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Turning Over New Leaf

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Surviving Life’s Cruelties


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My wife and I returned last evening from a trip we planned a while ago. Those of you who follow The Disconnected Traveler know that we love to go off the beaten path, and rarely take vacations with “tourists.”

In all the years I have gone out of my way to seek adventure, I frequently encountered some degree of danger, but never disaster. This time, being undecided about our destination, we took a cruise to get away and relax.

Life has no rule book. We set out to visit five Caribbean Islands to get some sun, meet new friends, and spend some time together. Challenging the rapids in the Colorado River might have been less demanding. Much of the trip was very pleasant, because we made it so. I have written about it on The DisconnectedTraveler this week. However, we did face an emotional challenge.

After a terrific day in the Virgin Islands, a fantastic dinner, lots of fun, and the company of new friends, a 42 year-old man who had just won a Magic Show contest in one of the ship’s lounges fell overboard and lost his life. We spent the next two days in an unsuccessful search and rescue effort and had to discontinue our last port of call.

My wife had a very difficult time with the tragic event. It naturally put a damper on everyone’s mood, but she was hit exceptionally hard.
 
A couple of things really did get to me as well. While the Captain and the crew handled the event with a great deal of professionalism, some of the passengers did not. Their focus was on purchasing items at the ship’s jewelry sale and fighting for position at the earring table during the Captain’s instructions about dealing with the search operations. Many complaints centered on the absence of any monetary refund for missing a port of call while the search for the man was still underway. I thought volunteering to assist the crew in any way possible was a better approach, but I guess it takes all kinds of people to make a world. One passenger joked to a gathering of laughing fools that the “magician must have been really good since he made the man disappear.”

Life really does not have rules, and tragedies like this must be accepted. I think there is, however, a certain protocol to dealing with disaster that differentiates a person’s class. In my world, the ability to afford cruise fare does not translate to good breeding.

 

This week on the Disconnected Traveler:

 

 

33 comments:

  1. I agree with you. Thanks for sharing this story. I'm sorry you and your wife had to deal with this sad experience. It's hard to believe that there are people out there who are SO insensitive to other human beings' pain. I have been thinking about this lately. It is beyond my understanding.

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    1. Julia: Beyond understanding is the perfect phrase.

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    1. CailinMarie: It is hard to figure.

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  3. JJ, what a horrible experience for you and your sweet wife. I believe that we have been desensitized over the years to the horrors that can happen to others. So sad, that! The thoughtless remarks of others, making light of such an incident, may be a form of relief that it did not happen to them. I feel so sorry for the poor man's family.

    Thanks for your comment on my post. I left you a reply.

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    1. Judie: This incident has really shaken Carol. We both feel awful for the man and his family. In fact, I volunteered to pass on the rest of the cruise and join the search team. Yet, some people were too insensitive. You and I are kindred spirits, and I thank you for your kind words.

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    2. JJ, I hope your next trip is a lot more fun! I have left you another comment on my post.

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    3. Judie: I certainly hope so!

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    4. JJ, I responded to your latest comment on my post.

      xoxo

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    5. Judie: I'll check it out.

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  4. Oh yes beyond, quite true. My goodness though, it has to be something that weighs heavy on a person's soul. It just brings home so deeply, how quickly things can change, and our dear and short one's life can be. It's situations like that which often make me ponder, as they say everything happens for a reason. Exactly what we may never know, but perhpas mising that other port was in everyone's best interest. You just never know.

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    1. Karen: We think alike. Nature controls. Who knows what tragedy was averted through this sacrifice. That is the kind of thinking that walks me through tough times. Thank you.

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  5. Hi JJ .. it does seem to be incredible - how impervious people can be - just dreadful ... and so so selfish ..

    This wasn't a comfortable read about humanity ... Hilary

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    1. Hilary: I agree. Read Karen's comments above. That is the kind of thinking that allows me to overcome my disappointment with humanity.

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  6. Oh no JJ that's terrible.. I would be in the same state as your wife. What a terrible thing to have happened to this poor man & those he left behind, on what should have been a happy time in his life. I am so sorry that you and your wife had to experience such an awful event.
    It's like a stab at the health of human society when you see people behave so badly in such a terrible situation. It's just appalling!!
    I hope your wife is doing better now JJ .. and you too of course!! Take Care...Katherine x

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    1. Kath: Thank you. My wife was a wreck. They woke us up at 3:15AM and she thought the ship was going down. While my mind was racing a mile a minute about how I would get her safely to a lifeboat, she kept thinking of disaster. In any event, she is still shaken, but she has been on enough crazy adventures with me to get through it soon. The sad part is the young man who lost his life, and his family. Life is strange.

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    2. That it is JJ...it's hard to understand why some things happen as they do. It's very sad!

