It took me a while to learn how to get around this mighty ship I was on. The many narrow passageways all looked the same. I felt like a tiny mouse in a huge steel maze and hoped there were no traps along the way.
On one of my attempts to reach the upper decks, I passed a bulletin board which was designed to aid all those on their “maiden voyage” (a euphemism for third class passengers) to find their way around, as well as to outline the trip's itinerary on the way to the kingdom of the published. It stated as follows:
“Ship of Fools” ports of call:
English language destinations:
Village of Query
Non-English destinations: *
*Please keep in mind that setting up residence in these locations does not require knowledge of local language and custom but it is strongly advised!
Huh? What language? Which customs? Residence? What was all this? The sign went on to say:
For further information please consult the trip packet
available in the gift shop on the poop deck.
Not the sea-faring sort (and Latin not being my strong suit), I surmised that this gift shop must be somewhere near a row of communal restroom facilities, hence the name of it’s location. Logic doesn’t always serve one well! It took a while but I finally found it, way up on top of the roof of the bridge at the back of the ship. A bizarre place to put a gift shop, there were also no toilets in proximity which was a shame, because some of the things I read in the material the gift shop lady handed to me (with an expression which could only be viewed as patronizing, tinged with a mixture of distaste and pity) I soon felt myself in dire need of one.
Welcome to the “Ship of Fools”! We are so pleased that you have decided to take this voyage with us. Rest assured that we will make every effort to make your trip as pleasant as possible. Though we cannot guarantee that the waters will be calm throughout, every precaution (on our part) has been taken to ensure that the danger of your falling overboard is kept down to a minimum! Speaking of which, we hope that you have packed a life preserver and an inflatable dingy in the event of an emergency, as the life boats and vests which are standard equipment for this ship, are reserved for “Aspire” and “Success” passengers only.
Charming! I felt my bowels churning already.
We would like to take a moment to tell you about the places you will be required to visit:
The village of Query - Though exceedingly small, (blink and you miss it) it makes such an impression (or is supposed to, at any rate) on those who set eyes on it, that they are left with wanting to see more of the same.
Synopsis Town - Similar to Query, it is however somewhat larger and possessing of an infrastructure similar to that of a a fully established metropolis, but very basic and in skeletal form.
Outline City - For those who have never seen a self-contained, functioning urban conglomeration, this city is as close a facsimile to the real thing as one can get to, without setting foot in the real thing. Livable, it offers all the amenities necessary, but is only suitable for part time residence, as it is devoid of the color, vitality and ambience so conducive to year round habitation.
In all of the above-mentioned locations, English is the language of choice.
That last line seemed odd to me since it appeared to be stating the obvious. Little did I know!
Let us now move on and talk a little about the remaining ports of call. In all of these, those passengers who have not yet established residence, are strongly urged to do so.
Hang on, hang on!! I already have a place to live on this planet! I admit it’s small and nothing to brag about, but it’s entirely sufficient for my modest needs. With so little time to myself as it is, why would I want to become the owner of other homes? When would I have the time to maintain them, and that is even if I could afford to buy them in the first place? I’m the relative a church mouse considers poor! Are they serious? As my consternation grew, I read on.
In case you are worried about the expense, dear reader, do not fear! For those who cannot afford to shell out a dime for anything, good news! Most of the places we are about to describe to you provide public housing, free of charge!
Wait! "Most"? What do you mean "most"??
So engrossed was I in trying to understand (and come to terms with) what I was being made to face and accept, I didn’t notice that a storm was brewing on the horizon. The wind suddenly picked up, scattering all the papers in my lap all over the poop deck. Rushing about, I managed to retrieve all the pages and, beating a hasty retreat to my bunk, I hunkered down for the night.
Another day on board was coming to a close. I hoped that the waters, which were become more choppy with every passing hour, would not make me too ill as I forgot to pack my trusty motion sickness pills.
I would have to wait till tomorrow to continue reading.