Thursday, August 10, 2006
Now that I have remembered that cruise I mentioned a few days ago, I may be writing more about it in future days. Word got out in the community where we lived, that we were going on a Caribbean cruise. We got a call from a woman that said her daughter had recently married a man from Martinique. The woman was an artist and had painted a picture of the church in which the couple was married. She was afraid that it would get damaged if she mailed it, plus she said mail service was terrible to Martinique. Would we hand deliver it? What could we say? Of course, we would. We didn’t know that it would be about 3X4 feet. Big enough to be a constant conscious presence in a small ocean liner cabin. The cabin steward said storage with the luggage was “hazardous to its health”. So we put up with it and planned to just jauntily waltz ashore and , if necessary, tell customs what it was and take a taxi to deliver it.
But , Aha, the steward was a snitch. We receive a note to please, see the bursar post haste. He explained that at Martinique the custom officials come aboard prior to anyone being allowed ashore. And then nothing but personal property like camera and purses would be allowed off the ship. He suggested that perhaps we could bring the article to the ballroom where the custom officials would be going over the ships papers and passengers’ passports (all of which were in the possession of the bursar). When the officials had visibly finished their work we could slip in the room and ask one of them to check our parcel. This last was spoken with a tone of voice that a goofus like me did not “get”. I didn’t understand even when we realized that the officials duties included consuming a banquet-like breakfast. This was followed by stuffing their safari style uniforms with multiple sack style pockets with cigarette packs passed among them on huge silver trays.
When the orgy appeared to be slowing down we entered the room. We went up to a table and asked if we could take the painting ashore. “Oh,no,no,no. If you try it will be confiscated and go to a state warehouse.” Despite my pleadings, the answer was repeated several times. At the very moment that I “got” it and started to reach for my wallet, one of the French speaking custom fellows looked at the address on the package, grabbed the package away from me, and practically yelled, “Never mind, never mind! I will confiscate it right here and deliver it to Monsieur ‘I-forget-the-name’ immediately. We are sorry we did not understand.”
So it was that we learned that the artist’s daughter had not married a simple cane cutter, but a high government official. Ashore, we took a taxi to the groom’s office ("What an office”!) to tell him what was going on with his painting. He interrupted to inform us it had already arrived, he had looked at it, it was beautiful, and he had had it taken out to their home to his wife. She was thrilled and wished us to come to dinner. We had to decline due to the early departure of the ship, but I sure would have liked to see where they lived.