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  7. I can understand why Carol was so upset by this tragedy. It wasn't just the loss of life, which was bad enough in and of itself. I suspect the entire ordeal was made ever so much worse by the other people on the boat and their reactions. It is always this MAJOR shock to the system when people do not respond in a humane and caring way to something as horrible as a Man Overboard Situation. Had the entire boat reacted in a collective way to making finding him their top priority and not caring about that last port of call (forget about that darn refund because it just isn't important), I think that Carol's and your frustration and aggravation would have gone way down. It wouldn't have changed the situation one bit. It would have restored your faith in your fellow man. You would have felt that in the face of tragedy people still could gather together and work for the utmost good. This experience just showed you that people are shallow and selfish and rotting from the inside out... like you didn't know it already. The thing was that you couldn't escape it. You were trapped on a boat with it for two days. It doesn't make me feel even remotely comfortable about where we are going as a society. But then you already that... Please hug Carol for me and tell her that she is wonderful:) And when she hugs you, know that you are also wonderful, because I think you are:) As do so many others...

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    1. Robin: There were also many wonderful, caring people on that ship. I focused on them, which is why I fared better than Carol.

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  8. Unfortunately we see often this kind of behaviour, even in much less dramatic events. Many people only think on themselves. As living beings on earth we can not be proud of being among the most protective and friends of our peers. These behaviours always bring to my mind a disturbing (but realistic) book - The Lord of the Flies.

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    1. Fanático_Um: Lord of the Flies. What a great reference for the attitude!

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  9. Hey JJ
    Communicating with you for this brief time, I know you would be the first to volunteer to search for this young man. And yes, 42 is very young but I believe his contract time was up.

    There is so much I could say, but I won't. My Mother used to refer to money as evil and it's apparent it brings out the worst in people. The complaining passengers could have found a warm communion with others in a time like this but they passed up a great opportunity. Too bad.

    I am sending warm loving thoughts to you and especially to Carol. She's thinking of that man's wife ..... so take care of yourself dear friend.

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  10. I really wish I could remember what I wrote the first time I attempted commenting. I really want to get this right. Or maybe not leave anything important out is more accurate... Anyway, I read this post with a heavy heart. I know that you enjoyed portions of this vacation very much - at least, until tragedy struck. The irony was that this cruise was supposed to be easy and uncomplicated. Turns out, it was anything but easy or uncomplicated.

    Please tell Carol that she has been very much on my mind since I read this blog. I keep trying to imagine what was hardest for her and I know that it was multi-layered. There was the tragedy itself, which was bad enough all by itself. However, I think what might have been worse was the reaction of the other passengers. It is always a shock to the system when people do not react in the way that you expect. And it sounds like it wasn't just one or two oddballs, but it was a lot of people who were desensitized very quickly to this loss of a fellow human being. John Dunne once said, "Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." That reference would have been lost on these people. It would be lost on most people. And that is a devastating loss to our society as a WHOLE. And that is a kick in the gut from which it is hard to recover.

    It wasn't that long ago (a decade? two?) when this situation would never have gone down this way. I just can't picture people reacting in this manner over a Man Overboard situation. Sometime in the last ten, twenty years we have been shedding our humanity, and it shows at the ugliest times. We like to think we are still living in a better time and then something like this happens and ::oops:: there it is. And the most beautiful, sensitive, graceful, loving among us find it very difficult to cope (that would be lovely people like your wonderful Carol). Even you, my friend, find this behavior difficult to swallow. It goes down much like glue. And you look at people a bit less benevolently than before. I know I do. And I wasn't even there. I want to love everyone. I want to like everyone. But, I am a much more cautious person than I was 20 years ago. They are not me. They are not like me. They don't all have kindness and warmth in their hearts. And I know this to be true.

    If you would, hug Carol for me and tell her that she is wonderful for feeling all of the things that she does. It is because she is such a generous, caring spirit. It is good that she loves so much. I think that man was there to teach a lesson for anyone who was paying attention to learn it. And there were lots of aspects to the lesson. Once you understand that, you can begin to let the experience go... and just be thankful that you knew him at all AND you understood the lesson(s). Not everyone on that cruise even understood that there was a lesson to be learned!

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    1. Robin: You are deep. Don't ever let anyone take that away from you.

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  11. That would really sadden me as well. I would have been in histerics since I don't know how to swimm. The tragedy would have consumed my every thought. I would have dwelled on it!

    I don't understand where compassion has gone to. I don't like the changes that are happening in my lifetime. People seemed more civilized when I was younger than they do now.

    I am sorry to hear that your trip was subject to such an awful event.~Ames

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    1. Ames: Thank you. It was very tough on my wife. I'm not sure I will get her to cruise again.

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  12. That's a real shame when you encounter selfish ignorance and cruelty. It's unfortunate that people like that are out there, but it's the ugly truth.

    Glad there are equally wonderful, caring people who put forth the effort to do the right thing.

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    1. Miranda: I agree. We also did meet many folks who were wonderful and caring.

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  13. What a sad situation. I can only imagine how disheartening it was to go through this. I understand your wife's reaction and also your wanting to help. You two are real human beings with hearts and could only be expected to feel deeply for this man and his family. Hopefully this will be something that in time is an experience among many and not so haunting for you both. I wish I could say that I think most people would react like you did and that this group was particularly obnoxious. I'm afraid that I'm not surprised by their immaturity...

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    1. Jasmine: I think most people were concerned, but there are always a few who poison the well.

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  14. I guess people will always shack us. Sometimes it's with abundance of humanity and sometimes it's with absense of humanity...

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    1. #167 Dad: You got that right. I've never figured it out.

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