Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Captain of the Ship
It was a sunny warm afternoon when Joan drove to the harbor. As she drove over the bridge, she could see the small sailboats lined near the shallow backwaters. The cruise ships were anchored further down the coast. The calm deep sea, the bright azure skies and the beautiful backdrop of mountains and evergreen forests took her breath away. Everything looked picture perfect.
Joan had come to the harbor to enjoy a week long, round-trip cruise from Vancouver. She knew very little about ships. She had come on this trip just for some fun and excitement. She felt that she needed to do something new and different. Having had a hard breakup recently, most of her last two months was spent feeling sorry for herself. She had been moping around and asking a lot of "why"s. The end result of that was to come face to face with the unsurmountable wall of futility. She realized this was just meant to be a dead end. She finally decided to turn back and ask "why not" ? She was glad that she did. She stood on the deck as the cruise liner left the harbor and started the journey into the sea at a gentle speed. The picturesque landscape that was then unfolding before her eyes filled her heart with inexplicable joy.
The white majestic cruise liner was in the middle of the sea by late afternoon. All that anyone could see around them was water and water and more calm blue waters. Joan closed her eyes and took in all the fresh air and let the gentle breeze run through her soft locks. It seemed like her dream lover was running his fingers through her hair very gently and lovingly. Could he be around? She opened her eyes and turned her head to the left side. She saw a man in white uniform walking towards her. The white captain's hat hid his face. As he drew closer, Joan saw that he was built rather short and stout. He smiled at her and kept moving further right. The captain of the cruise liner was in fact an elderly gentleman. He appeared to be a jolly man and spent quite a bit of time being courteous and social with the guests on board. Towards late evening, all the passengers were busy enjoying their delicious dinner , the music and joyful conversations. The captain even stopped and grabbed a few bites and an occasional drink with them. No one seemed least bit worried where the ship was going. They took for granted that this experienced elderly captain had everything under control for a safe travel. But the captain of the ship was not strong of heart, not at least for handling a storm that came from nowhere in the middle of the night.
Protected by Vancouver Islands, Vancouver usually does not face the worst of the Pacific weather systems. So the last thing Joan expected was to confront a freaky storm in the Pacific coast that shook away some of her casual, taken for granted assumptions. Joan seemed to wake up into a nightmare when she heard the announcement that the captain of the ship just had a heart attack trying to steer the cruiser liner to safety. "This could not be happening. This is so unfair. HELP! Since when did we have to know how to steer a ship just because we wanted to have fun on a cruise? That is supposed to be the captain's job." The giant angry waves were lashing against the round portholes. The crashing sounds were even more intimidating in the darkness. For a moment she was so terrified that she was almost about to scream. But she quickly realized that this thought process was going to be suicidal for her. In the midst of this storm, her life was at stake but so was the lives of so many other travelers and crew, including the captain. If anyone could help her at this moment it had to be only herself. After all, even if the ship had to capsize, she could put in her best efforts before that. She argued, for whatever it's worth it will help her soul "rest in peace".
It was important to quickly get over the fear and come up with a logical and executable plan for the greater good. She tried to calm down and think about the possible next steps. She saw herself making her way to the control room even as the ship was rapidly swaying back and forth. It was hard to keep one's physical balance and staying mentally calm was another big challenge. When she finally got there, she found three young sailors, panicking themselves to death. Seeing this, Joan literally stopped herself dead on the track and took a few deep breaths. She surmised that these sailors must have quite a bit of knowledge of steering ships. Perhaps, she thought they might even have recollected this knowledge in less stressful circumstances. It was funny how they did not seem to be using any such navigational expertise, finding themselves in the middle of this terrifying setting. She looked at the irony and humor in the situation and laughed inside. It definitely helped her see things in perspective. Joan then set her mind upon helping these young and promising sailor men, get over their fear and panic so that they can finally start to THINK!
Joan casually approached the sailors and forced a smile as best as she could. In the midst of confused conversations one of the sailors chanced to turn around and catch a glimpse. Joan took this opportunity to make eye contact. She was in fact, an attractive young woman with big hazel eyes. The young man had turned to her in order to ask her to leave the cabin. They needed to "work in peace". However, her calm and reassuring eyes stopped him from uttering the words. After hesitating in silence for a second, he turned back to his mates. Joan read this as a positive sign and took a step further till she was face to face with the huge panel of various control mechanisms. She took the time to read the labels. She allowed herself to ask the questions that came to her mind, OUTLOUD. Initially, the mariners looked at her in surprise. Their face gave away what was on their mind. "Are you serious, woman? Do you expect us to answer your questions, now?" But one of them half-politely answered her, anyways. The result was magical. It was as if she had unknowingly asked them the most important question. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, the young man got excited about the answer. It was the very answer that they were searching for the past hour. "What were they thinking all this time?" It took a few minutes of consulting and figuring out for the crew members to finalize their rescue plan. In another half-hour, the cruise liner slowly but surely started to steer away in the direction of calmer waters.
Joan was carefully and patiently watching each development and every move of the sailors. After toying around with the thoughts for a few minutes she mustered her courage and asked, again. "Are you sure we are heading in the right direction ?" The young sailor, who had so far been extremely nice by letting her stay and even ask questions, was then about to lose his temper. His face turned red but he kept silent. He tried to double check all the calculations involving speed and direction. To his utter astonishment, he began to realize that they had made a mistake. "Could this girl be right, that we were heading in the wrong direction and getting far deeper into the Pacific ocean ?" He seemed tired and frustrated. After all that hard work to avoid the storm, he had thought he was a hero. The recent discovery almost undid his glorious feat. "What now? ", he thought. That night Joan was on a roll. It was as if the girl read his mind. She went ahead and asked another unassuming question that lit up his eyes. He struggled with the ship's wheel and kept on turning the huge cruise liner little by little to the opposite direction. Finally, it seemed that the ship was indeed, completely out of danger.
With a big smile he said "Thanks!!" and gave Joan a squishy hug. She felt awkward and shy but curiously excited at the same time. She was beginning to like this young "acting" captain. She could not help get charmed by his wisdom, patience and bravery. He really was her hero. As he relaxed the grip and let her go, their eyes met again. Joan sensed that she was not the only one who felt rescued.