Cruising With the Mothers
- A Perfectly Crazy Idea
- One Down
- Come On, Ma
- Two to Go
- A Grand Plan
- I Meet HAL
- Making Do
- To the Ship
- Picture This
- Entry Denied
- Going “UP”
- Roll Call
- Bar Harbor
- Acadia National Park
- *Jordan Pond (Acadia NP)*
- Cadillac Mountain (Acadia NP)
- Show Time
- APHC at Sea
- Dalvay by the Sea
- Doogie Howser, M.D.
We got off the bus and pushed through the stubborn mist until we were out of the way of the other disembarking passengers.
“Well, what do you want to do?” I asked the group.
“Find the ladies room,” said Kris and Pat in unison.
“I don’t think they’ll let me in, so you go on ahead,” I said.
I walked with my mother as Kris and Pat sprinted ahead. To my surprise, my mother was quite familiar with our surroundings. I’ve mentioned that she’d already been nearly everywhere that we would go while on this cruise—not just the individual towns, but every tourist destination in them and everywhere in between.
“I don’t understand it,” I said. “When did you go to all of these places? We never took a single vacation trip when I was growing up.”
“I’ve been alive a lot longer than you have,” she said. I still don’t get it.
We met up with Kris and Pat in the open lobby of the building a few minutes later. Everyone else on the tour immediately headed for the gift shop, and its lure was too strong for the trio to resist. They were virtually inhaled by the place. I, on the other hand, avoided it—dare to be different, I was taught. I found myself standing alone, a target for a bunch of sugar-fueled children whose parents probably didn’t dare take them into the gift shop. To keep myself occupied, I scouted out the lunch location.
The restaurant occupies most of the building, and I thought it would be a logical place to begin my search. It was jammed, and a lot of people waited hopefully for a table. As I wandered deeper into the dining room, a host intercepted me—no doubt to suggest that I forget about having lunch today. When I explained that I was on a tour that included lunch, he seemed relieved.
“From the ship?” he asked.
“That’s us,” I said. “The ancient mariners…”
“Great. You guys get your own room. It’s on the second floor, up the big staircase over there and then back that way,” said the host, waving his arms emphatically. “They won’t be ready for you yet…tell you what…I’ll show you the ‘secret’ entrance, so when you come back, you won’t have to walk all the way through here again.” He walked me fifty feet back toward the main entrance and pointed to a narrow opening in an otherwise blank wall. “Just go through there and up the steps, and you’ll be exactly where you want to be.”
I thanked him and resumed sentry duty in the lobby, waiting for the girls to remember the purpose of our visit. A handy structural post provided protection from the careening kids. I wasn’t doing a very good job on look-out, because I didn’t see Kris coming and was startled by her voice.
“OK, we’re ready. Do you know where we’re supposed to go?”
“None of you bought anything?” I said, observing a bunch of empty hands.
“We’ll go back later,” said Pat.
“No need to lug stuff around,” added my mother.
“This way,” I said. I nodded in the right direction and started walking, the others lagging behind a few steps as they gabbed about something that apparently didn’t involve me. I walked through the restaurant entrance, took a hard right-hand turn through the narrow opening in the wall, and began to ascend the staircase. Halfway up I realized that I was alone, so I turned around and went back down. I craned my neck and spotted Kris being directed by a waiter to take the long route. I just turned around and went on up. At the top of the stairs, I entered a room with a half-dozen tables, set but unoccupied. I convinced the woman who greeted me that I was in the right place, and she gave me free run of the place. I chose a table for eight, next to the door that Kris and company would soon enter, and sat down to wait.
A few other people filtered in, and they chose not to sit with me. Must have been the droopy eye that scared them away. After what seemed like an eternity, Kris and the moms came through the door. I stood, and got their attention by waving.
“What took you so long?” I asked.
Kris looked at me like she was seeing a ghost. “Where have you been?”
“Right here. Where have you been?”
“Looking for you,” she said. “You just disappeared. You were right in front of us, and then you were just…gone.”
“Pretty cool, ey?”
“How did you get up here?”
I considered telling her about the intergalactic transporter, but thought it better to keep that as my little secret. “Stairs,” I said.
I got “the look,” this time not just from Kris, but from all three of them. To make amends, I pulled out a chair for each of them in turn and took their coats—no tricks, just good old-fashioned chivalry.
