Problems. Part of life, yes, but for some, problems seem to define their very existence. In fact, I think problems are society’s most prevalent addiction. Is “addiction” is too strong a word? Addiction can be defined as, “
I find it interesting to divide problems into three (oh-so-scientific) categories:
1. Third-world problems, which are a really big deal. Usually life-or-death matters of survival.
2. First-world problems, which are actually just inconveniences, encountered in everyday life. (see this video for some awesomely hilarious examples.)
3. And finally, Cruise-world problems, the most ridiculous and inane of all problems.
A year ago this week, my husband and I went on our first cruise, to the Eastern Caribbean with Celebrity. It wasn’t long before I encountered my first cruise-world problem. I had gone through the buffet, put my tray down at a table, and gone back for something else, but when I got back, my tray had already been cleared away by the staff. I didn’t see it where I expected and thought I was losing my mind, in those 30 seconds I spent looking at all the tables in the surrounding area. Of course it wasn’t a “problem;” it was just startling, merely an inconvenience to have to go back again for the same food.
I didn’t think about that experience again until the end of the trip. We had to sit behind a group of people on the bus after disembarkation who were rolling out complaint after petty complaint. Here they were on the tail end of a wonderful vacation and all they did was whine about all the privileges they felt entitled to, but didn’t get. I would have understood if they had been simply comparing the positives and negatives with other cruises they’d been on, but their tone was bitter, and they sounded like someone had stolen something from them; like they’d been cruelly mistreated and abused. These were some of their complaints:
- “I can’t believe I didn’t get any slippers until the second-to-last day of the cruise!”
- “Last time we had a butler in the hall who came and got you whatever you wanted if you so much as cracked your door. This time we had to call for him when we needed something, and *gasp!* he didn’t seem very happy to help. Like we were bothering him!”
- “He asked to take his tea out of the dining room and, can you believe it, they said no!” (because of a potential safety issue while the boat was pitching)
- “[My daughter] spilled something on her shirt and I had to scrub it out with stain remover. Can’t believe I had to do laundry while on vacation!”
- “The way we’ve been treated on this cruise has just been terrible. My wife is planning to make quite a few phone calls when we get back.”
Now, I know I’m in no place to judge their situation, but I definitely judged their attitude! My husband and I talked about them a few times since, sometimes just making fun of them, sometimes angry, because these people represent the attitudes of so many more spoiled, entitled people. What made me sick was that they spoke this way in the presence of their little girl, only about ten years old. What kind of example are they setting for her? There were so many things we’d wanted to say to them at the time, and now, we really wish we had said something. Something positive, of course! Most of all, though, I feel sorry for them because they’re missing out on so many wonderful blessings that they just don’t see, right in front of their faces.
One of the episodes of the Travel Channel show “No Reservations” with Anthony Bourdain portrays hundreds of people digging through a dump for anything recyclable they could find to earn a mere $1 a day. Little children were among the scavengers. These people were on the very edge of survival. Problems like these are third-world problems, the only kind that would warrant bitter complaints. This is what truly is “not fair;” not the fact that you paid for a suite only to get the kind of service you’d get in a veranda.
To deal with our frustration with those people, we had fun coming up with a comprehensive list of the cruise-world problems we were subjected to while we endured the unpleasant experience of our Caribbean cruise vacation:
- You are already late to the evening entertainment show when you get stuck behind a group of geriatrics in the casino moving at a snail’s pace.
- You forget to reapply sunscreen at the beach and get baked like a lobster.
- The first night at dinner, no one else is seated at your 8-person table, and you are left with only your spouse to converse with.
- You go back to your stateroom for a sweater, but the housekeeping staff is cleaning your room and you feel awkward.
- The pool volleyball game is cancelled because the ship is pitching too much, so you don’t get a chance to show off your mad volleyball skills.
- You sleep in and miss the seating time for breakfast at the Grand Restaurant, and have to end up eating buffet food instead.
- There are no elliptical machines available in the fitness room, plus it’s way too hot in there.
- The weather is too cold and windy for swimming while at the beach.
- You get guilted into paying way too much for a lousy back massage on the beach.
- The ship’s photographers keep harassing you for photo ops with people dressed up in smiling dolphin costumes.
- Everything on the menu when you dine looks so good that you can’t decide.
- There are so few people on the dance floor that you feel too awkward and self-conscious to be out there shakin’ it.
- Bartenders annoyingly keep asking you if they can bring you a drink, but you don’t drink alcohol.
- Your stateroom TV’s remote control doesn’t work or is out of batteries.
- The water is too warm in the shower and there’s no cool water.
- The nearest restroom is closed for maintenance and you have to walk all the way around to the other side of the ship.
- There are no available lounge chairs on the deck because they’re all being “saved” for others.
- The elevator takes so long to arrive that you have to use the stairs instead.
- There is only one electrical outlet in the stateroom, so you can’t charge both your iPhone and iPad at the same time.
- The water container is empty during Zumba, so you have to walk all the way to the cafeteria for a drink.
- You have to endure the hassle of changing clothes yet again to comply with the dress code for dinner.
- Your shoes give you blisters while walking around the island and you have to go barefoot.
- The minibar fridge is so full that you can’t fit your own drinks in there.
- You don’t have enough low bills for tipping and are forced to tip much higher than you want.
- The humidity makes your hair frizz out and you can do nothing with it.
Just look at all these horrible problems we experienced. What an awful vacation, apparently.
Thinking back on this makes me more aware of the blessings that are hidden within every one of the situations we often label as “problems.” Sometimes all it takes is a perspective adjustment. When something isn’t going the way I would like or expect it to, I try to think of it as an opportunity for growth, instead of as a problem. How about you, readers? What do you do to free yourself from the tyranny of being in problem mode?