BULLS IN A CHINA SHOP AKA THE NEIGHBORS IN THE NEXT CABIN
Our life lessons did not come from school; they came from our home environment, to be exact, my grandmother’s house. We called her Nanny, and she was liked by everyone, never did we hear anyone dislike her for any reason. She was perfect in my eyes, but she was a tough task master. As far back as I can remember she expected us to be polite, and considerate of others.
The house rules were; you did not run around the house, you did not throw things or play loudly – you were quiet and considerate to the people in the house, and more important, you were polite to your guests, and the neighbors. We did not raise our voices in anger to each other, or anyone else for that matter. If you used the word “I” too many times in a conversation, you were corrected – to talk about yourself was bragging, you should inquire about others, politely answer questions put to you, and then promptly turn around the conversation to your guest.
You never slammed a door, made unnecessary noise, or spoke about private matters in public. You were polite to people you really found offensive long enough so that they could not tell you didn’t like them, you made a polite excuse, and you left. You were told to keep your opinion to yourself, and avoid contact with them in the future.
Hotels had the same rules only they expectation was higher; you were not allowed to speak loudly, and you removed your shoes, as not to bother people in an adjoining rooms, and above all, you did not slam doors. The whisper of a quiet click as the doors were carefully closed was all that was allowed – disturbing another traveler was the height of rude behavior.
Despite all these lessons, there was the most serious infraction; it was worse than using the “I” word too many times in a conversation, it was acting “like a bull in a china shop.” That comment meant you were not fit for public outings, traveling, going into shops, and above all, it was a serious character flaw which rendered you a nuisance, rather than a person fit to be around others. We naturally thought that everyone in the world was taught these valuable lessons of life, and as we instilled these values in our children, we never realized that Nanny’s teachings were not given to everyone.
Cruise ships are mini cities and towns, and each cruise has a different mix of people from all over the world – some cruises have a nice hometown feel, and polite and considerate people; and some cruises do not. Besides very rude and selfish behavior, when we finally booked our first balcony cabin, we found out that often “the bull in the china shop,” was indeed in the cabin next to ours. After having enough exposure to some very inconsiderate neighbors, we stopped booking balcony cabins and started booking ocean view cabins instead. It took us away from slamming balcony doors, and toxic smoke coming from the balcony cabin next to ours. Along with the cigarette butts, found every morning on our balcony, as the cruise line restricted smoking inside the cabins, the only place for smokers to smoke was to go was out on their balcony during the night. After about 12 cruises in ocean view cabins, we had forgotten just how bad balcony cabins can be, until we found ourselves on the Carnival Legend on a back to back cruise in September 2013.
We started in a porthole cabin, moved to an ocean view, and then were given the opportunity to upgrade to a balcony cabin on deck 6 for both the 9/1 and the 9/13 cruise on the Legend in Northern Europe. They were both port intensive cruises and we felt would be nice to have a balcony again. It was after we boarded, and as we gazed out on the Port of Dover, that the first inkling of what was to come became apparent.
The loud slamming of the balcony door, made us jump; it was followed in quick succession with a second slamming of the door. It seemed our neighbors next to us, had decided that they could not enter and exit their balcony together. Two separate openings of the door, followed by wall shaking slams of the balcony door in quick succession meant they arrived on the balcony separately. It would be a sound that would disrupt our entire cruise, waking us several times a night, and forcing us to sleep in two separate increments during a 24 hour period. We would be able to sleep from about 7pm to midnight when they went out for the evening, and then again in the morning from around 11am to about 4pm when they were in port, or out of their cabin.
Right from the first day, they found it necessary to go out on the balcony separately, each slamming the door, followed by loud talking with each other on the balcony. They would scream at each other, one of them would then shove the chairs loudly around the balcony for some sort of dramatic effect, causing a noise like nails on a chalkboard. Then one of them would go back in the cabin alone, slamming the door, followed by the other one doing the same. Since they both seemed to smoke frequently, and they could smoke in smoking areas around the ship during the day and evening; at night, when they were in the cabin, smoking on the balcony was what they did – very often we would soon learn.
Within days we found out that they smoked on the balcony when they were in the cabin, and at night when they returned to their cabin at midnight, the ritual started again; jarring us from sleep. We know they didn’t sleep well, they were up smoking on their balcony every hour and a half during the night. Keeping with their routine of separate trips out to the balcony, we would be jarred awake as the first one went out to the balcony slamming to door, quickly followed by the second. We knew that 3 more times the balcony door would vibrate the walls of our cabin, broken only by the violent shoving of the aluminum chairs in the middle of the episode. We were then left to sleep for a short while, until the cuckoo clock neighbors returned; announcing another smoke break and those 90 minutes in the middle of the night had passed very quickly.
It was like clockwork, 24 hours a day. We napped when we could several times a day, never quite getting a night’s sleep, or even a good nap in the cabin unless they were busy somewhere else on the ship, or in port. We prayed that they were not on a back to back cruise like we were, and if they were, we prayed that they would not be in the same cabin.
By day 3 of the cruise, we were counting the days until the end of the cruise, and praying for more thoughtful neighbors in the cabin next to us. On day 8 of the 12 day cruise, and after 8 days of slamming balcony doors, and cabin neighbors from the bowels of hell; we built up the courage to inquire whether our steward knew if they were on a back to back cruise like we were. We were wondering if we would keep up the pace of short naps in place of a good night sleep for the entire 24 days on the Legend. His answer gave us the glimmer of hope that the next cruise would be better – they were not in that cabin the next cruise. We had only 4 more sleepless nights of slamming doors, and shoving chairs based on the smoking needs of our neighbors.
On September 12th, we returned from dinner to see the suitcases of our noisy neighbors placed outside their door. It was truly a night for celebration, our last night of disturbed sleep; we were sure that our next cabin neighbors could not be any worse. I couldn’t help myself, I just had to take a picture of their luggage, packed up and ready to carry them somewhere far away from us. We actually never saw them the entire 12 days; we have no idea what they even looked like. We were only exposed to the noise they made whenever they used their balcony.
You have to wonder, it is the middle of the night; you are on a ship with thousands of people. When you awaken, and need to use your balcony in the middle of the night to smoke, it is very quiet – the other passengers are asleep. As you open the balcony door, and hear the soft sounds of the sea passing by, and then let that balcony door slam – that jarring noise that can wake the dead, do you ever think that possibly that loud sound reverberating throughout the surrounding cabins might be bothering someone? Apparently it never dawned on our noisy neighbors.
September 13th arrived, the day we had been looking forward to – they would be gone, off into the world to invade the peace of other travelers. When we awoke on Sept 14th, we were surprised to see it was light outside; we had slept all night – no jarring intrusions. Our new neighbors did not have to use their balcony for several smoke breaks throughout the night, and therefore reminiscent to the first night your new baby sleeps throughout the night – we let out of sigh of relief – the bulls had left the china shop.
Copyright December 8, 2013 ~ Rita Alexandrea