Living and working on a cruise ship can be a lot of fun. You get to meet interesting, hardworking people from around the world and scream at them in your underwear when they're line dancing to “Gangnam Style” in the hallway at three in the morning just because, to someone whose name is so long his name-tag reads like an eye chart, a great big sign in English which reads, “Quiet Hours: 11:00pm-7:00am," looks an awful lot like “Happy Hour: All Night Long!”
If you’re lucky, some of them might even be culturally literate enough to realize that a groggy American standing outside his door in his underwear at 3:00am squinting little xenophobic daggers of hate in their direction is the international symbol for “Hey, fellas, I’m trying to sleep!” and not “Hey, somebody grab this naked party monster a Corona! …Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style!”
Don’t get me wrong. Working on a cruise ship is a dream job. Only you don’t get to do much dreaming. That would require falling into deep R.E.M. sleep and that’s hard to do when “Shashibhushan” is shouting manic Hindi into the house phone right outside your cabin with all the melody of a braking freight train, trying to get his third cousin “Maneesh” back in Mumbai to help him unlock his new i-Phone so he can squat in that echo chamber of a stairwell on the other side of your cracker-thin cabin wall streaming Bollywood musicals at full volume with no headphones while you lie awake in your bunk with your fingers in your ears picturing that new Starbucks that just opened up down the street from your parents’ house and wondering how hard can it really be to operate an espresso machine.
My fiancée and I return from vacation this Saturday and we can’t wait to see where our cabin will be located. Will it be at the front of the ship where we can hear the CLANG-CLANG-CLANG of the anchor? Or at the back of the ship where can hear the THUMP-THUMP-THUMP of the disco? Will we be residents of the “Dancers’ Corridor,” home to super-talented twenty-something break dancers who can do triple back flips and one-arm handstands but can’t seem to drink a raspberry wine cooler without channeling their inner Bieber at the top of their lungs? Or perhaps the “Shoppies’ Hallway,” where normally courteous gift shop workers offer tribute to Heineken, the Dutch god of the eighteen-hour work day, by punctuating each sip of beer with a door slam so thunderous it could wake up the comedy club manager on the Titanic and send him scurrying to the dentist with his back molars in his hand?
Who your roommate is has a lot to do with how much sleep you get on a cruise ship. Not everyone can have a roommate who quietly closes the cabin door behind him by slowly twisting the handle while seating the latch, gets undressed with a pocket flashlight while silencing his metal belt buckle, closes the bathroom door gently before brushing his teeth and then lays his clothes out for the next morning so he can get dressed for tender duty at seven a.m. without disturbing your sleep because he knows how hard you worked the day before. (Note: this is where he may or may not kiss you on the forehead.)
Not everyone can have a roommate like this because there is only one of me! I’M THE ONLY ONE! Every other male roommate you will ever have on a cruise ship will stumble into the cabin drunk at 3:00am, slam the door, flip on the light, turn on the TV, slam his closet drawers open and shut, and then take a ten-minute whiz with the bathroom door open until you start dreaming about riding a water taxi over Niagara Falls. Yet the moment you jump out of bed and start choking him with his own jangling belt like David Carradine in a Bangkok bordello, all of a sudden you’re the bad guy!
If it weren’t for the fact that my fiancée and I work on the same ship together, I wouldn't be able to live this lifestyle any longer. Željka is not only my best friend, she is the most thoughtful and considerate roommate I've ever had. No other roommate has learned how to get ready for work or ready for bed without waking me up the way Željka has. No other roommate has learned how to come and go at all hours without waking me up the way Željka has.
That’s because no other roommate has learned how to spike my Sleepytime Tea with Bacardi and Ambien the way Željka has.
She listens to me whine about the noise in the hallway. She listens to me moan about my seven a.m. wake up call. Then she offers me a long sip from my Sponge Bob juicy cup and watches me sail away into sweet, sweet silence.
Then she goes out into the hallway and joins the party.