A perfect stranger said this to me today.
Well, technically he was a retired Canadian with health issues who sat next to me in a taxi in Florence and upon falling asleep (confirmation made by snore factor) allowed his hand to fall on my leg which was not proper even for squished taxi etiquette but I let it slide. So, not a perfect stranger but, we weren't really that close.
So why was this decisively dirty old man picturing me packing? Well, do you want the context, or would you rather use your imagination?
My lack of modesty has nothing to do with my sense of sexuality, but more with laziness and body temperature, textured with some mild hippy influence upon receiving "Austinite" status.
Let me back up.
I lived in a dorm all four years of college. It was an all girls dorm, and I adored all the ladies I lived with. I felt perfectly at home with them and since my sister lived there too, I practically was home.
Dorms in the nineties were regulated with what felt like ancient heating systems and in Missouri, it can move from eight inches of snow to eighty degrees in what feels like a matter of minutes. So when I would be sitting in the dorm with my girlfriends and I'd get hot, instead of messing with the radiator, I just took off my shirt.
Seemed like an easy fix. Add or subtract clothes as necessary.
When I roomed by myself second semester of my senior year (my Heidi-Dot roomie was studying abroad in England), it was not unusual to find me sitting in the dark with just the glow of a 1993 Apple computer furiously working on a 30 page paper (I was both an English Literature and a Religion major, so I wrote a lot of papers). My friend Brooke would burst into my room on a Saturday morning, Monday night or Thursday afternoon with news of an upcoming trip to the KA house, or an invitation to see Titanic for the 4rd time, and I'd hear, "Fifi," (a pet name for us Pittman girls adopted by most of Semple Dorm), "for the love of God, will you please put on some clothes?"
So I'd hit Control S on the keyboard, and wrap up my naked body in my favorite fuzzy blanket and, grab a seat for the latest gossip.
Fast forward thirteen or fourteen years and I'm on a cruise with My Person in the Adriatic, and I'm meticulously planning for disembarkation the following morning. Never a procrastinator (my college grades attest to this feat), I'd begun packing two days before, and now, our last night, we had to properly label our bags, set them in the hall by 11pm (we were late by 40 minutes, but nobody's perfect), and of course get up in the morning, pack toiletries in the backpack, eat breakfast, gather in our meeting location and wait for our departing time to be called.
I had brought an extra bag for gifts and souvenirs which I'd carefully packed while we were in Sicily. (Yes, all of Christmas is done, hey-oh!). In Naples, I packed all our dirty clothes around our remaining souvenirs (mostly Person's hideous mugs he insists on buying at every port). Our final suitcase was for remaining clean clothes (laundry on the ship was stupid expensive, so we've adopted the European policy of re-wearing outfits) and non-essential toiletry items. I laid out my plethora of pills and vitamins for the next morning, organized all our receipts for customs (you get $$ back at the airport for shopping in Italy since they don't want non-residents to have to pay sales tax), carefully stored all pamphlets, maps, and ticket stubs (for scrapbooking purposes), and even laid out all undergarments (hand washed in the sink - remember that laundry issue), Chapstick (never leave home without it), kleenexes (did I mention I and 1000 other guests have a cold) and feminine items (switching birth control before an important vacation is never a brilliant idea, but that is a blog for another time, or maybe no time, TMI, sorry). I had our shirts & coats for our last day hanging in the closet, the shoes I was wearing next to the shoes I'm throwing away (remember that first day in Rome when it POURED and I was never able to wear those shoes again because the water was up to my ankles and the boots never dried and are now probably growing mushrooms inside?).
"Take off your shirt," I said to Person.
"It goes in the suitcase with clean clothes that has to go in the hall."
"Where's my pajamas then?"
"There're already packed. Deal with it."
And so the rest of the evening progressed.
I admit, I was in task mode. The people at our table for dinner from 8:30-10:30pm hadn't even started packing. That sounded like a nightmare to me. But I was wrong, the nightmare began the next morning when I got out of the shower.
"OMG. Person, we have a problem."
"What's that?" he called from the bathroom having been granted access after I emerged.
"I don't have pants."
No need to imagine the remaining events. I'll disclose them because they're just that good.
"Call the concierge, Ann. Guest Relations."
So I did.
"Hi, is there any way I can get my luggage back? I forgot to leave myself pants for today, so..."
"You don't have clothes?"
"Well, I have a shirt and shoes..."
"That's correct." I was getting irritated. "I need my luggage to get my pants."
"That's not possible, Miss. The luggage is already off the ship.
I hung up the phone and briefed Person. "Well call him back! Ask him if any of the shops are open so we can go buy you some pants."
"Hi sir, it's me, and since I'm missing my pants, I was wondering if you could open one of the shops on the ship so I can get my pants."
"None of the shops are open. It's disembarkation day."
