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Barely Afloat

Richard Quinn  |  March 27, 2020

YES, I’M STILL at sea. Confinement in our cabin is wearing thin. But unfortunately, with ports closed and politicians opposed to us docking in Florida, the end isn’t in sight.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be totally dependent on someone who you can’t see and have no contact with? Me neither. But now, I know.

Bottles of water show up at our door, the last one a full gallon. Bags of clean towels also appear. Every other day, the bag includes tissues and toilet paper: There’s no shortage at sea. I even received a little card asking me to check the drinks I’d like. For the heck of it, I checked brandy. The next day, there it was.

But we still can’t leave the cabin. Yesterday, I attempted humor. I asked my wife what she would like to do today. She suggested I take a walk.

I had heard of Pavlovian conditioning during my mediocre education, but never imagined being an active participant. Now, three times a day, when I hear the clang of trays in the hall, I salivate. Then the big moment arrives. Three knocks on the door. It’s feeding time. A tray of food lays at my feet, put there by invisible hands. I have newfound empathy for zoo inhabitants.

My walking is limited to a 24- by eight-foot space—assuming I want to stay dry. My access to the world is limited by the very slow satellite internet. What should take milliseconds actually takes seconds. Sometimes, I feel like I’m accessing an eight-inch floppy disk. I tried buying an iBook. I may finish the book in less time than it took to download. All this wouldn’t be so bad—after all, it’s not like I’m going anywhere—except such delays can play cruel jokes.

I open my Bloomberg app and the home screen shows good news: Markets are up. But by the time I click on “indices” and they finish loading, everything has changed. Funny how the down-to-up scenario seems less frequent. But there is good news: My investments have been showing up in green for a change. And it seems the bond funds are doing their job and offsetting some stock market losses. I torment my son-in-law, the Wall Street wealth manager, by telling him how much I have lost. He used to reply, “You haven’t lost anything.” Now, he just chuckles. Or so I assume.

Our captain has started a limited release program aimed first at those poor folks with an inside cabin. Three knocks on your door and you can proceed to deck three for a 30-minute stroll. My advice: If you can’t afford a balcony or at least a window, you can’t afford to cruise. I remember friends telling me, “What’s the difference? How much time will you spend in your cabin?” Ha!

Any humor that may have accompanied this adventure is gone. We learned this morning that four passengers died in the last 24 hours. That news really put everything else in perspective. There’s more to worry about than investments.

We are, as they say, abandoning ship. Healthy passengers are being transferred to another ship, as we lie at anchor in Panama still seeking permission to reach Florida, with no doubt more quarantine once we get there.

I just want to be home, even if I’m locked in my condo. At least I can watch my recorded episodes of Burns and Allen.

Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.com. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. His previous articles include SeasickAt SeaKnow Your Demons and Brain Meets Money. Follow Dick on Twitter @QuinnsComments.

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