Friday, April 30, 2010

In the Suez Canal

Today we are in the Suez Canal, moving so slowly it seems more like a controlled drift than anything else. I had assumed it was going to be romantic in a historical sort of way. Or at least interesting. But frankly it's just a man-made river that flows alongside some of the least interesting land I've seen. Perhaps its most unique feature is our ability to get really close to cargo ships loaded with containers heading in the other direction. So, let's give the Suez an A+ for its role in connecting the Mediterranean with Southern Asia, but a C- as a tourist thing.

We have been at sea for so many days since leaving Dubai that most of us were probably investing the Canal passage with a little more hype than it deserved. Many of our fellow passengers are starting to show the signs of people who have been confined with one another for waaaay too long. Some of us are getting snarly; many of us are getting a little goofy and I know of at least two guys who ran away when they saw the room attendant in the hallway with a broom.

Me - I'm fine. Like the trusty old retired fart that I am, I fall into a routine and I am quite happy so long as I can stick to it. So it's breakfast in the morning followed by reading or writing, followed by trivial pursuit, followed by a shower. I then fight against falling asleep because I don't want to become one of those people who naps at 10:30. And when I awaken around 11, I read or write or whatever until lunch at 1. After that it's poker for a couple of hours, and by the time that ends we're close enough to cocktail hour not to quibble about 20-or-so minutes.

Later in the evening, LK and I will go to dinner and usually go to the casino for a little blackjack or roulette.There's a team of seven people running the casino and I know them far too well at this stage. They're nice people and lots more relaxed than the staff you encounter at the big casinos. I am pretty sure it is made quite clear to them that on a cruise ship the casino is for the entertainment of the guests so they have to develop the fine art of making you enjoy losing your money.

Actually, thinking about last evening, maybe I am getting a bit stir-crazy, too. LK and I were playing blackjack with a nice young Romanian dealer named Elena. I suggested to her that part of the problem with casinos is that the dealers are far too serious and removed from the game. In fact they draw the most incredibly lucky hands to beat the players and they show no emotion - or often they even commiserate with the poor losers.

"It would be much more entertaining if we all got excited about the cards - including the dealers," I suggested to her. And then I discussed some ways to do it.

So I was not surprised a few hands later when LK and I both stood on 19 with Elena drawing to a 6. A face card and a 4 later, though, and her 20 was good enough to snatch our chips. In the past, Elena would have shaken her head slightly in sympathy for us unlucky losers. But after my training session, she reached across and took our chips and started chanting in a singsong voice, "I got 20 and you didn't. I got 20 and you didn't."

That's when I discovered that A) her manager can be stunned by some of the stuff that happens in the casino; and B) it wasn't any more fun to lose that way.

Time for trivia. Gotta go.

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