"Okay, yeah, I know that. But can you open one of them? I don't have any pants to get off the ship." I started giggling because Person had emerged from the shower and was staring at me wide-eyed as I stood there on the phone in my grey sweater, yellow flowered underwear, and orange running shoes. "I'm not wearing pants."
The concierge started giggling. "No, we cannot open the shops."
"Fine," I slammed down the receiver. "Go talk to John," I told Person.
John is our Indian Stateroom Attendant. He's responsible for all the rooms on our floor and is wonderful. He knows our names and what time we leave the room for dinner and forgives our messy floors and always calls Manuel, sir and wouldn't even look at me on formal night (even though I looked awesome) so that there wasn't even an appearance of impropriety that could be communicated by him seeing me in a strapless formal walking down a hallway. "Good evening, sir," he said, looking at person, "Have a good dinner."
So Manuel went to tell our little Hindu who was, of course, horrified.
"What about her clothes from yesterday?" he asked, eyes wide open.
"She packed them," Person said (I'm very efficient).
John was incredulous. "This is disembarkation day," (Gah! We get it people!) "Call Guest Relations again."
Person came back in the room to a slightly terrified me, and picked up the phone for the third time.
"Bernard, we get it," he said. "But I need you to help me solve this disembarkation problem. She can't get off this ship unless she gets some pants."
Bernard's brilliant idea was for Manuel to disembark, get our bags and return with my pants.
However, upon further evaluation, I found this to be a terrible idea. What would I do, sit in my room for a half an hour, an hour, waiting for pants? We were already past check out time by now. And what if security disagreed with Bernard and didn't let Person back on the ship?
"Screw it. I've got an airplane blanket in the gifts/souvenirs bag protecting all those damn mugs. I'll just wear that."
"Ann, you can't wear a blanket."
So I was digging through our Christmas gifts when I discovered (spoiler alert!) that Manuel had bought his daughters scarves for Christmas. I had an idea. I took one out, spread it as far apart as the threads would allow, and wrapped it around my bubble butt.
"Person, I can make this work."
"NO. That is too short."
"It'll do. It's better than a blanket."
So I carefully wrapped a Croation Christmas present around myself, tucking both ends into my floral cotton underwear. And then I wrapped my fanny pack around myself for further cinching. I fingered the coins in the front pocket of my fanny pack rolling around as I turned and posed in the mirror. "Here, will you hold these coins?" I passed them to Person.
"Seriously? You're sporting a scarf for a skirt and you're worried about fashion?" He totally called me out. I may be a closet nudist whose clothes are generally too big and who rarely brushes her hair, but
I'm still just the slightest bit vain. I even considered putting on the mildew boots.
"They would keep my legs warmer... and make the skirt look like it's supposed to be a skirt..."
"No. Let's go."
So we headed to breakfast, and ran into John in the hallway. For the first time in two weeks he gave me the once-over. "No one will notice," he assured me in a calm panic. And then without stopping for a breath, "but leave the ship immediately."
I was fine until we got in the elevator. And then embarrassment set it. O.M.G. You could see the people looking me up and down like, "WTF is she wearing." And after breakfast we headed to deck two where we would finally do the almighty disembarking. And it was there that we ran into our Canadian taxi friends from Florence who got a good laugh out of my story. "Well, when you return to the states maybe you can rekindle the romance and put the scarf on again!" The wife suggested to me in a half whisper. Then a huge gust of wind blew through the gangway. "Sorry people, we're having technically difficulties due to the wind." Oh God. I groaned and begged Person to go ask security if he could just get off the ship, get my jeans, and bring them back. He rolled his eyes, clearly becoming exasperated with my fragile state and nudged his way to the front to explain our situation to the guard while the Canadians giggled behind my behind. (Did I mention one of them's in a wheel chair?). Security was stalwart. "You cannot get back on." So we waiting, and finally, we disembarked. And when the wind hit my 30 inches of bare legs and one foot of barely bottom-covering scarf, I cried out and Person grabbed my carry-ons and just said, "Run."
So I did.
Caution (and any remaining dignity) to the wind, I ran into the terminal, past all the fur coats and ski hats and straight to lane 74 where my precious lunggage was waiting. I dragged it to a corner of the room, ripped it open, and put on my pants.
Right. There. In. The. Terminal.
Clothed, and with luggage in hand, we boarded the bus where our Canadian friend took the handicap seat just a few rows in front of us and groaned and moaned his way up the steps. I could hear him complaining to the bus driver.
"At least you're wearing pants!" I hollered up, all abandon lost.
A jovial guffaw answered back. "I know who that came from," he said. "What I can't stop thinking about is what you were wearing while you were packing!"
And that my friends, is the story of how I lost my sanity onboard the Silhouette and probably promptly became the galley talk of Bernard, John, and Security Personnel for, at the very least, a good five minutes.