The mother lode of fellow tourists arrived, and soon some other people had no choice but to sit with us. Now—time for an aside:
As you may recall, on this day I was operating on just a couple of hours sleep. Frankly, my memory of our lunch was as foggy as the weather. As I sat struggling to write this chapter today, I could only recall three of the four other people who completed our table. I was staring blankly at the screen when an email arrived, and frankly I was glad for the distraction. I opened the email, and could not believe what it said. Here is an excerpt:
|I’ve just discovered your story and it seems I found it at the most opportune moment. Is Chapter 67 going to contain some reference to my “timely” return to the bus? (I sat next to you – on your left – at the Jordan Pond lunch. I was one of the “lurkers” on the APHC Chatterbox site who knew of you and your Moms)
I’ve some nice pictures from the cruise I’d be happy to share with you. Of course, it depends on what Chapter 67 is going to say about me!
Opportune, indeed—I can think of no better cure for writer’s block. What luck! Because good things come in threes, I ran out and bought a Powerball ticket, and then I entered the HGTV Dream Home contest. Anyway, “Betsy” and I have compared notes. She couldn’t remember anything about the mysterious fourth person either, so I feel much better now. Back to the story…
First to arrive was a couple, our age or a bit older. Upon meeting someone, I like to guess something about them. Of this couple, I immediately thought “New York City,” and I was close enough—Long Island. When I introduced myself, the woman said, “Are you the guy from the internet?”
Next came Betsy. She was dressed in a dazzlingly bright-green severe weather coat and carried a matching Swiss Army backpack, ready by the looks of it for a mid-winter hike up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire (site of “the world’s worst weather”). Gortex is great stuff.
Again, we made introductions. “Are you THE Chester?” asked Betsy. She admitted to being one of the lurkers on the APHC forum and was thankful for the information I posted. Nice to know that the efforts weren’t in vain. About Betsy, I would have put money on academian from upstate New York— not IT specialist from the Upper Midwest.
Pat leaned over to me and asked, “Does everybody on the cruise know you?”
I patiently explained the concepts of the Internet and discussion forums, not altogether an easy thing to do with someone who has never used a computer—but I think I did well.
“That’s pretty amazing,” said Pat.
“You should try it,” I said, and immediately regretted it. I don’t think I can provide computer technical support to anyone else. I’m fully booked as it is. Kris, my mother, my sons, neighbors, friends and 300 needy people at work keep me busy enough.
“Oh, I don’t think I have time to learn all that,” she said. Phew…
Lunch was served buffet-style. Kris and Pat needed no encouragement, and made a beeline for the buffet table before the attendant finished his introductory statement. I could see that my mother had gotten comfortably settled in her chair, and she appeared to be struggling with the concept of getting up.
“Would you like me to get you some soup?” I asked.
“Oh, would you, dear. You’re such a good boy.”
I guess the soup was pretty good because after that, Mom had no problem with motivation. The whole meal was very pleasant, capped by a round of the famous popovers with strawberry jam, and then fresh ice cream with strawberries.
As soon as the last morsel was gone, Betsy rose and excused herself. She was looking a little green around the gills—a touch of seasickness followed her onto the island.
“I’m going to try and walk it off,” she said. “Send a search party if I don’t make it back.”
The rest of us had a leisurely cup of coffee and eventually waddled out onto a high porch that adjoined our dining room.
The weather seemed to be taking a turn for the better. We could actually see a few of the wooden tables below us on the lawn—a good 50 feet away—filled with people happily eating their popovers and jam. Beyond them was a beautiful lake, at least in theory…
An incredibly long staircase took us down to lawn level, and we wandered amongst the tables until we stumbled upon a path. Signs pointed in multiple directions to various hiking trails and destinations. One sign simply read “Lake,” and it pointed downhill. We agreed to head in that general direction, and see what might happen. Since we were all overstuffed from lunch, the pace was slow.
Several minutes later, we came to a split in the trail. Signs offered two choices: Lake, and Jordan Pond House. I looked around, but the view was the same in every direction. Fog. No lake. No Pond House.
“I think we should probably head back up to the house,” I said. “We don’t want to get lost.” Everyone was fine with that idea, so we headed back up the hill on a different path. This one passed some nice flower and herb gardens, and up close, we could actually see some color through the monotonous vapor.
We made the loop back to the Pond House, and for lack of anything better to do, went to the gift shop. Even I went this time, and got myself a t-shirt made out of space-age miracle fabric that dries in seconds. I think we need a replacement for that term—after all, didn’t the space age begin in the 1950s?
At the appointed time, we returned to the bus and climbed aboard. The guide did a headcount, and then did it again.
“We seem to be missing one person,” she said. “Let me count one more time.”
I looked around, and verified that the mothers were safely tucked in their seats.
“Yes, we’re missing one person,” said the guide. “Anyone missing someone from their party?” There was no response. “OK, everyone please wait here.” The guide stepped off the bus and the doors snapped shut to prevent our escape.
“Hmmm,” I thought.