“I can’t stand anymore chicken!” a vacationing guest, who seemed a bit tipsy, shouted at the captain of the cruise ship, and then leaped overboard.
The captain rushed to the railing and peered into the heaving waves. There bobbed his malcontent passenger.
Recently, there had been an inexplicable spate of vacationers aboard cruise ships choosing to jump ship. Now, one of his passengers had chosen to go over the edge.
A shot of adrenalin made his heart thump, and he turned, saw the first mate, and called, “Passenger overboard! Life boat! Man the life boats! Alert the Coast Guard! We need assistance!”
Just then the wife of the man who just jumped ship threw her arms up, and yelled, “Count me out, too!”
“Why?” Captain Walsh demanded.
As she dashed for the railing, she took a moment to inform him, “Even the spaghetti is inedible!”
Then over she went.
Walsh watched her spin toward the water and splash down near her water-treading husband.
“Dear me,” he lamented, and turned to his curiously desultory first mate, “Make that two lifeboats!”
Then he steeled himself for his greatest challenge. All the passengers had now gathered on the deck and appeared unsettlingly malcontent. The insane thought passed through his mind that they might opt for going overboard en masse.
Then he noticed telltale signs that his worst nightmare could come true. For instance, a few especially irate guests were brandishing hastily scrawled signs, saying such things as, “Better Entertainment Now!” “Freedom From Bingo!” and “Clean The Pool!”
“Now, see here,” the captain said, “I know you’re all not thrilled with every aspect of the cruise, but surely there are some enjoyable things.”
“Name one!” a disgruntled passenger challenged him.
“Well, how about the port calls?” he asked weakly. “And all the wonderful shopping opportunities?”
“Robbery in every port!” a man let out. “Disguised as sale prices!”
“You think this seashell necklace is worth a thousand dollars?” a particularly irate female shopper said, holding up the stringed bauble.
“To the rails!’ another man yelled.
“We’re off of here!” a woman exclaimed.
Then the entire group, every last passenger currently still aboard the ship, as far as the captain could tell, made a move for the rail.
“Stop! I order you to stay on board!” Walsh commanded, and placed his body between the rail and the ocean-bound passengers.
“Stand aside!” a rather brawny traveler in Bermudas shouted, waving a threatening ping-pong paddle.
“No more watered-down mixed drinks for me!” another man screamed.
“Or slot machines where everybody loses!” a woman chimed in.
Then the sea of passengers pressed forward, and Captain Walsh found himself being helplessly twirled aside by one pair of rail-bent hands after another. Then, to his shock, he watched helplessly as every single guest leap off the boat.
“How we gonna explain this to headquarters!” the first mate called from the lifeboats, which he and a gaggle of other crew members were attempting to activate.
The alarmed captain peered down at all the guests, splashing in the waves, and then looked back at the first mate. “Quick – the lifeboats! We’ve got to save everyone or we’ll be finished – washed up, forever!”
Just then the ship’s chef and his staff appeared on the deck and hurried toward the captain. “Is it true? All the passengers?” the chef asked, and peered over the rail.
“Every last one of them!” the captain wailed.
“It couldn’t be the food?” the chef wanted to know.
“Could it?” the sous chef queried.
“I have to be honest. Some did mention that.”
“I feel terrible about this,” the chef sighed. “My cooking days are over.”
Then he motioned to his staff, and they all made for the rail.
“Hold it!” the captain said. “Not you and the kitchen crew, too?”
“The least we can do is join them!” returned the chef. Then, with a flourish, he added, “If only I had better ingredients!”
And over the rail he and his fellow denizens of the kitchen went.
“Chef and staff overboard!” the captain called.
Then, to his dismay, the first mate and the crew members who were helping to launch the lifeboats stopped their vital work and climbed down to the deck.
“What are you doing?” Captain Walsh called. “Man those lifeboats!”
Worse yet, now the rest of the crew emerged from below. They all made their way toward him.
“What are you doing?” he asked. “We’ve got passengers drowning down there!”
“I don’t know, captain,” the first mate replied. “We’ve been talking.”
“You what?” the captain inquired.
“Me and the crew, and we decided having one passenger jump ship is bad enough – but all of them?”
“No way we can save them all,” a crew member volunteered.
“And even if we rescue most of them,” another crew member lamented, “what future do we have?”
“We’re finished,” the first mate sighed.
“Disgraced!” a crew member put in.
“We could even go to jail,” the first mate advised him.
“Maybe the passengers have the right idea,” another crew member conceded. “Can you believe how bad the comedian was last night? Not one good joke!”
“And what about the singer?” another crew member asked. “I can’t stand the way she screeches on every high note.”
“Excuse us, sir,” the mate told the captain, “but I think we’ve pretty much made up our minds.” Then he turned to the crew. “Shall we?”
“What else?” one replied.
And then, to the captain’s dismay, they all jumped ship. He followed their decent. Then there they all were, splashing in the ocean among the passengers.
Now he heard steps behind him and turned. The entertainers were hurrying toward him.
“What’s going on?” the comedian asked.
“Everybody jumped ship,” the captain told them, pointing over the rail.
The troupe of entertainers rushed to the rail and looked down.
“Why would they do that?” the singer with the screechy voice asked.
“They seem to have had a variety of reasons.”
“Not the entertainment?” a faux-Hawaiian dancer asked.
“I’m afraid it played a role,” the captain admitted.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” the ventriloquist replied.
“Once this gets out, we’ll never work another cruise!” a male singer said, distraught.
“Let’s face it. Our careers are kaput,” another dancer sighed.
“What are we going to do – just stand here?” the comedian wanted to know.
“As I see it, the right thing to do is join our audience,” the ventriloquist concluded.
“Hold it,” the captain said, grabbing the ventriloquist by the shirt. “You can’t be serious?”
“Don’t worry,” he said, and held up his dummy. “Herman floats.”
“Got a better idea, captain?” the comedian asked.
“You want to live to explain this to management?” the Hawaiian dancer said.
“Maybe you’ve got something there,” Captain Walsh admitted. “Yes, by golly, I think you do. But, as the captain, I insist on being the last to abandon ship.”
“Spoken like a true captain,” the comedian assured him, and turned to the rest. “Ready, team?”
“Ready!” the ventriloquist said, and his dummy Herman added, “Famous last words!”
And so, as the captain stood by, all the entertainers leaped bravely overboard.
Walsh watched them plummet into the crowded sea.
“Oh, well,” he told himself, “it’s been a good career, until now.” Then he called, “Anybody left on board?”
Not a single voice interrupted the ocean breeze.
“Then it’s over the side for me!” he called, and looked at the crowded sea in search of an unoccupied area. And over he went.
Down he fell, toward the tossing passengers, crew, chef with the kitchen staff, and entertainers. He managed to splash into the water, instead of landing on top of any of the former occupants of his ship, and sank beneath the waves.
When he bobbed back up, he awoke, wet with sweat, and found himself doing the breaststroke on his mattress.
What a nightmare! he thought.
And he resolved to speak to management. Obviously, there were things about life on cruise ships that could be improved, and he vowed to be the champion of change.
Just to make sure all was well, he got out of bed and opened a port. He saw a young couple, leaning against the railing. They seemed to be in a romantic mood and not at all likely to jump overboard. He smiled, closed the port, and went back to bed.
It felt especially good to know he still had his passengers on board, along with his crew, kitchen staff, and, no doubt, his troupe of gifted entertainers.