Cruising the Snake River
Servers wore salmon bow ties, maroon button-downs, and ebony aprons tied at their waist, as they scurried to serve UnCruise Adventure passengers in the dining room. The ship was the S.S. Legacy, and it cruised along the Snake River in the Pacific Northwest. I sat alone in a large diner booth, next to an oversized picture window, and scribbled notes in my travel journal.
Casey, the ship manager, shuffled past me and noticed I was alone. He stopped, returned to my table, and asked, "Are you alright? Do you want your daily tea?"
I brushed back a stray piece of ebony hair, and said, “I’m alright. Thank you for asking. I wanted to record the movement of the dining room in my journal. I can’t concentrate when I’m distracted by other passengers." I clicked the top of my pen with my thumb. “You have my lunch order, don’t you? I'm sorry I was late."
He nodded in understanding of my need for privacy and said, “Yes, we have your order.”
"Thank you," and I turned to watch the bustling scene of food and conversation in front of me. It was like a choreographed dance. Wine glasses raised. Laughter filled the room. Passengers leaned forward to listen to other passengers. Jerrid, a thin, genial waiter, approached my table. He laid down a perfect arrangement of crisp romaine leaves mixed with boiled egg, red onions, blue cheese, and bacon next to me, and said, “Ingrid, I’m your cabin steward for the week. If there is anything special you need, please let me know."
He remembered my name, I thought, and I expressed my appreciation.
He left, and I set my pen on the table and replaced it with a fork. A few moments later the owner of the cruise line, Captain Dan, and his partner, Meghan, strolled by my table. Dan asked, “Ingrid, do you have anyone to sit with you?”
I finished a bite of salad, then smiled. "I requested to sit by myself," I said. "I wanted to write."
They both nodded. “We just didn’t want you to be sitting alone,” Dan said.
I expressed my thanks and they moved to the booth directly in front of me. I watched them interact for a brief moment, then turned to gaze out the window at the current landscape. Layers of barred sediment rose out of the water and streaked across the natural elevation of the earth's surface. I reflected upon this morning’s geology presentation by one of the UnCruise staff. My eyes searched for columnar basalt formations along the mountains, and I discovered the remnants of what was once a thick lava flow. Captain Dan spotted the natural formations too and announced his discovery to the passengers in the dining room. Someone exclaimed in response, “It looks like big pipes of an organ.”
“It looks like a cathedral,” Dan said.
Casey balanced a round serving platter covered in purple cloth. He gathered long-stemmed glasses abandoned on a table and stacked them onto the shallow disc. The glasses reminded me of transparent soldiers. I watched him disappear behind a swinging galley door. The smell of fresh food from the kitchen wafted through the air behind him. Across the room, binoculars raised. Glasses filled with scotch found searching lips. A woman rubbed the shoulders of her partner, and a diner pointed toward the landscape and said, “Look how the basalt columns have become rolling hills.” The ship slowed, and we all peered through thick layers of glass in reverent awe at the scenery.