“Ordering À la Carte” by Linda O’Connell

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Travel.”

I’d heard what people do on cruise ships and I wanted no part of the decadence. I’d gone online and viewed photos of scrumptious food served in elegant dining rooms and buffet lines, and I learned that two of my favorite foods—pizza and ice cream—were available 24 hours a day. “Ten pounds average weight gain,” my friends warned. I didn’t need 10 pounds to round me out. As it was, I couldn’t tell my butt from my gut.

Taking a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean wasn’t on my priority list—heights frightened me and open seas made me quiver. I feared public dining, especially after the Norovirus had invaded the ship my friend had been on. I couldn’t imagine being sick on top of being seasick. My husband reasoned that because the virus had struck, the cruise ships would be more diligent in annihilating the germs onboard, thus this would be the safest time to cruise. So off we headed.

p-92 ships2We drove south to the Alabama coast and boarded a ship that was longer than the big box store we shopped at. I was certain that once I looked down eight stories over the balcony, I would be providing fish food for the lunkers lurking portside. As it happened, I looked down in amazement at the throng of people boarding the ship. I wasn’t nauseated, but maybe a little queasy from the idea of being out to sea without so much as a Gilligan’s-type island in sight. But once the captain blasted the ship’s horn, it was too late. We were off and sailing.

My husband and I huffed and puffed up four flights of stairs and meandered around the ship, learning the layout. Just when we thought we had located our assigned dining room, we discovered it was another flight up. We marched back up another flight of stairs into the balcony area and located our table, which was set for 10. I was nervous about dining with eight other people, but we five couples—middle age to senior—became fast friends and created our own sitcom hilarity.

My husband and I, the Midwesterners, were actually considered Northerners by the Southerners. The men twanged about their hunting rifles, and they asked my husband if he, too, was preparing for deer season. When he said he wasn’t much of a hunter, one of the guys said, “Well, let me speak for the rest of us. You all might regard deer as Bambi up there where you’re from. We hunt and eat Bambi. OK? Bambi is our food.”

Smile and nod. We aren’t confrontational people. I kept my eyes on the menu and wondered what this guy would think of ordering roast duck, leg of lamb or shrimp cocktail. He turned out to be a meat-and-potatoes guy. At every meal, he ordered a chunk of red and a pile of potatoes—baked, sliced or mashed.

One evening, the straight-laced fellow who was used to eating deep-fried catfish saw that broiled fish was on the menu. He asked the waiter, who spoke little English, if he could have his fish fried. The waiter said, “Fish in the broiler.” Our tablemate, getting more frustrated by the minute, raised his voice and surely his blood pressure. “Buddy, what I want is fish, fried-fried-FRIED!! You understand I want fried-fried-fried?”

The waiter smiled and nodded. When our food arrived, delectable-looking meals were placed in front of each of us. Just when our friend’s blood pressure had returned to the normal range, he saw the waiter headed in his direction with a plate piled eight inches high with a mountain of French fries. We women caught it first. There was no entree—this was his meal. We tried to avoid looking at him, but when we looked at each other, one of us snickered, and then the other started, then our husbands guffawed. We laughed so hard we couldn’t eat. Our serious tablemate didn’t crack a smile and his wife sat rigid. We knew we were being rude, but the expression on this guy’s face made us howl. We were quite a spectacle, snorting and wiping away tears of laughter.

The waiter rushed over and asked if he had made a mistake.

“Forget it! I’ll take a cup of coffee.”

The waiter apologized and returned with a cup of coffee. Our buddy swilled a slug and spat, wiped his mouth and called the waiter over. “Come here and give me your finger!”

The waiter smiled and asked, “You want fish now?”

“No! I want your finger. Stick it in this coffee.”

The waiter drew his fingers up into his uniform sleeve. Then our tablemate stabbed his own index finger to the bottom of the cup of coffee. “It’s cold-cold-cold.”

“You want hot-hot-hot fish? NO? More fries, sir?”

None of us could finish our meals. There was never a lack of food on board, but there was a definite lack of communication that evening.

My husband and I have been on four cruises since then, but our first cruise has been the most memorable, because along with our yummy food selections, we were served a dish of hilarity, a la carte.

Travel 250_rgbLinda O’Connell, an accomplished writer and seasoned teacher, is also a positive thinker. She writes from the heart, bares her soul and finds humor in everyday situations. She is a contributor to many publications and anthologies, including Chicken Soup for theFamily 250rgb Soul and the Not Your Mother’s Book series. Linda is also the co-creator of Not Your Mother’s Book…On Family; the book contains 60 funny stories that confirm families aren’t always perfect! Catch up with Linda at http://lindaoconnell.blogspot.com

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Travel,” under the chapter entitled “Anchors Away!” The book features 58 travel stories from around the world. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/108SSFD) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/1tAGDZF).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.