(Please note, after publishing this, I was contacted by the fine folks at the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, concerned about my experience. This is slightly mortifying. This story happened well over 20 years ago and I'm sure that my experience would be very different today. And, I'm kind of given to exaggeration. A little. I'm putting this disclaimer at the top of each part of the story, lest someone searching for this fine vessel think it is an accurate portrayal of what the experience may be today.)
I'm not sure how my mom got the tickets. Maybe she won them, maybe someone at work gave them to her. Whatever their origin, they were the perfect excuse for her to get us all out together for the dreaded 'family time'. My mother and father, my brother Shane, and I were going to spend a day cruising the San Francisco Bay, enjoying delicious refreshments, and marveling at a private aeronautic performance by none other than the Blue Angels. It was to be a spectacular day. Our vessel - the retired battleship, the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien.
That morning was a typically beautiful San Francisco summer day - 55 degrees and drizzling. We were running behind, most likely due to my insistence in taking two hours to get my hair just right using my Richard Caruso Molecular Hairsetter. At seventeen, there were only two things of great import in my life: saving the planet, and my hair.
I was deep into my Greenpeace phase. It was my 'after-Broadway' plan. After I had made my name in lights, I would retire to the quiet life of chaining myself to whaling ships and throwing red paint on women in fur. I would make my home somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, despite my hatred of Birkenstocks and armpit hair. I was a big fan of Pearl Jam. While I wasn't excited about spending a day with my parents and twelve year old brother, I was excited to spend it pretending to zip across the open ocean in a Greenpeace dinghy, calling from my megaphone, "Release the dolphin!".
Plus, who doesn't like the Blue Angels?
My mom was frantic during our drive into The City. "We're going to miss it, Kelly Marie, because of you and that hair." She was near tears when we finally pulled up to the dock. "Run!" she cried, "Just run!" We boarded the ship at the very last minute, smiled and high-fived each other. We'd skipped breakfast in our mad dash, and a helpful woman in a red shirt and the name tag "Jenny" pointed us toward the back of the ship and a teaming mob of people. "There's breakfast!" she said.
My father hated waiting in lines and so suggested, "Let's wait 'til it thins out." So we waited, and the thinning didn't take long. We hurried over to the buffet and discovered - nothing. Not one crumb of stale donut or morsel of flaky croissant. Even the whole fruit was gone. Even the honeydew melon, which no one ever eats. There was bottled water, and so we each grabbed one and went to find a place to sit.
Except, the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien is a retired battleship, not a cruise ship. Before they hired it out to cruise, one would think that it would be outfitted to accommodate people instead of battle-stuff.
One would be wrong.
There was not so much as a deck chair, a bench, a upended milk crate or hay bale upon which to sit. So we huddled, alternately squatting and leaning against the deck railing, clutching our bottles of water, doused with drizzling rain and sea spray. Our bellies would have to wait until lunch. Then, full on whatever delicious fare they'd served us, we'd watch with wonder as the Blue Angels performed their aerial trickery.
My father remained an optimist. "I bet they'll be beer with lunch." In his estimation, few situations could not be improved with beer. It was then that I looked up and noticed the banner hanging from the ship:
"M.A.D.D - Mothers Against Drunk Driving - Thanks You For Your Support!!!"
"Dad," I said, and gestured to the sign.
"Goddamn." he sighed.
To be continued.
2 weeks ago