I arrived at the offices early that balmy, late summer morning because, quite frankly, that’s how I roll. I like to set up early before the minions arrive: have a cup of coffee, wait for my computer to cough and splutter to life (not unlike myself whilst enjoying aforementioned first cup of rocket fuel) and generally ease myself into another day of phones ringing incessantly, crew dropping by unexpectedly and, of course, emails arriving by the thousands from crew and clients alike.
So, back to that morning in question. I’d been supping on my cafe au lait for only a moment before I heard a noise that made my nostrils flare and my upper lip rise into an unpleasant and unflattering sneer. You know the sort; the one that looks like someone’s smeared dog shit on your top lip. The small and very much shared toilet was flushing. Someone else had infiltrated my quiet time. Worse than that came the awful realization that this infiltrator had been parked in said bathroom for upwards of 15 minutes — the time lapsed between me arriving, making coffee and parking my fat office butt in my fat office butt-shaped chair.
The door opened, and the accountant emerged. She left the door slightly ajar, then smiled and gaily said hello. I said hello back. A difficult feat when one’s upper lip is holding the dog shit sneer.
Moments later, a rancid stench, not dissimilar to that left behind by a garbage truck that has just come fresh from the hospital route and dumped out a big bin full of diarrhea-ridden babies nappies on a hot summer’s day, permeated the air and penetrated my delicate early morning nostrils. Fighting the urge to vomit into my coffee cup (I admit to being sick in my mouth, but just a little bit), I got to thinking about how inconsiderate this woman was; that is, after my mind had wondered what the hell she had eaten the day before to back out such an unholy mother load. People? Road kill? People who’d eaten road kill? The mind boggled.
Anyway, I digress. I pondered why she’d come in early to befoul our communal toilet with such an all-embracing vileness that the revolting odor would no doubt linger the entire day, taking poor unsuspecting fellow office workers by surprise when popping in to relieve themselves, not to mention stripping them of their teeth enamel. Surely, she could have done her daily dirty work at home?
Which led me to start thinking about how personal space, and consideration for other people’s personal space, is so very important. And if it’s this critically essential in a big office, then it’s downright fundamental in a small confined space like, say, crew accommodation in a yacht.
How many crew have been lumbered with the world’s most inconsiderate bunkmate for a whole season? I’ve written previously about the two-man crew (captain and stew cook) where the captain used to piss his own mattress every night and she had to hose it down on deck each morning, so I won’t go down that path again. But, come on guys, how hard is it to think, “ Blimey, I had a lot of curry last night. I’d best use the head with the porthole I can leave open to air it out a bit, so my colleagues don’t throw up at the sheer evilness of my depravity? ”
OK, so it’s not just about how bad your roomy’s dump smells. There’s a whole heap of other things to consider when trying to make your fellow crewmembers’ lives more bearable. I’ve illustrated quite possibly the worst example because that’s what happened to me the other morning. However, being crew, you must try to be considerate to your compadres in various ways and adapt socially unacceptable conduct to become, well, more socially acceptable.
When you’re working and living in such close proximity to various other people who are also often strangers, it’s hard to get into a routine and adjust to other people’s foibles. I, for one, am renowned for leaving my shoes all over the place. Fine in my own apartment; if I fall over them, I have nobody to yell at. If I fall over yours, however, all hell will break loose. I will kill you. Fact. Some people are incredibly and naturally untidy. But when sharing that tiny cabin with another person, you have to reign in those bad habits.
I can’t help myself. I have to return to the theme of the toilet. Boys, if you’re sharing a head with the ladies, stop leaving the seat up. Yes, we CAN put it down. That’s not the issue. The issue is, when we stumble into the toilet late at night, dog tired or half cut, we see the lid is up, sit down and, if the seat is also up, fall in and get stuck. That’s really not great. It’s no fun to be calling out for margarine to oil up one’s hips to get out of the john in the middle of the night, and it also leaves unsightly bruises. Ladies, are you with me?
Snoring has to be the worst problem with sharing cabins. I know of people who have had to use earplugs in order to get their much-needed shuteye and who then get a fierce bollocking from the captain after they sleep through the fire drill in the morning. How do you combat that? And when you get tall guys sleeping in bunks built for pygmies, people get all bunched up and snoring seems inevitable. Should we put the snorers in together? Or perhaps exile them to the engine room?
But, loathe as I am to say it, girls do seem to be some of the worst contenders in the cabin sharing stakes: makeup and dirty knickers everywhere, phone chargers left on the floor (just perfect for bare feet to step on in the dark) or just plain old barging in without knocking on male cabin mates. Just because he’s a guy doesn’t mean he’s happy for you to see his todger, so please, knock and wait. It’s called manners.
How you all do it, I have no idea. Being a miserable old spinster with lots of cats (well, that’s what you all think anyway), I enjoy having my own space to breathe. I like to leave my shoes / jeans / knickers on the floor / banister / kitten, so how you manage to cram your whole lives into a cabin the size of a snail’s fart…I have no idea. Hats off to you all. I salute you!