By Robert Field
Those are the questions I would like to put to the rare young and many fellow old people on our cruise ship as we tour the Baltic states from Reyjavik, Iceland to Copenhagen, Denmark
There are only a few young couples that mistakenly chose the ship because it combines the worst elements of an old age home in demographics and high school in social relationships.
Have you ever gone to a fiftieth reunion with the thought that now there will be a leveling of distinctions between the “ins” and the “outs”? Hardly. The former will have a glorious time with old buddies; the latter will re-live the pain of ostracism.
Whatever I have accomplished in my life has not improved my social skills. I am still perceived as the geek per high school. So I have stopped trying.
The initial contacts on our cruise will be “Where are you from, how many children, where are they, how many grandchildren, what cruises have you taken before, which were better than others”, and so forth. It will take no more than three days for the group to catalyst per high school. And if, by temerity or forgetfulness, one does endeavor to engage others in meaningful conversations, they will feel awkward and avoid contact other than a friendly “good morning” (if that) for the rest of the cruise.
Well planned “fun filled” packaged day time activities will be provided either on or off ship, the latter at twice the cost they should be. The guides in most cases will be affable and knowledgeable. But stay on very safe topics lest we offend those around us.
Yet here are many pluses, so long as you avoid immersing into the negatives. You can relax into a cocoon of comfortable surroundings, a variety of activities, good food available at all hours and, if so inclined as appears to be the case of most of your fellow travelers, in endless boozing. (Undoubtedly failure to do so has inhibited my sociability!) It is a pleasure to communicate and discuss things with friends and acquaintances via the Internet. And, for me the most important of all, bring along or download a half dozen interesting books.
“With me’ are the authors of the following books: P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking of “Like War, The Weaponization of Social Media”; Peter Frankopan, “The New Silk Roads, The Present and Future of the World”; Jim Sciuto, “The Show War, Inside Russia and China’s Secret operations to Defeat America”; Michael J. Mazarr, “Leap of Faith; Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy”and, for reading on the Sabbath, Eugene B. Borowitz, “Choices In Modern Jewish Thought.” And also a course in Spanish to refresh my memory, some sixty years after spending half a year as a student in Mexico City.
A long cruise is especially helpful, thanks to the Internet, if you have a major project to which you would like to devote unlimited hours. And if you choose to join others for a meal, keep in mind that conversation to them is meant for refined and polite discourse, not for an exchange of important information.
Perhaps someday an adventurous or foolish cruise guest will ask me “What have you done with your life?” Alas, if I told him the variety of my interests I would run a huge risk of offending. So what is the use?
But friendships might yet occur (although none ever has from a dozen cruises) if we were to share our thoughts about the past along, our observations and concerns on the current, and our fears and aspirations for the future.