LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: What kind of foo-el do you think I am?

Published 4:00 pm Monday, July 2, 2018

Larry Penkava

Five years ago after returning from my first ocean cruise, I wrote the following light-hearted remembrance. It sheds light on a cruiser’s greatest fear — missing the boat with the chance of being marooned in a foreign land.

Ginny and I took our third cruise recently and I was reminded of this earlier column. Although the facts are a bit manufactured, the story is based, at least a little bit, in truth.

When the captain mentioned the fool, I immediately slumped down at the dining room table.

I knew Capt. Roberto Costi, with his Italian accent, must have been talking about me when he came on the PA system. Ginny and I were eating supper in one of the large dining halls on the Carnival Fantasy week before last during our cruise to the Bahamas.

We’d been at Freeport all day and expected to shove off that evening. Then the captain gave us his report.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be slightly delayed leaving Freeport because the foo-el was late arriving.”

Ah, the foo-el. Excuse me, Capt. Costi, but I wasn’t really that late getting back to the ship. Freeport is on Grand Bahama, after all, one of the largest of the chain.

And the main part of town is quite a walk from the harbor, especially when you miss the excursion bus on the way back. Who knew I’d become distracted by the large melons at the straw market? Know what I mean?
Late? You call it late just because I had to beat on the gangway hatch to get somebody to open up and let me back on board? Just because your precious engines were revving up, causing swells in the harbor?

You wanna know what late is? I’ll tell you about late.

Late is when you enroll in college and 36 years later you get your degree.

Oh wait, that’s me being a fool.

Um, uh, late means never having to say you’re sorry? Better late than never?

Late bloomer? Late night? Late great? Late arrival?

Er, missed the boat?

But I didn’t miss the boat, Captain. Therefore, technically, I wasn’t late.I was safely ensconced in my stateroom as the Fantasy pushed off from the pier. Yes, I was in bed with the blanket pulled over my head, in a solid state of embarrassment. But I was on the ship.

Nobody had to slam on brakes because some fool came running down the pier crazily waving his arms for the big boat to stop. No flashing lights, no screaming sirens, no out-of-control heartbeats.

Just a light tap on the gangway door and a calm, cool “LET ME IN!”

And a red-faced security officer jerking the door open, demanding my ID card and slamming the hatch closed.

And the amused stares of fellow passengers, the smiles of the crew and the captain’s words …

Wait, what?

The captain meant what?

Oh, it was his Italian pronunciation that threw me?

He really was saying that the FOO-EL truck was late arriving at the ship to reload the FOO-EL tanks?

So Capt. Costi wasn’t talking about me at all?

Does that mean I’m not a foo-el after all?

Don’t answer that.

Larry Penkava, who has written Now and Then since 1994, didn’t really almost miss the ship, but Capt. Costi really did say foo-el.