Friday, December 28, 2018

Rescued from the Apocalypse

I needed some things for the apartment. You know, stuff like sheets that fit the now queen-sized bed rather than the king-sized V-berth, and some dress pants and shoes for Tim since his zip-off pants and boat shoes were a little inappropriate for the new job. I went to Target early the day after Christmas, right after dropping Tim off at work. Pushing my cart through the kids' department after realizing we had a grandson's birthday to think about, I stopped mid-track, stunned. It looked like a tornado had ripped through the department. There were new clothes strewn around on the floor with dirty cart tracks pressed right over them. There were piles of clothes laying on top of hanging racks. There were labels ripped off laying everywhere. There were products from other departments laying everywhere, many of them opened. A pair of someone's badly worn tennis shoes was shoved under some clothes, obviously a product of a shoe theft. Shelves were wiped clean, and remnants of the clothing they held were laying in a pile on the floor at their ends. I literally couldn't even process the destruction.

There was a sales associate walking around picking things up and, bewildered, I asked her, "Is this from the Christmas rush?" She looked at me with a look that mixed exhaustion, frustration, disgust, and a touch of depression before answering, "This was just from Christmas Eve. We did double the business we did last Christmas Eve  - way over our projected total. People were pawing through things, shoving other shoppers was mayhem." Realizing I probably looked pretty stupid standing there with my mouth agape, I explained. "We've been living on a boat the last five years. I guess I've been a little isolated from this..."

Every department was more of the same. There was some odd post-apocalyptic vibe in the whole place; the elevator music was silent, leaving only the sound of pallet jacks, stacking boxes, and the little bleeps of their stocking computers trying desperately to determine the original location of something left on the floor. Sales associates and stockers shuffled silently through the layers. No one smiled.

Since returning to landed life, I have seen the very worst of my fellow humankind. We've been dumped unceremoniously into the whirlwind that is consumerist life in the States today. Impatience, greed, and abject rudeness abound everywhere. If it weren't for the blessing of having our family close by, I might have been tempted to join the workers in their despair, but the years of travel have changed me in a very fundamental way. 

For more than five years we've been blessed to be part of the cruising community. It was, in fact, the single most important part of our cruising experience, and one that surprised us. We expected to love the sea, the sunsets, the long walks on beaches, the movement of the boat through the water, the playful antics of the dolphins, but we never expected that we would form the deepest friendships we've ever had in over sixty years. We never expected to experience the selfless giving, the complete trust, the genuine caring that we have from those we traveled with. We never expected to see the very best of humanity or the ways in which that would change us.

Our friends of Life On The Hook recently decided to buy a house and to commuter-cruise some months out of each year. He commented that he wasn't sure they would still be considered cruisers once they had a permanent address on land. I replied that I disagreed, that I think cruising changes who you are, and grants you a place there permanently. Cruising is a state of mind, that of caring, kindness, helpfulness, generosity, wonder, respect. Those are qualities that develop as a result of being part of this traveling community, qualities that remain even when a member of the community is landed, regardless of how long.

As I navigate the apocalypse that is landed life, I will carry with me closely the memories of the last five years: the unexpected gift of food from a tiny galley, the offered ride to buy groceries, the support during a family death, the countless smiles and waves from cockpits passed in the dinghy, the offer of a free dock for a night's stay, the innumerable bouts of laughter over appetizers in the cockpit. And if all that is good about the cruising community can bleed over just a bit to the people around us here in the city then I'll consider the time well spent.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

We feel your pain. The cruising state of mind remains. Stay strong!