Picture This

This entry is part 10 of 25 in the series Cruising With the Mothers
I took advantage of my “football widower” time today to write part 10 of the story (part 60 in a series of 4 stories). The Patriots must have done well, because I didn’t hear Kris yelling – much…

“Never mind mom,” said Kris. “Where’s the ship?”

Pat came to my rescue. “Your mother is here – she just went to the little girl’s room.”

“Wait ‘til you hear her story,” said Kris.

“Isn’t it just unbelievable?” added Pat.

I was certain I’d hear all about it in due time (or is that “do time”?), so I didn’t press for details. “The ship is right there,” I said, pointing through the terminal’s windows. Across a wide lobby, just enough of Maasdam was visible to convince Kris that our ride was indeed present and accounted for.

“Here she comes,” said Pat. “Laura, we found him!”

My mother strolled up and we exchanged bear hugs. “Chester, you were almost right,” said mom with a laugh. “The bus got a flat tire right after we got on the highway. I couldn’t believe it – I’ve been riding the bus forever and have never had any problem. Wouldn’t it figure that today would be the day? I kept thinking, ‘Oh, Chester’s going to have a fit.’”

“So how’d you get here – walk?”

“Oh no. Luckily, we were just outside of town and they sent another bus right away. We were only 20 minutes late.”

“So what time did you get here?”

“Oh, my – it must have been about 10:15. People were still getting off the boat. I had a long conversation with a couple who just finished a 35-day cruise. My lord, that’s a long time.”

“I’ll say. Maybe a little too long.”

“I guess the ship had a couple of rough days near the end – they just came all the way across the Atlantic. Sounds like some people got a little stir crazy.”

“I can see where that might happen,” I said, “but I’m sure our 7 days will fly by.” It could have been my imagination, but I thought I heard Kris’s stomach growl. “OK, gang. Ready?”

We hauled the luggage a few feet before we encountered a porter coming through a doorway. “I’ll take those,” he said. Relieved of the majority of our burden, we entered the terminal waiting room and took our place at the end of a long line of people waiting to pass through a single metal detector, which stood tall in the distance.

“Gee, you’d think they’d have more than one of those things,” said Kris. The line moved at a snail’s pace. Kris addressed the mothers. “OK, you need to have your tickets out, and your passport…”

I chimed in. “And your credit card and the charge form – you did fill out the charge form, didn’t you?” That question drew blank stares. The mothers started digging frantically through their pocket books.

My mother rifled through her purse without finding the necessary items. “I don’t have enough hands for this,” she said. “Here, hold this.” I already had a big camera bag, a laptop, a document portfolio and a small backpack, but I took the purse and tried to look cool. Mom eventually came up with a form and thrust it in my direction. “Here, is this it?” she asked.

“I don’t have enough hands,” I said. “Kris?”

Kris examined the offering. “Yup, you’re all set. What about you, ma?”

“I didn’t fill mine out,” said Pat. “Does anybody have a pen?”

“I do,” I said.

“So do I,” said my mother. “It’s in my pocketbook.” She looked around and patted her sides, raised her arms, and unfolded her raincoat. “Where’s my pocketbook?” she asked. “I can’t find my pocketbook. I can never find my glasses, but I can always find my pocketbook. What the heck…”

“Here, hold this,” I said, handing her the missing bag, “while I look for a pen.”

We had a race looking for a pen, and I won. Pat took the pen and slid out of line to sit in a chair while filling out the form. We were almost at the metal detector by the time she rejoined us.

As the particularly broad and tall couple in front of us began to move forward for their turn at the security checkpoint, a whole group of people carting bags boldly walked right past the line and the metal detector. One of the men was looking our way and smiling broadly.

“Where do they think they’re going?” asked Kris. We all waited for a security team to descend on the group and give them a scolding. Before that happened, the large couple ahead completed their transaction and moved aside.

“I can’t believe it,” I said.

“Are you four all together?” asked a uniformed woman. I admitted it. “Good,” said the woman. “Stand close together and smile.” We did as we were told, and a blinding flash froze our group for the camera. “Thank you. Go right on upstairs.”

As we walked away I said, “I can’t believe we just spent 10 minutes standing in line for a picture.”

“I told you to avoid the welcome aboard picture,” said Kris, helpfully.

“No wonder that guy was smiling,” I said. “I’m sorry. They fooled me.” So much for the savvy cruiser…

In the few seconds that had elapsed since we discovered that we were not approaching a metal detector, about 75% of the people waiting in line behind us came to the same realization. Dozens of people broke rank and surged toward the escalator. The four of us were temporarily blinded. Through a fog of bright swirling spots, I led the group slowly and carefully to the escalator – losing about 50 positions in the queue for the next phase of boarding.

“We could be eating by now,” said Kris. “I told you we should have left earlier.”

At the top of the escalator, we were instructed to have our paperwork in-hand and directed to join a line snaking through a rope maze. I could see the check-in counters ahead, and it was apparent that the staff was still getting ready to process passengers. We all watched with amusement as many people searched frantically for their documents. Having gone through that routine already, we were fully prepared.

“Excuse me,” said a man in line behind us. “Do any of you have a pen?”

“I do,” said my mother. I let her dig around in her pocketbook until she found one. Keeping busy lessens the stress of waiting…

I entertained myself by studying our fellow passengers. It was a remarkably diverse group. Some people were dressed to the hilt, and others made me – in jeans and a t-shirt – feel overdressed. In a few minutes, the check-in people were ready and the line started to move. Within ten minutes, it was our turn. I signaled the mothers to go first.

“OK, here we go,” I said. “Whoever gets done first, wait at the ramp for everyone else.”

Pat and mom went ahead, all the way to the end of the counter area. Kris and I went next. Since I’d done the immigration forms online, our check-in took about a minute. We left the counter and were directed to the ramp.

“Where are they?” asked Kris.

I looked down the aisle. The mothers were still at the counter. “Still checking in,” I said.

“This is weird,” said Kris. “We have a room key and a charge card?”

“Guess so,” I replied. On every other ship we’d been on, a single card performed both functions.

“So you have to carry two things around all the time?”

“No, I have to carry four things around most of the time,” I corrected.

A security guard grew suspicious and approached. “Excuse me,” he said. “You can board now.”

“We’re waiting for those ladies down there.” I pointed to Pat and Laura. They seemed to be in an animated discussion with the clerk. Make that two clerks. One of the pair waved over a third person.

“Maybe you should go see what’s going on,” said Kris.

“Yeah – I think they just called in the reinforcements,” I said.

I left Kris in care of the guard – confident that he would keep her under control – and strolled down to the mother’s position. “What’s up?” I asked.

Pat turned in my direction. Kris and her mother are strikingly alike in many ways, including facial expressions. I recognized the look. Frustration with a touch of indignation, precariously layered on an underlying state of hunger. This called for a delicate approach.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“They don’t have any paperwork for your mother,” said Pat.

I let out a deep sigh…

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