I sat down on the bed, and started to read a brochure put out by the cruise line, about the cruise ship. I found that we were not fully utilizing all of the amenities in our stateroom. For example, there was a steel plate on the wall with a black four-position knob on it. By turning the knob, we were serenaded with either British short-wave broadcasts, or Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. With the strains of the string quartet shivering into “Winter”, it seemed a lot cooler in the room. And, I discovered that by huddling in the corner, right next to the air conditioner, it was just a little cooler than the rest of the room, which, in addition to the window radiation, was also radiating heat from the deck above.
We sat and read the book about our stateroom, which was written only in German. What we thought were merely narrow bunk beds were actually the latest high-tech device in comfortable accommodation. These amazing beds were referred to as “Sitzbanks” in the manual. They were not only narrow hard beds at night — by day they were very uncomfortable sofas. While sitting on the sitzbank contemplating the view of the river (our room was on the river side of the boat), our feet dangled off the sides of the sitzbank, not reaching the floor.
While we were reading, the Four Seasons reached its inevitable end, and, just like the real Four Seasons, the music started out again — from the beginning. Was this an all-Vivaldi channel? Still, it was the only music, and I hadn’t heard the Four Seasons in a while. I got up to further explore the room, perhaps to discover some amenity I had missed. I discovered that our bathroom had not been supplied with washcloths. So, I went to the desk again, and told Andre that there were no washcloths in our bathroom. He told me “There are none on board”, and, I could tell just from his tone of voice, that the matter was closed.
I returned to the room to further contemplate our fate. From out of our window, through the shimmering heat, I could see the Rhone river. It was just a wide river, not quite as wide as the Mississippi here at Avignon. To the front of the boat, there was a bridge crossing the river. I was once again thankful that we hadn’t had to take a side trip across the bridge to discover that our boat was on This side of the river. We just wouldn’t have made it.
Across the river, there was a black boat with white lettering on its side “Spectacles”. We would note later that, although there was activity on board the “Spectacles”, the ship never left the port. Examining it more closely, it looked kind of seedy and run-down. Maybe someone was just living there, and the ship never left its port. Joyce speculated that maybe they have a telephoto lens, and sell “surveillance” footage to porn distributors based on what they could see through the stateroom windows of visiting ships.
It was now nearing six o’clock, and nearing time for our “welcome cocktail with the captain”. This warm welcome would take place at 7:00 p.m., with dinner to follow in the dining room. We sat back on our Sitzbank, and looked forward to the experience of actually meeting a real ship captain, and then actually having him buy us a drink. Maybe we could ask to use his washcloth. . . Vivaldi kept flailing away, our third time through the Four Seasons. Still, we were where we were going to be for the next week, and that alone felt good. No more schlepping the baggage around for awhile. At the very worst, we could sleep all week, and it would feel good.
We had a drink of our own, to bolster our curage for our upcoming meeting with the Captain. I went down to the ice machine and got six more tiny cubes for Joyce’s martini, and I had some good lukewarm American Whiskey — Old Crow. By 7:00, we were dressed again, and ready to go. Andre told us that, no, the Captain’s reception wasn’t until 7:30. We went back to our room and stared back at Spectacles some more, all the while tapping our toes to the lilt of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
At 7:30, we headed for the Salon. Andre, once again struck with amnesia, asked us, if he could help us. We told him that we were there for the Captain’s reception. “That is at 8:00", Andre told us. Back to the cabin. We poured ourself another small drink, and had some more Vivaldi. I wondered if the Four Seasons would be playing when we got back later. It would be.
At 8:00, they finally decided to greet the new passengers. We entered the salon, a pleasantly furnished room with groups of living-room chairs arranged around small coffee tables. A bar was at one end, a dance floor in the center, with a piano against one wall near the dance floor. At last, we’ll be able to hear some real French Jazz, from the country that gave us the Hot Club. Entertainment was piped over the house PA system, light classical music. Joyce broke into a sweat from Vivaldi-deprivation. I hummed some in her ear to snap her out of it.
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