Carnival Triumph – A Trauma for the Underbelly
To hear the tales of woe emanating from the passengers of the Carnival Triumph cruise liner marooned in the Gulf of Mexico for the past few days, you would think they had just escaped from the Titanic.
Blocked toilets, defecating in bags – OMG! Cold food for three days – disaster!! Sleeping on deck – horror!!! No mobile coverage – unthinkable!!!!
There are times when I miss the old stiff upper lip. If only someone had come off that liner and said “well, it was getting a bit rank down below, but hey, I was at Woodstock, and you wouldn’t have wanted to be less than half a mile away from the trenches we had to use there.” Or maybe “sleeping on deck? Made a change from those boring cabins. And there’s nothing like a bit of adversity for making new friends.” Or even “I’ll put up with all kinds of crap for a refund, $500 and a free cruise…”
But of course that wouldn’t have been very newsworthy, would it?
I suppose it’s been a threadbare week for disasters. Real disasters, like Chernobyl, Sandy and the Japanese tsunami, would have made the plight of the Carnival Triumph a non-story.
It seems to me that humanity today is divided into people who have known life-threatening hardship and those who haven’t. Some have known war, famine and natural disasters. For others, the height of adversity has been a blocked toilet on a cruise ship
I will freely admit that I am from the latter half. I’ve just come back from a ridiculously lazy holiday in Thailand, spent mostly eating, reading and writing. My saving grace was my wife, who insisted that we swim lengths on the pool twice a day, and curbed my instinct for a second croissant at breakfast and a large lunch before an equally large dinner. Had she not done so, I would have looked even more like the human whales flopped around the pool with their iPads and suncream.
I, and the other overweight baby boomers jostling each other over the food counter in Thailand and waddling off the cruise liner, have had a soft life. At least our bodies have, even if our minds have been warped by the stresses and neuroses of the late 20th century and the nervous noughties.
Our parents and grandparents, especially those brought up in the US, the UK and continental Europe, endured an economic depression, followed by a world war that is beyond our imagination no matter how many documentaries we watch and history books we read. Those who suffered the most tend to talk the least about their experiences.
For the other half, the 20th century was one of continual adversity and physical hardship. A couple of years ago I went on a ten-day cruise of the Holy Land and the southern Mediterranean. There were many ethnic groups on board. The majority were westerners very similar to those who could be seen disembarking from the Carnival Triumph. But there was also a large group of South Koreans. Very few of them were overweight. On average they were several inches shorter than the other passengers. Many of them were bent, bow legged and walked with a shuffle rather than a stride. An older generation with hardship, and possibly malnutrition, imprinted on their bodies.
Something tells me that if true adversity returns to the West, we will roll over, moaning about unsanitary defecation, cold food and a shortage of antiseptic wet wipes.
The other half is made of sterner stuff.