A few things you’d best NOT do when traveling for ten days to countries where you don’t speak the language: One, fail to pack a warm enough coat; Two, fail to pack the most important hair product in your bristling arsenal of hair products because you foolishly believed the cruise line when it said no blow dryers or flatirons; and Three, scratch the living daylights out of the oh-so-delicate tissue protecting your eye, necessitating a trip to an eye doctor with whose staff communication was impossible given the language barrier.
But let me take these step by step, not necessarily in this order.
I’ll start with the forbidden hair care items about which the cruise line was as primly stern as the evil governess in a 19th century novel. No, you may NOT bring your own electric appliances, heavens no, it said the literature they send out ahead of time say. The current, you know. The strain on the ship’s energy sources. Anyway, they sniffed, you’ll find one of those leaf blower hair driers right in your stateroom.
But the problem for me, see, is that with the type of hair God gave me I have never been able to get even an approximately normal look by wielding a round brush in one hand and some honking-huge drier in the other. Instead I have to use the kind of drier that has the brush attached right to the heat source, the kind that were designed for men in the great ago of disco. (Think John Travolta’s hair in Saturday Night Fever.) Most of the women onboard this Viking longboat sported fabulously fluffy and /or shiny hair styles come the Cocktail Hour and the elaborate dinner with all that complimentary wine that the waiters kept unstoppably pouring. I can’t imagine how even one of them managed to look so great when here I was at these events looking like the homeliest Chia pet on the block.
Next, there was the issue of the warm-enough coat I had failed to bring which didn’t seem as it was going to be a problem when I unpacked that first night onboard – until it turned out that the weather report for the Netherlands and Belgium, which had PREDICTED temperatures in the low 60s with partly cloudy skies actually MEANT to say low 40s with a nice-two-for-one combo of pelting rain and hail. After one day-long walking tour on Saturday I couldn’t have said I had hands at all. You could have cut off all my fingers and applied nail polish to the bloody stumps and I wouldn’t have known the difference.
And finally, there was the wholly unanticipated visit I had to make to the eye doctor in Antwerp after, in an effort to remove the contact lens in my left eye, the darn thing just would not budge. This was at 10 at night after one of the fancy dinners with music and trivia games in the lounge afterward. I dug and I dug ‘til the white of my eye turned dark red. See, I just knew the lens was in there and had rolled up into that part of my brain where I keep the multiplication tables and the names of all the major rivers in the world.
So the next morning I went to the ship’s concierge. He called a local ophthalmologist to make me an appointment. When the hour drew near, he called a taxicab to take me to the office of this good doctor. Who peered with the standard blinding scopes and strobe lights into my eye said that whatever lens has been in there during that last elegant dinner was in there no more. Which means that what I had actually done was to cross-hatch with dozens of tiny slices the whole white of my eye. Death by a thousand cuts, in other words. But HOW after 30 years of daily putting in and taking out these single-use contacts, could I miss the fact that, before taking out the contact in my right eye, I had already taken out the contact in the left one?
All I can think is, must have been the wine. 🙂
There’ll be more to say about this wonderful trip in future blog posts. I just had to get the nonsense part told first.