Breakfast is very important for me, either in reality or in the dream. And the black coffee is the most essential for this sacred time of the day. I have my breakfast spot on each ship. It usually takes about a week or two for me to find the one, but I stick to it for the remaining four months of my contract. It is usually in a quiet corner, so no one judges how much I eat and no one comes bothering my peaceful morning. It is also usually facing the pool as well so I can observe the people.
My supervisor on the ship…one of the smartest and most capable women I know, has these big rounded eyes that make you talk softer and softer by just one look. She is serious when she needs to be, but she could be the funniest person in the party as well…once you get to know her.
One morning I was in my usual breakfast spot, enjoying my bagel and coffee. I saw a tall woman with uniform walking towards me with the corner of my eye. I lifted my head, gave a polite smile and said hi. She ordered her bagel and…sat down at my table. Trust me, it really could have been worse. At least we were not in the situation that I was the one who came later and had to decide where to sit. She took her pick, fine with me. As a quintet manager, I probably should invest some time getting to know my boss anyway. We had some normal, casual seaman's chat…things like, how long have you been sailing? Did you just have a meeting with the captain? How does the programming work throughout the fleet?
It went fine, I thought, and I’m kind of glad it happened.
Then the next morning around the same time, we bumped into each other at the same spot. Then the morning after that. She sat down and said, “we are discovering a little pattern here aren’t we?”
I almost couldn't tell if she was happy or bothered by it.
Our conversations advanced to how she has taken a picture with a “watch out for polar bears” sign in Antarctica, holding a coca-cola jar with a polar bear in her hand. Or how I told her the one thing I think they really should have in lido is crunchy peanut butter, and she went, “I have a jar in my room, you want some?”
Though our relationship was still more professional-oriented, I was still scared of her and she was still my boss.
The summer after that contract, she posted on facebook that she was visiting NYC and wanted to see if any friends would like to meet up. Not sure if I qualified as a “friend,” I sent her a message, “I am in town and would love to see you, if you have time…”
She replied, “Let's go get the PERFECT NYC bagel!!!! Reunite over glorious bagels!!”
We had bagels on land! That felt real and that felt like friends.
Soon after, she was promoted to a fleet manger who no longer stays on one ship for a substantial period of time, but I was fortunate to still see her in every single contract of mine. One time being a total surprise on a cold day in Alaska while I had trouble getting on the ship with every muscle in me shrinking and screaming, "cold!" A voice from the back went, "so they had our violinist suffer in the cold, huh? Let me see what I can do." Few minutes after, I was back in my cabin with a cup of warm tea.
Other than bagels, we got to have authentic Bahn Mi in a guest cabin, lunch and high tea in the dining room and morning workouts at the gym.
Real people make you feel safe in a dream. I can only say that I couldn't have found a better breakfast corner four years ago.