I went to Long Beach to see the Queen Mary this week. One of my dearest friends was visiting from Kentucky and we had some time to kill, so we went to play tourist.
I’ve lived in SoCal for five years, but the only place I’ve ever been in Long Beach was the Convention Center for a seminar.
I like cruises. I’ve been on quite a few…several in the Caribbean, even one in Europe. What appeals to me most, since I am the quintessential over-packer, is that you unload your stuff into the closet and the drawers once and you are done. Some of my friends say “But you don’t get an in-depth experience of the country and the culture!” I have never felt that way; in fact, it’s actually saved me money. For example, I visited Athens, Greece, on a cruise. I thought that it was a place that I’d want to spend more time…but, in fact, I discovered that it wasn’t. I got to see the Acropolis in depth, the museums surrounding it, the changing of the guard, the Olympic Stadium, the site of the original Olympics, the colorful marketplace, etc. But I was done. I came, I saw, I checked it off the Bucket List. It was hot there and it very much reminded me of NYC in the dog days of summer, except everyone spoke Greek.
It was sort of cloudy when we arrived and the ship is really old. She was first launched in 1934 so that makes her 79. Also, the sea air and the pounding surf have made her look even older. It was almost a little eerie, especially since it was a Monday and there was hardly anyone there and it was a dreary kind of day.
So, my friend and I decided we’d do the “Ghosts and Legends Tour” of this Grande Dame of the Seas. We got our discount from AAA (significant, if you go there) and went aboard.
Our little group was ushered into a room, very reminiscent of when you visit Disney’s Haunted Mansion. It was darkened, three TV screens flashed with a relatively brief history of the Queen. I did learn a thing or two, though…about the fact that she transported thousands of troops during WWII and was painted battleship grey at that time and was known as “The Grey Lady.” She accidentally cut one of her escort ships in two, sending 300 or so men to a very quick, cold and watery death in the North Atlantic and doing a bit of damage to her bow, which was quickly repaired. Other tales about boiler room men being blown up, another crewman being cut in half by a hydraulic door, a little girl drowning in the first class swimming pool, etc. I was okay with all of this…I don’t scare easy. I rode the subways in NYC in the 1960′s.
However, I am claustrophobic. SERIOUSLY claustrophobic. I don’t know where it came from…but I don’t do well in small, enclosed spaces.
I didn’t know that’s where we were going.
So, off we went. The RMS Queen Mary has been outfitted with a bit of Hollywood. First stop was the aforementioned First Class Swimming Pool. In 1939, Cunard was ahead of its time since it actually had a slide going into this indoor pool. It was now empty, except for a dank puddle in the middle of it (I wondered where that came from?) and it smelled just damp and old. They turned the lights off and on, played a tape of a little girl laughing, made a pool gate swing open and closed…and then we moved on. HAH. Didn’t bother me, not even a little bit. Except for the smell.
We went to a couple of other places and I was fine. The only things that bothered me was a) it was so dark I had trouble seeing where I was walking and b) someone brought their five-year-old and the kid was terrified.
Then we came to the “crowning glory” of the Ghost tour: the bow of the boat where it is said that the 300+ seamen who went quickly and unexpectedly to their death prowl around.
It is narrow. It is very dark. It is 36 feet below the water line. It scared the bejesus out of me…not because of the ghosts…just because it was very narrow, very dark and 36 feet below water. I think if I stretched I could have touched both walls. I was close to panic.
Thank God for yoga.
I stood there with my eyes closed, breathing deeply and putting myself in a “happy” place while our guide spoke interminably about the horror of that day. I was more concerned with the horror of this day.
Then, the piece d’resistance: water came gushing in from the walls. OMG. It was all I could do to not run screaming from the spot. I don’t even swim with my face in the water. Now I’m 36 feet below the Long Beach Harbor, in a space as big as my last walk in closet, squished among a bunch of tourists and now there’s water??? Deargodinheaven. I can’t even describe it. The breathing was becoming hyper-ventilating.
Just as I thought I could not take this for another minute and I was going to truly embarrass myself in front of not only my friend, but a bunch of people representing a cross-section of America, it ended. Praise the lord, we actually got on an elevator, discreetly hidden behind one of those walls and rose to a mid-deck. There was fresh air and now the sun was actually starting to peek through the clouds and it was turning into one of our typical, spectacular Southern California days.
So, what did we do? Headed immediately to the restaurant where I downed a Bloody Mary while waiting for lunch. I felt much better and I will never do another tour like that without first inquiring about the size of the spaces we will be visiting.
I guess this means I won’t ever go see any caves…and definitely not the interior of the Pyramids. That’s okay. I will happily alter my Bucket List to accommodate my fear of enclosed spaces.