Saturday, 12 January 2008

It's Not Easy Being an Infidel

Norwegian Dream: 50,000 tons of licensed premises
That rant in my last posting reminded me of how religion can really land you in trouble. A few years back, my friend Mohammed asked me to join him on a corporate booze cruise. Now if you're unfamiliar with the concept of such things, it works like this.

An event company books a bloody great big cruise liner. It then sells space on the ship to companies who want to put their proposition in front of important people. These places cost around £10,000 a go. The event company then invites captains of industry for a four day cruise, all expenses paid, entertainment and alcohol abuse thrown in. The captains of industry merely have to consent to a 15 minute interview with the people who've paid for the jolly.

Food and fine wine play a large part in this, especially the latter. In fact fine may be the wrong adjective. Copious might be more apt.

Mohammed, as his name suggests, is Muslim, and therefore forbidden to purchase alcohol. I, on the other hand, am some undefined form of agnostic. It's perfectly reasonable therefore to regard my soul as doomed anyway. So I was asked along to fulfil the role of disposable infidel.

Dinner each evening was a black tie affair, accompanied by several bottles of a certain age. It was my job to do the corporate entertaining. Now I am to heavy drinking what Paul Schofield is to Up Pompeii. The small hours each night saw me strolling calmly back to the cabin to which Mohammed retired at a sober ten o'clock. Most nights I was OK as long as no one trod on my hands.

Then comes the Saturday night gala party. Oh no. By 10 o'clock, Mo's outline is already becoming unfocused. He stands and politely takes his leave. I stand and politely knock sherry trifle into my neighbour's lap. "Oi! Garcon! Encore de bleedin' vino ici, pronto! Comprende?"

At 04.30, having impressed everyone with my witty urbanities, profound social insight and stale knock-knock jokes, I make for the cabin. Note to ship designers: bad move to make all the corridors look the same. And if people don't lock their doors I can't be blamed for getting into bed with them. Finally finding the one containing the right sleeping Asian I stumble into bed. Unconsciousness rises to meet me.

It's strange that, whatever time - and whatever state - I go to sleep, I wake at 6.30. Today the creak as my eyelids open is deafening. There seems to be a dead toad in my mouth. I stagger to the shower praying for an ultimate fate that's swift, painless and - ideally - someone else's.

The hot water turns into a wadaiko band on my skull and I put my hands up to lessen the pain. Hang on, hair shouldn't be sharp should it? I appear to have grown stalagmites. I'm going to have to risk opening my eyes all the way.

Oh shit. I've turned brown.

Streaks of hardened bilirubinous material cover 70% of my body. Just how drunk was I last night? Is it possible to be so drunk that you... no, the concept's unthinkable. I complete the most thorough shower of my life with thoughts racing. Somewhere in there it occurs to me that the bed must be in a similar state.

Oh shit.

Back in the cabin, Mo sleeps on, snoring righteously in his neatly turned-down bed. My own is less well-presented. Only the pillow is visible, but there are brown stains visible even on that. This isn't looking good. With predictable trepidation I gingerly pull back the sheet.

Oooooh shit. I replace the sheet

What to do? If I can hide it from Mo then that's one embarrassment avoided, but what will the cabin staff think of me? I'm stuck on this ship for another two days yet for God's sake!

Oh-kay. Take it one step at a time. If I can strip the bed and get the sheets into the bath, then all I have to explain is why they're wet. It's not a complete solution, but it's a start. I start to pull off the bedclothes.

And find the chocolate wrapper.

One side effect of last night's anaesthetic is that I forgot that the cabin staff come in each evening to turn back the top sheet and place a huge chocolate truffle on your pillow. Despite a hangover bigger than a darts player's shirt front I love the cleaning people and want their children. In a ship regularly filled with drunks like me, this must be familiar territory for them. I put the wrapper on the pillow where it can't be missed and add some money as a tip along, with a note saying "sorry for the mess".

When Mo wakes he's amused, unhungover and unsympathetic; he makes maximum noise as we head for breakfast. Over the next couple of days I meet the cabin staff in the corridors, and get the distinct feeling that they don't like me very much.

Predictably, the occurrence becomes one of Mohammed's favourite anecdotes and last week he told it to yet another of his business acquaintances who might otherwise have become one of my clients. I mentioned that I seemed to have become unpopular in the remaining days on board the Norwegian Dream.

"Didn't I tell you?" he grinned, "As we left the cabin I took the chocolate wrapper."

1 comment:

Sheryl Casaday said...

I laughed my butt off the first time I read this story. And again on the next go round. I've read it many times now and shared it with friends. With all the butt I've laughed off I should have a figure like Shakira. But I don't.

What am I doing wrong?

Sincerely, Sheryl Casaday