work! Walking further, I stopped and sat in a lounge chair overlooking the pool.

I immediately heard, “Can I get you something to drink, sir?” Oh, yeah. I paused to think, before I said, “A beer—tall, cold?” The steward nodded and disappeared. Sitting and waiting I looked through the information the concierge had provided. There were all kinds of shows, spas, casino activities, and then tours and excursions. I’d been an open water scuba diver for several years, with over fifty dives. A couple of the early ones had been in Hawaii. I was anxious to get back in the water, there, and to dive Tahiti and Fiji and points in-between. Dives were almost daily, out islands, parasailing, kayaking, board paddling, snorkeling, and windsurfing. I might sign up for at least one of everything, and more if I liked it! My beer arrived. I sat, sipped, and enjoyed the view around the pool and out to sea.

Sitting the empty glass down, I went to find my cabin. Studying the map I had a good idea of how to get there. It was a couple of decks away, but I found the entrance, ambled down the hall, read the numbers on the doors and there it was! I entered my code, and the door swung open. Nice, tidy, and a little tight, no wasted space, but I only planned to sleep there. Walking to the sliding door, and opening it, I stepped onto the patio. That’s what I’m talking about. What a view! High on the ship, a close look to the front and a long way to the back, fore and aft, I suppose. After seeing this, the boats we ran around the lakes on in Nashville just weren’t big enough. I pulled out a deck chair and propped up my feet. 2 STROLL AND MEET After unpacking and stowing my gear, I set out to sightsee and find some dinner.

I knew we were departing late in the afternoon, and it appeared preparations were underway. Strolling to the port side of the ship I noted there was no longer a line or anyone frantically trying to check-in. It was an empty dock in the sunny late afternoon. The pace had slowed considerably. As I stood there watching, a couple walked by me and nodded. They stopped just down the railing. He was a tall, dark-skinned, African American man. He was a good looking guy, but in that ordinary guy kind of way. I identify with that because I’m pretty ordinary myself. Anyway, she was stunning! She was slender but shapely with thick, dark curly-ringed hair halfway down her back.

She had a wrap around her legs and a scooped neck pullover that revealed and flattered her neck and upper chest. She had big dark eyes, a bright smile, and was laughing at something he said. I saw all that because she was pointed in my direction. I was glad he had his back to me, so he wouldn’t see me drool, which I was about to do. She looked like a young Chaka Khan. I expect she knew it. She radiated beauty and presence. I couldn’t help but hear them talk. The man said something about dinner and where to look, which deck, which dining room, too many choices. He turned partially in my direction and nodded again.

I smiled. “This is my second cruise. But I don’t have any idea which dining room or what deck. I am so lost.” I shrugged. She giggled, he looked down. “We were just having that same conversation.” She stepped across and held out her hand before saying, “I’m Angelic Jones!” And she was angelic, if you will. I took her hand and shook it quickly. “I’m Dee Sanders, very nice to meet you.

” So as not to make him mad, I turned and held out my hand and nodded again. “Dee.” “Jamal Jones,” he replied and nearly crushed my hand. That man had a grip, and I noticed facing him straight on, quite a set of shoulders. Was he a pro athlete, bodybuilder, workout freak? I thought, I don’t want to be on his bad side. Then he smiled and said, “Sorry, I work in a corporate environment, and they’re always big on playing who’s got the strongest grip.” “I’d say you win most of those,” I replied and pulled my hand away. Angelic tapped him on the shoulder. “Jamal, let the man alone.” She smiled.

“We’re thinking about trying to pick out a café, would you like to join us?” He grinned back at me and released my hand. “You like steak?” “Who doesn’t?” We stepped from the rail and turned. Angelic spoke up, “I think there’s a small café and bar on the next deck. It should have a nice view, and we can order off the menu.” We sat at a small round top and ordered one of the best steaks I’d ever eaten. It was simple, well-cooked, with a potato, a salad, and wine. Angelic sat with her back to the windows, and as the ship pulled from the dock, the light silhouetted her, and she was beautiful. I could see the way Jamal looked at her and how they quietly held hands while we talked. A happy couple, no doubt, at least today. Angelic asked, “I ‘m just nosy, what do you do for a living?” “I’m an accountant and an HR guy.

I’m taking a little time off.” “Us to,” replied Jamal. “Angelic is an oncology nurse, and I own and operate a corporate fitness and wellness center. We needed to get away.” “Where y’all from?” I asked. They both laughed. “The south, just like you,” replied Angelic while Jamal grinned. “We’re from Atlanta, what about you?” “Nashville.” “Country music?” asked Jamal. “Only the money, not the music.

” “You mean you don’t like country music,” prodded Jamal. “Of course I like it, you can’t live there and not like it. I just meant I don’t make music, I just count the money for those that do.” They both grinned. Jamal tented his fingers and began,” I help fat, out of shape, overworked and overfed but undernourished executives of both sexes to try and hold down their blood pressure.” Angelic grinned. “I’m just a caregiver!” Jamal jumped in, “She’s a nurse practitioner in Oncology, they have a huge practice and a lot of sick folks. It’s sad to see them.” He continued, “We decided on a cruise because we’d never done one before. I’m not sure how I’m going to like it.

Why did you pick a cruise?” “Same as y’all, I wanted to try something different. Do you scuba?” “Only once in a pool in the Caribbean.” Angelic laughed as she said, “Jamal almost drowned, he really doesn’t like the water. I can’t believe I got him out here!” WE SAT for a few moments and watched the sea and the sky. “You ever do any of that ancestry stuff?” I asked. She grinned. “No, but I’m mixed French and Moroccan.” I looked at Jamal. “I’m just a brother from south Georgia,” he replied and laughed. “Middle Tennessee, outside Nashville, a veterinarian would call me an NPB.

” They both looked at me, and Angelic started to giggle. “No particular breed, a little bit of a lot of things, I guess.” We all laughed. AND ON WE went like that for another hour. I glanced beyond Angelic, and we were well out to sea, surrounded by water. It was growing a little dusky. I looked at both of them and said, “Well, I think it’s time for a walk around the deck and a sunset. Since that sounds so romantic, I believe I’ll let y’all do that on your own.” Angelic winked at me, and Jamal bumped me on the shoulder as he got up. We traded room numbers and made plans for the next day.

I waved goodbye as they moved out of the café and on around the deck. I watched them walk away and felt happy for them. I did feel a little bit alone at that moment, but I came on vacation by myself for a reason. It was a good reason.

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