Slow Boat to China
Monday, January 2 about 5 PM I board container ship MS Ever Charming. Contrary to my hopes, no one is allowed to accompany me to the ship. Security is extremely tight around shipping docks. Whether this is to prevent smuggling or terrorist acts I am not certain, but the result in this case is a passionate and tearful farewell....standing in a dirty parking lot while the security officer sits in his truck with my luggage - probably thinking to himself something like "yawn...can we just go so I can get back to my desk!"
There have been so many good-byes, leaving my friends in Boston, I take Max to the airport after the holidays for his return flight to Boston - although I try not to cry in front of him because he hates that. My younger brother, Bradley wakes me at 6 am as he leaves for his flight to Hawaii. His admonition: "Don't make me have to come looking for you, Sis!" Saying goodbye to more family after New Years Day brunch, a sunny patio afternoon in the California sunshine, and a little later my mom and dad....each good-bye a mixture of sadness and joy. This one is no different.
Suddenly, here I am. Alone with my luggage and a security officer who could not be less interested in this crazy woman who claims she has booked passage on a container ship..... He stops next to a behemoth. MS Ever Charming is 330 meters long and 43 meters wide, with a really rickety-looking ladder running about 60 feet straight up the side. The security officer has just offloaded me, my big rolling duffel, a case of wine and four totes full of assorted food, clothes, equipment, at the bottom of that ladder! "What have I gotten myself into?" (This is not the first time this thought has crossed my mind...)
Almost before I can form that worried thought, a face peers over the side and in a moment a man in red coveralls is descending the rickety stair. Rudy introduces himself and looks my luggage over. I have strategically picked up the four bags - they are the lightest pieces - and left the rolling duffel on the ground. Rudy picks up the case of wine - I like his priorities! - tells me to leave the duffel, and gestures me ahead of him up the ladder..... Really? That ladder?
Now, we all know I won't let any man call me a wimp, so I grab the handrails, take a deep breath and hike up that ladder as fast as my legs can take me, hoping that my efforts to impress this officer won't result in my passing out on the deck. Just as we reach the top, another one of the deck officers - I don't realize at the time that these are officers, but they are already giving me royal treatment - runs down the ladder, picks up the rolling duffel and trots right back up the stairs. First thought : "I could have saved my breath, literally, because I am not as impressive as I thought I might be". The second, as he turns to me, invites me to follow and I notice he IS breathing hard, "he'd probably like to throw that duffel at me!"
The new officer leads me to the elevator (elevator?!) - a very sleek stainless steel cabinet just large enough for the two of us and my luggage. We ascend seven decks and into a paneled corridor where the Captain is waiting with a very warm welcome for me. Courtesies exchanged, the captain escorts me to my cabin which he explains is just across the hall from his. Having accepted responsibility for me, he is clearly going to keep an eye on me.
My cabin is enormous! And so comfortable! A desk, sitting area, couch and bed a little wider than a twin.. Behind the door is a bathroom, surprisingly roomier and with more counter space than many Ian Schraeger hotels! There is a television, VCR, stereo and mini-fridge, already stocked with cartons of fruit juice and water - leaving just enough room for some bottles of wine.... Everything is new and impeccably clean, there is really framed art on the walls and a big healthy anthurium plant on the desk. All of this surpassing my wildest expectations! And two portholes looking out at, not cargo containers, but the harbor!
I close the door, drop everything, take a deep breath and begin to unwind. I seem to have found a good harbor and for the moment I am home.