“If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.” _ Charles Dickens
“I’ll probably just stay in my room most of the time, checking on my Blackberry.” Those were among the first words Karen and I heard that morning from Jeremy. We didn’t know his name then; we’d hear it later.We’d sat beside him at our hotel in Fort Lauderdale, and an older woman who turned out to be his mother, in the hotel breakfast room.
The reason we noticed him was because he was being so rude to his mother. She was asking his work, his life, just generally trying to make conversation. Every response was short – most were nasty. That’s a good word for him – nasty. He was bald and bored and just generally sour on life, Through it all, she stayed upbeat and engaging toward him.
Not that it mattered. As the morning proceeded, we’d see the rest of his family – his father also was kind of a tool. His brothers, on the other hand, were pretty friendly. One was married to a woman I called Megan, because she resembled a not-as-pretty Megan Draper (from Mad Men). My first impression of her wasn’t great. She was yelling at her small kids (hey, not judging, I’ve been there). Another brother and his girlfriend seemed pretty friendly. The third brother obviously was the favorite uncle – Megan’s kids absolutely loved him.
Anyway, we had worked up a pretty strong dislike for Jeremy. And of course he and his family came back down to the lobby to catch the same shuttle for the port that we did. Our only hope: There were two ships leaving that morning. We hoped against hope they were getting on the other. They weren’t. We saw them every day on the cruise, from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman to Ocho Rios, Jamaica. For the most part, our first impressions held true. Megan and I got to the point where we frequently acknowledged one another. She was much nicer on the boat.
So much for the bad, let’s move on to the ugly and good people we met (or saw) on board.
“I thought the two ugly ones were sisters, but they got very insulted when I asked them. You could tell neither one of them wanted to look like the other one, and you couldn’t blame them, but it was very amusing anyway.” _ J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
These folks weren’t so physically ugly – not that I judge. But these are the folks I didn’t care so much for:
- Carl and Victoria. They were from Wisconsin. Which isn’t bad in itself. They were Packers fans. Which isn’t bad in itself. They were seated with us one night for dinner. Carl – Karen first thought he said His Name Was Earl – looked like Jim Valvano with a mullet. (Karen will tell you it wasn’t a mullet, but I’m telling the story so I say it was.) Carl wasn’t a bad guy – he just talked all the time. He talked about sports all the time.
- Bald Elvis. I’d seen – and disliked – this guy around the ship. But I really developed a huge dislike of him during the ship talent show. It turns out he was from Vegas, and he came prepared with a sound system/light show. Here’s what really turned me off: He sang a “Dixie/Glory Glory Hallelujah” medley (yes, I know the King himself sang it). With the hand movements and the crouch and it just turned me off. At the end, I wouldn’t clap for him. Karen asked why and I told her: “I don’t clap for Dixie.”
- Bernadine and Crystal. I didn’t actually know their names, nor do I want to. Bernadine was this woman who rode on the shuttle from the port to the airport. Why’d I dislike her? She stayed on the phone, talking oh-so-loudly, the whole way. But she actually wasn’t anywhere as bad as Crystal, who was from Birmingham. Who was on our plane. She sat a row over and one up from us. At one point she was talking about – and I swear I’m not making this up – the Dalai Lama. She said he was from TIE-bet. ’nuff said.
“Good looking people turn me off. Myself included.” _ Patrick Swayze
Here’s the thing, though. We met a ton of really good folks on the trip. Some really quick descriptions:
- Austin and Linda. We were seated with them the first night for dinner. Austin had just graduated from Ohio State and was headed to Lexington, Ky., to sell Triscuits. He was a really nice, good-looking kid. Linda was his grandmother. They were traveling together, staying in the same cabin. He said it worked out because she was sleeping while he was out and he was sleeping while she was out.
- The Swimmer Girls. They were from Chicago and swam competitively at the University of Nebraska. They weren’t sisters but resembled one another. They were traveling with one’s parents. The dad told us they’d swum against one another throughout their adolescence and decided to both go to Nebraska and room together. They were pretty cool.
- Brad and Geri. They were married and lived in Phoenix. We ate with them the same night we were with Earl and Victoria. (To be honest, they saved the night.) He was a concrete contractor from Chicago; she worked for a REIT. They met through online dating.
- Vin and Kaley. We didn’t know their names. But he was a bald bodybuilder type (resembling Vin Diesel) and she was a cute blonde (resembling Kaley Cuoco. We’d noticed them because of their little boys, who were rough 2 and 4 years old. Frankly, they were running Kaley ragged. They lived in Fort Lauderdale, where she’d gone from dancer (pre-kids) to marketer for an arts venue. They sat beside us at the talent show. We liked them a lot, but Kaley looked increasingly ragged as the cruise continued. (We’ve been there.)
- Nick and Kelly. Again we didn’t know their names. They were a young couple that we kept running into. We sat beside – not with – them twice in the dining room, and I ran into them in the pizza line another day. They were a nice, quiet couple – we thought they maybe had just started dating.
- The Bradys (not their real last name). They were an older couple we ate with one night. I swear I’m not making this up: He was an architect, and their names were Mike and Carol. They were from Chicago (a lot of the cooler people we met were). Update: They might have been from Memphis, but people from Chicago really ARE nice.
- Joe and Melissa. By far the nicest couple we met. They were a young pair from upstate New York but have lived in Manhattan for two years. They asked where we were from. When we said Charlotte, they were astounded. That’s where they plan to move. She’s a PA; he’s a market researcher – I told him about Red Ventures – and we just connected. They weren’t just saying they’d move. They knew some neighborhoods and everything.
We met a lot of other folks, too. But these were some of the most memorable. A lot of people asked me last week whether we’d had a good time. My answer: We always have a good time when we’re together. We love people; we try to find something good in even the bad and ugly ones. Even Jeremy. Oh, he still seemed bored and unhappy and above it all, but he sort of redeemed himself – in my eyes, at least – on the last full day on board. There was a party that day on the Lido deck and if you bought a T-shirt, proceeds would go to St. Jude’s. Jeremy bought one.
“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” _ Ingrid Bergman