Essays

JEFF THE FUN DUDE

It’s hard to believe the holidays are over already. Perhaps if I were to take the Christmas decorations down in my cabin, it would feel more like the twelfth day of 2014. But seeing how my New Year’s resolution was to be a lazy as possible, I don’t want to quit while I’m on a roll.

Besides, I've gotten used to having a life-sized snowman on my wall. Sometimes, when life at sea gets particularly stressful, “Frosty” will come to life and cheer me up. Why, just the other day, I said, “Frosty, last night, a guest walked straight to the front of the long line of guests waiting to get into the comedy club, stood just to the left of the line and informed me that she was ready to be seated. When I told her that she was going to have the join the back of the line, she said, ‘How was I supposed to know this long line winding all the way down Promenade Deck from the casino to the comedy club was the line for the comedy club? Nobody told me that that line was the line for the comedy club. If I had known that that line was the line for the comedy club and not just some random line that just so happened to start at the entrance of the comedy club, I would have joined it.  But since nobody told me that that was the line for the comedy club, I decided to start a line of my own right here—so you should make those other four hundred people standing in a single file line starting at the entrance of the comedy club for no apparent good reason get in line behind me!’"

“Frosty,” I said. “How does somebody that stupid make it to her 40’s without sticking her tongue in a light socket, let alone afford to go on a cruise?!”

Doing his best Johnny Cochran impersonation, Frosty smiled at me said, “Fun Dude, when you’re talking to a decoration, it’s time for a vacation!”

Since joining my cruise line in 2007, I’ve spent every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s at sea. Fortunately, our ship attracts so many difficult and demanding guests during the holidays that it feels as if I’m back home with my family.

It’s not hard to get into the Christmas spirit on our ship. Wherever you turn you’ll see beautiful decorations, hear your favorite carols and observe diminutive Indonesian housekeepers in oversized Santa hats cleaning up after sloppy Americans like so many disgruntled elves, singing:

Why am I such a misfit?

These rednecks are all such nitwits!

Why can’t they clean up their own s**t?

I should have become a dentist!

Staff members are encouraged to participate in the cabin door decorating contest every Christmas. It’s hard to pick a winner since we all put so much time and effort into lovingly and enthusiastically decorating our doors as uniquely and distinctively as possible, using the exact same decorations as everyone else since we all take the same exact shuttle bus to the same exact Wal-Mart and browse the same exact Christmas department in the same exact door decorations aisle. The winner gets a $25 gift certificate to Target, which is a $30 cab ride from Wal-Mart.

My Croatian fiancée Željka loves Christmas so much that I decorate our entire cabin for her. This year I spent around $100 on “Frosty the Snowman” wall art, “Santa” and penguin mirror clings, fake snow spray, a wreath, a manger, a “Nutcracker” nutcracker, “Merry Christmas” bath towels and throw rugs, garland, ornaments, Christmas stockings, a poinsettia, loads of Christmas candy and a tiny stuffed “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” who, by peeking his cute little face over the rim of a giant red and white ceramic coffee mug bearing his name, caused Željka to emit squeals of Yuletide delight. The only thing I didn’t buy was mistletoe. Instead, I just hung my “chestnuts,” which—if you haven’t guessed—Željka removed from me years ago.

Our annual Christmas show in the main theater is so much fun I always volunteer as an usher. I love watching proud and loving parents tear up as they watch their small children, who rehearse all week up in our youth camp, sing their hearts out like cute little angels. Cute little tone-deaf angels accompanied by a backing track of the Vienna Boys Choir that masks their angelic, off-key ululations so convincingly that proud and loving parents don’t have to drop their expensive video cameras in order to stuff their proud and loving fingers into their ears so as to prevent their proud and loving brains from turning into figgie pudding. At the end of the show, team members representing over 50 countries where Christmas obviously isn’t celebrated walk down the aisles holding battery operated candles, singing “Silent Night” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” And, by singing, I mean standing there with confused looks on their faces, not knowing where to stand or which direction to face since the team members who volunteered for the show aren’t the same team members who volunteered for rehearsal.

Just because our cruise line makes a big deal out of Christmas doesn’t mean we forget our Jewish guests. We celebrate all eight days of Hanukkah with a ceremony at sundown usually hosted by Yours Truly due to the fact that I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. Although I was raised Catholic, I was allowed to go to my friends’ houses for Hanukkah because each of my parents had a very open mind about religion and an even more open mind about getting the kids out of the house for a couple of hours.

Our Jewish guests really love our Hanukkah ceremonies because it allows them to do what they do best: gather around the menorah—in this case a fifteen-foot-high electric version with light bulbs that last about as long as snowflakes in a heated garage—and complain about the recipe our Indian chef used for the latkes. We even leave the Menorah lit through Christmas and New Year’s so our Jewish guests can take part in the holiday season by going down to Guests Services and complaining that the menorah is not supposed to stay lit past the last day of Hanukkah.

If there’s one thing to really look forward to during the holidays it’s the incredible holiday feasts waiting for us in the staff mess. We get turkey, stuffing, gravy, grilled shrimp, frozen shrimp and various cakes, pies and ice creams for dessert. To top it off, they serve us free beer, wine and soda pop. All we have to do is be one of the first twenty people in line because all the good stuff is gone in five minutes.

Our New Year’s cruise is always a blast. I can’t think of a better way of ringing in the new year than by reveling among more than 4,000 cheering guests and crew members under the stars on Lido Deck, listening to the show band break into “Auld Lang Syne” as Željka throws a full glass of champagne in my face because I had the audacity to let some “cross-eyed Russian whore” kiss me on the cheek at midnight.

Would I have I rather been home for the holidays? Brother, I was home. And I can hardly wait till next year.