In the Realm of the Rich and Famous


Well, not quite. Linda and I are on a cruise from Athens to Venice on a 4-masted clipper ship that only holds 177 passengers. The weather has been beautiful, and we have managed to actually sail for about half of the distance. However, despite the inanity of using cruise ship WIFI, I take time from my jet-set pursuits to pass along my impressions of my fellow passengers. Most of whom, I must say, have been great.
The experience has been interesting for social reasons, however. A couple of representative incidents:
We hopped into the tender to take us to shore in Dubrovnik yesterday. There were about 20 of us in the boat, on a 15-minute ride to shore. Just as the sailor dropped the mooring line and we began to pull away, the well-dressed German lady next to me did an “OMG” scene and spoke urgently to her husband. He immediately jumped up to talk to the sailor driving the boat, who, after a moment’s persuasion, shrugged his shoulders and turned the tender back, docking again at the ship.
Whereupon the man jumped onto the gangway and turned to the driver, saying, “I’ll be back in two minutes.”
The driver frowned and started to shake his head. The tenders try to keep a pretty tight schedule. Everyone understands. If you start waiting for one minute for this person and two minutes for someone else…well you can see where that would eventually lead.
The husband smiled in an earnest and friendly way and said, “One minute. Please?”
What could the driver do? He shrugged his shoulders and powered down the motor.
The man dashed up the ladder, and all eyes in the tender turned to the wife.
She gave us all a charming smile and said, “I forgot my cell phone.”
There was a notable lack of response.
While we waited, she chatted on to the other passengers as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. When her husband returned there was a smattering of applause.
But as the tender pulled away from the ship, someone in the back of the boat called her by name. “You owe us all a drink!”
There was a great deal of applause at this, and she smiled gaily and agreed.
I haven’t seen any evidence of her coming through on the drinks, but that’s not the point. This couple, probably about 40, are of the Beautiful People. Tall, comely and always exquisitely dressed, they talk to everyone and are cheerful and pleasant to all. They just take it for granted that we will reciprocate by treating them like somebody special.
2. Political Inevitabilities
When we embarked on the ship, Linda immediately informed me that there would be no talking of American Politics, and I certainly agreed. The type of person we were likely to meet on this kind of expedition would definitely not be a Bernie Sanders fan.
But one couple we met seemed to be the exception. They were both friendly and intelligent people, the kind you could sit with and talk about anything. We were comparing political systems in general, because I am campaigning for Proportional Representation in British Columbia. The wife cheerfully informed us that she and her husband regularly cancelled each others’ vote out, since they belonged to opposing parties.
This encouraged me to discuss the topic more (staying completely away from the present administration. I’m not completely stupid). We were comparing Canadian and American styles of politics, and someone suggested that Bernie Sanders would do very well running in Canada.
I made the point that Bernie Sanders was simply the wrong man in the wrong place, and merely by existing he probably lost the Democrats the election, if only because he demonstrated that they could have had an alternate to Hillary Clinton.
Then the Republican husband dropped this bombshell on us. “Oh, no. Hillary was the worst possible candidate the Democrats could have run. She was…” And he proceeded to run through the usual half-dozen personal attacks that constituted the Republican’s main platform plank in the last election, ending with “…with no respect for the law.”
There was dead silence. None of the others at the table could believe that such an intelligent, friendly man could quote such blatant propaganda, such a scurrilous character assassination, and consider it an appropriate comment in a discussion of his nation’s politics with a group of well-informed people from other countries.
This demonstration of the state of affairs in the Republican Party leads me to suggest that some time in the next two months they had better dig down into their bag of tricks and find a real political platform to run on in November. The fact that their main technique still consists in attacking the candidate from the last election indicates how threadbare their moral fibre has become.
They have been nattering at each other in their own little echo chamber for so long they have forgotten that the world, and perhaps their nation, has moved on in the last two years.
They deserve the rudest awakening possible in November.

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