a supposedly fun thing

So. I’m going on a cruise next week. I know, right?

Here’s how it happened. A cruise isn’t necessarily the vacation I’d choose myself, given a week off and X dollars to spend or whatever. But my close friend Sharlee is turning 30 on March 3rd. To celebrate, her husband Dusty picked out a cruise, got a travel agent, and told all of Sharlee’s friends to call and book it! So I called and booked it. I like to do things I’ve never done before, and I’ve never been on a cruise or to Mexico or on a cruise to Mexico, so here I go. It’ll be Dusty, Sharlee, six of Sharlee’s other friends & family members, and me!

A person of my specific temperament (a bit cynical, often cranky, not good with unfamiliar situations, and frankly kind of a snob) is not especially suited to things like cruises, where there are group activities and large numbers of children and forced hospitality and people with no sense of personal space. I’m reminded of this scene from an episode of Modern Family:

Mitchell: One of my favorite childhood memories was attending the Moscow Marionette Theatre.
Cameron: I grew up one mile away from Missouri’s largest waterslide.

Headleys are more Marionette-Theatre than Missouri’s-Largest-Waterslide. When Megan and I were kids, our parents took us to plays and symphonies, mostly. If we went to something like a baseball game or an amusement park we’d get one diet soda apiece, leave before the traffic got too bad, and eat a sensible dinner at home. I don’t think I ever saw the 9th inning of a live baseball game until I reached adulthood. In other words, the Headley family motto should be: If It’s Going To Be Crowded And Hot, We’ll Just Stay Home And Read A Book.

So I’ve had to do a lot of research and give myself a lot of pep talks for this cruise. I know without a doubt that I’m going to have fun—I love traveling, swimming, trying new things, boats, and spending time with my friends—but I’d like to do so without ever turning into Cranky Alison, or Alison Who Hates Nearly Everyone, or This Music Fucking Sucks Alison. So I found out what my cabin will look like; I made a list of what I’d like to do on and off the boat; I checked what time meals are served, how money is handled, where to wash my clothes, what kind of snacks I can bring, what people usually pack; and I even looked at maps of the ship. I am Prepared.

Sometimes people ask me, “Why can’t you just relax and enjoy things, Alison?”  Actually, they ask me that a lot. Well, I’m afraid I can’t do that. It’s not in my nature, and I don’t think it ever has been. What I do instead is maintain enough self-awareness to compensate for my high-strung temperament and make sure it doesn’t get in the way.

To prevent Cranky Alison from showing up, I’ve got my own room on the boat. That way I can go to sleep and wake up whenever I want, take all the naps I please, spend as much time alone as I need, and use up all the space in the bathroom.  I’m going to bring lots of books, and I’ll make sure my iPod is always charged in case I need to employ some Pixies or Phoenix to clear any bad music out of my head. I’m packing nearly everything I’ve seen suggested: earplugs, duct tape, dramamine, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, woolite, two emergency ponchos, ziploc bags, three kinds of sunscreen, flashlight, string, the works. I even sewed myself a little passport cover.

Here are some weird cruise fears I’m having that my excessive preparation can’t eliminate:

  1. The book(s) I bring with me won’t be enjoyable (I’m picky), so I’ll be left with nothing to read.
  2. A wild pack of unsupervised children will throw me overboard.
  3. I  will be forced into a conga line (and I know who’s going to do it).
  4. The becostumed cruise mascot will make me try to have fun, and I will kill him.
  5. Someone will stand at the bow of the ship and say that they are king of the world, and I will kill them.
  6. I will take too long on a shore excursion and miss the boat and have to live in Mexico for awhile.
  7. I will get fish bites.
  8. Maude will die while I’m gone.

But those probably won’t happen.  What will mostly likely happen is that I will wear a ton of sunscreen, be cranky once or twice for short periods of time, have a lot of fun, and not miss being at work one little tiny bit.

(And yes, I did read David Foster Wallace’s “Shipping Out.” DFW, I’ll be thinking about you, wherever you are.)