Marrs Attacks: Heaven never sucked so much

What if someone told you they would do all your laundry for a year? What if they said they would cook all your food as well, offering you a variety of gourmet cuisines every night from which you could eat as much as you wanted, free of charge? To sweeten the deal, they’ll do your dishes too.

Since you’re on a roll, how would you like your linens folded twice daily? And your room cleaned just as often? A chocolate on your pillow? No problem! They can do that for you, sir.

Sir, in case you get bored, how would you like to see the world while you enjoy these fine luxuries? Some place warm in the wintertime? Some place your friends might wish to honeymoon? Some place about as stressing as a massage? They can do that for you, sir. They can do the massage too. Just become an entertainer on a cruise ship.

Hi there. My name is Homer Marrs and I am losing my mind. I am in day 367 of my sentence on a floating resort that travels from New York to the Caribbean and back. Reality for me is working two days a week for maybe three hours a day, filling the rest of my time with Scrabble, sleep and alcohol. To work off that last one, I also walk. I walk in circles, long circles, around the seventh deck of the ship, undulating with the waves as passengers stop me to take their pictures and pause their shuffleboard games as I pass.

At 2,000 passengers per week, I’ve shared this ship with 104,000 different people over a year. Throw in the crew and it’s 110,000. Imagine having 110,000 people trollop through your house. It sounds silly, but when you spend as much time as I do wandering the same hallways, passing the same signs and sitting in the same seats, you do feel as though the ship is yours. The longer you stay, the more you feel this, and the harder it becomes for you to hear some loudmouthed trash from New Jersey complain to a petite Filipino receptionist that they weren’t told it might rain on their vacation.

Music blares everywhere I go. At the pool, it’s reggae and Caribbean interpretations of pop hits like Smash Mouth’s Walking on the Sun. In the atrium it’s classical piano by day and Hawaiian lounge music by night. The bars host Elton John wannabes and passenger karaoke. All of this is lovely to describe, but hellacious when repeated ad nauseum and then repeated ad nauseum.

There comes a point when you’ve heard the band play I Will Survive so much that you actually feel time stop and your soul escape your body at the sound of the opening lyrics. You return to consciousness to discover you’ve lost four minutes and have the inexplicable urge to change your stupid lock. Then you walk back to your cabin, passing the karaoke bar only to have the same out-of-body experience when five drunk college girls attempt the same song.

If I ever open a karaoke bar, I am barring I Will Survive, Dancin’ Queen and Summer Nights from the play lists. I am also forbidding co-eds from getting up in groups of more than two.

Let’s talk about paradise. I’m not sure if it’s by the dashboard light as Meat Loaf states, but it sure as hell isn’t a beach and rum punch. That’s nice for about four hours. After that, your skin starts to burn, reapplied sunblock stings your eyes, the invisible sand fleas find you, and the rum punch demands you locate a public restroom pronto though the last clean one you saw was on the ship.

You search frantically for an American-looking restaurant, willing to pay $20 for a sandwich just so you can use their facilities. Instead you find an endless number of locals desperate to braid your hair or get you a taxi “or anyt’ing ya need, mon.” In the Caribbean, it is easier to find heroin than a clean toilet.

I cannot wait to say goodbye, yet I am drained from saying goodbye so much already. Every friend I’ve made on the ship has left, gone to live anywhere from the Ukraine to the Yukon Territory. The ones I have now will see me do the same. It really warps your sense of friendship to know that the close confidantes you have will soon diminish to names in your inbox and characters in stories you tell. It is the nature of life at sea.

Still, it is good to have stories, and people to e-mail them to, and if you have to go through a year of sleeping until sundown and getting fat on free foie gras to get them, then so be it.

Heaven can also be lovely.

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