Part One of this tale begins, as so many Part Ones do, a long long time ago.
I was a sprightly lad of 21, with a twinkle in my eye and a spring in my step, working a horrible desk-sales-clerk-type job for Radio Shack Franchise and Dealer International. It paid on sales gain over the previous year, and the downturning economy of the time spelled minimum wage for months at a time. There were parts of it that were pretty freakin grim.
However it was not without its perks; for one, I was shagging the receptionist rotten. What a gal. She was 38, so she was damn near twice as old as me, and she didn't have a lot of time for dancing around the subject. We had a lot of sex, and a lot of...well I guess sex was all we had. But brother, we freakin had it. I'm convinced it was chemistry. I think every so often you run across a member of the opposite sex, or should I say the sex that turns you on, and your pheromones and her pheromones just mix so explosively that you have incredible sexual chemistry. You know when it happens - it's only happened twice in my life - but yeah, I think it's mostly chemicals. Anyway, I had to break it off because she was a sloppy disgusting drunk and I decided she wasn't worth the nookie.
For another, and this is the important bit, we were eligible to take part in Radio Shack's annual dealer incentive trip, in which they'd buy every cabin on a cruise ship and send their top dealers and franchisees to exotic locales and keep them good and liquored up for a week.
Like I said, business was down, what with the economy being in the shitter (this was 1989 or 1990), but that actually boded well for me, because that meant there were fewer franchisees earning their berth by buying x amount more than they did last year. So the company would open more cabins to employees who would one way or another earn their way aboard.
One month they held a contest to see who sold the most camcorders to their stores. Funny, the things you remember; they sold for $799 and we sold them to the stores for $719.20. We gave 'em 10 points on those shitty gigantic noisy rattly pieces of shit and shoved them down their throats to boot. But they kept buying them; I guess that means they sold.
Anyway, my team ended up selling more of them than anyone else in the country, thereby winning the trip (incidentally, I was not at work the day it was announced, so while everybody else celebrated with pizza and cake and frosty adult beverages, I, having called in "sick," was loitering around the Worcester Centrum, trying to wangle tickets to see Paul McCartney. Which I did, at face value, for seats about 30 feet from his piano).
So the question now became, whom do I take with me? At that time I didn't have a girlfriend, at least not one I could take on the cruise with me. Remember also that I was 21, and the world still hadn't scarred me deeply enough yet; I still had an ounce of decency in me. Ah, the good old days. This time my decency showed itself by wanting to take by coworker and buddy Steve, who did what I did in the same office but for a different team. My team and his finished in first and second place in the entire nation in this contest, and he came within a whisker of beating me. So I put in an appeal all the way to the president of the company, explaining the circumstances and asking him for an exception to be made to the rule that employees can't take other employees with them unless they're married.
And like every good deed I've done since, this one was punished. I was given the official negatory the very day I had to name my guest. I had to find someone to cruise with for a whole week, in about three hours. My initial plan, if they rejected my idea, was to find some woman who had sufficiently loose moral scruples but who could at worst keep her yapper shut or at best hold down her end of a conversation. You wave a boarding pass to a cruise ship and it's easy to do. Alas now I didn't have time. So I called up my buddy Craig and asked him if he was free for a week, and if he'd like to pal around in St. Maarten and other sun-drenched locales. He was thrilled - in fact he paid for all the excursions, just out of gratitude.
So bringing a dude on a cruise was not exactly high up on the cool-o-meter but, just to fast forward the tale a little bit, we ended up having a blast. We hung out with the band, who took us back to the crew-only parts of the ship; we bought some green stuff in a plastic bag from a dude who was wearing a wooden hat; we bought a giant bottle of vodka and every night our cabin steward would see to it that we had a #3 tin can of orange juice and clean glasses. We really did have a good time, even though neither one of us got laid.
Anyway, we rewind back to me asking Craig to go along. That night I was having dinner with my parents and I mentioned that they wouldn't let me take Steve. Before I could tell them that I had my guest, my mother started begging me to take her along: "Oh PLEASE take me, Gary," she intoned in a voice that is like...is like...well, picture Edith Bunker and Fran Drescher, both from New England, being electrocuted. "I'll stay on the deck and read a book and stay completely out of your way! You could bring girls back to the room and I won't mind!"
I looked at her as if she'd absolutely lost her mind, which she had. "Mom...no."
"Please, honey, I promise I'll stay out of your hair." This last sounded like "Al stiyatta yuh hayyyah."
Finally my Dad dove in to the fray and rescued me. "Come on, Susan," he growled. "Leave the boy alone. Ought to be ashamed of yourself."
So the immediate danger had passed. I was not fated to go on a cruise with my mother, although she bears Craig a grudge that exists to this day. And that ends Part One of this little tale.
Part Two will be up later in the day. But I'll tease the main subject of it to pique your interest: this June, I am going on a cruise with my mother.