By Sue Murphy
I just got back from the Panama Canal. Bet you didn’t expect me to say that. I didn’t expect it, either, but in one of those “life is short” moments, I booked a cruise with my sister and brother-in-law that left San Diego and landed in Ft. Lauderdale.
Fourteen days at sea! It was terrific! The highlight, of course, was transiting the canal. We went through the “going up” locks in the morning and the “going back down” locks in the afternoon. The beautiful simplicity of the idea – raise and lower the ships by raising and lowering the water – was an impressive show of engineering. The fact that the captain could squeeze our giant ship in between those concrete walls with just a few feet to spare on either side was seamanship at its best. The whole day was made even better by the fact that the remarkable trek was over in time for us to play team trivia at 4:30.
Oh yes. We went directly from experiencing one of the wonders of the world to huddling around a coffee table trying to remember the name of Bob Marley’s back up group. (It was the Wailers, which for the life of me I couldn’t remember.)
Team trivia involved 15 questions, put forth in rapid succession, with participants sternly warned against cheating with their cell phones. The moderator was not asking us to puzzle out the meaning of life, but to come up with tidbits of information so extraneous that I have semi-successfully navigated my entire life without knowing the majority of them.
Still, the competition was fierce. Trivia teams wrote their possible answers on scratch paper so as not to tip off the other teams with verbal cues. On the last day, Team Prevagen launched a coup and usurped the normal seating area of Team Viagra (I didn’t ask), but Team Viagra prevailed, capping it off by sending the Prevagen losers a big glass of lemons.
Our little gang of three had no name. We made a respectable showing each time but never won. We did, however, win prizes in the Simon Says competition. Actually, I don’t know if you can call it winning. We were the only three people who showed up for the event, so we walked away with ship coffee mugs. Being paid not to play. I could do that all day.
Our days were filled with similarly amusing but pointless activities. This was not a Jello shot crowd. There was no wet T-shirt competition (thank goodness), but there were multiple games of bridge and bingo and Mah Jong. Our threesome went a more pure research route, signing up to taste and evaluate whatever libations the bartenders were offering. We knew our strengths.
Looking back (now I can do that), it seems strange that we would need entertainment of any kind. I mean, we were on the open seas, sailing in waters most of us had never experienced. There were mountains in the distance, cities we had only heard about in travelogues … or the nightly news.
And yet, we spent several hours of that time digging through the fifth grade slush pile in our brains to answer “Who was the first human person supposedly created by Zeus?” It was Pandora. I didn’t know that, either.
Our trio has booked another cruise for later this summer, giving us ample time to read up on our destinations and fill the rest of our brains with as much useless trivia as possible. Or maybe they’ll pay us not to play trivia. We’re good at that.