A Pirate Looks at Forty-Something

17 Sep

In honor of Sunday’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought you should know a little more about my past. While I’m talking about reinventing myself, I should let you in on a secret – it’s not my first time. You see, many years ago I was a banker. Yes, I did the panty-hose and pumps thing. Want a car loan? Come see me. Need to open a checking account? May I offer you direct deposit with that (that’s Banker talk for, “Would you like fries with that?”)? I was, in fact, one of the top sales representatives in the company. And on the side, I was a Game Show Host. I created game shows to train staff on sales and customer service (I’ll take “Play Nice With Customers” for $200). At the age of 24, after seven years creating a fine banking career, and with a guarantee of management in 6 months, I was burnt out.

This is where the reinvention comes in. I walked in one day and said, “I quit, I’m going to sail the Caribbean.” The responses varied. One comment, “But you’ve been here forever.” Seriously? I was 24! That’s a problem. One person’s response, “But you finally got your three weeks vacation.” Huh? Three weeks later I had collected my retirement and pension, sold my car, moved out of my apartment and given my dog to my brother (tears, sniff, sniff).

There I was, on a tall sailing ship built in the 1920’s. It was a Windjammer Barefoot Cruise ship, so I traded in the panty-hose and pumps for a t-shirt and shorts. Aaahhh, the romance of the sea. And the non-air conditioned office. And the rolling of the ocean. And the lack of stabilizers. And the sudden feeling of claustrophobia. And the nauseous feeling building. And the leaning over the side of the ship. And the getting a second peak at my lunch. Yes, the romance of the sea.

There are two sure signs of seasickness. First, you’re afraid you’re going to die. Then, you’re afraid you won’t die. I was making deals with God (and we know how well that has gone for me). My co-workers expected me to quit. I couldn’t do that as propriety would force me to return all of the going away presents I’d received. After about a month, most of the queasiness went away until I went to a new ship. Coincidentally, I was the Relief Purser and went to a new ship every month or so. Fabulous!

People have always asked me what the ship’s Purser does. While the Love Boat’s Gopher pretty much sat on bar stools drinking, hit on woman, acted like a goofball (and, I believe, had a secret crush on Julie McCoy), and later became a U.S. Congressman, my job entailed a little bit more. OK, being on Windjammer, there were a certain amount of drinks consumed, so perhaps I had that in common with Gopher (aah, to be 24 and a pirate again). But apart from that, there was a lot of work to be done. I was responsible for preparing the customs and immigration forms and meeting with officials to clear the ship and all crew and passengers into the various countries we visited. I have been known to use the phrase, “You people invented red-tape and sold it to the Americans!” Uh, I’ve mellowed with age (sort of). I was also responsible for handling the ship’s cash (yay banker girl!); I was the ship’s medical officer – undoubtedly due to my wonderful bedside manner, as I have absolutely no medical training. I also ran the ship’s gift shop, know as Sea Chest. As the Captain liked to point out, “Carole will be displaying her chest this morning.”

One of my other jobs as Purser was to paint numbers on the backs of crabs with white-out (really need to put that on my resume). If you’re going to have a crab-race, you have to know which crab is which, right? Hint: if you ever have to do this, tap on their shells so they don’t come out and bite you. This I learned by trial and error. And hosting boat races included warm Guinness beer, jumping overboard, water ballet and, well, let’s just leave it at that. Aah, the things I’ll do to be sure my passengers have a great time.

Windjammer was truly like living in a Monty Python sketch. After a particularly rough night at sea, passengers woke up to a chalk out-line of a body in front of the bar and the Captain walking through the halls ringing a bell and bellowing, “Bring out your dead!” (The response for all you MP fans – “But I’m not dead yet”).

From Banker to Boats (it’s a ship darn it, a ship). From Panty-hose and pumps to shorts and T-shirts. From sleeping on a cozy, queen size mattress to sleeping on a deck pad. As you can see, this is not my first reinvention. And I sure did learn a lot about myself. First, I’m stronger than I thought I was. I was the only woman, and the only American on some of these ships. I was called many names and, here and there, experienced sexual harassment. Still, I not only survived, I thrived! I kicked seasickness’ butt! I got those guys to treat me with respect and protect me like a little sister. I also got free spices in the island of Grenada since the ladies selling it in the square were convinced that I was a soap opera star who they watched regularly (who am I to argue?). I overcame my fear of change. I stepped out of my comfortable box and learned to truly live. This I will do again.


2 Responses to “A Pirate Looks at Forty-Something”

  1. Adella Wonderling December 11, 2010 at 8:48 PM #

    What i find difficult is to find a blog that can capture me for a minute but i think you offer something different. Keep it like this.


  1. Everything Old is New Again « My Own Adventure - January 23, 2011

    […] in October (you may recall that I have a background working on board cruise ships (read post A Pirate Looks at Forty-Something).  The following day I received a call from a tour company I had applied with and called two […]

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