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Nights at the Round Table or a New Circle of Friends

October 25, 2008 - Phyllis Sigal
My husband Bruce and I just returned from a cruise. We weren't even sure we'd enjoy the cruising vacation, but we thought we'd give it a shot.

The one thing we were most hesitant about was dining with new people at a large table. Had we a choice, we'd probably take one of those cruises that offered the free-style dining at a cozy table for two. I don't consider myself much of a people person.

So, with a bit of trepidation and a glass of wine under our belts, we made our way to the 8:15 seating in the Spirit Dining Room on Monday. We were the last of the dinner group to arrive; there were still two empty places, but they remained empty the rest of the cruise.

We then met our companions for the week's dinners. There were Victor and Ana, both originally from Cuba, and now of Miami. Lynda and Russ lived part-time in Fort Myers, part-time in Indianapolis. Kay and Steve — Russ' son — were from Richmond, Va. And us.

Dinner conversation was fun; we were starting to form a bond. We'd run into each other throughout the ship other times of the day, and feel as if we actually knew someone in the sea of strangers — more than 2,000 on board!

Kay and Lynda would see us and say, "hello, friends." It felt nice to have friends!

And each night we'd meet, with stories of our days at sea and on land.

As the week progressed, we'd share more of our lives. Victor was opening a new pizza franchise, having left the world of finance. Ana and Victor recently opened up their home to daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. Lynda was a "pistol" — dying to go down the water slide, but having just missed it when it closed for the day. She missed her family during their Florida months. Kay and Steve were training for an 8K race; Kay participates in triathlons and has three tattoos. I am a travel writer and watch my WeightWatcher points; Bruce, a music guy and cook.

By the third night, Bruce and I were moving to Key West to open an inn, and planning to put one of Victor's pizza franchises next door. But we decided to let Steve and Kay open the pizza place; we'd just run the B&B.

On the final night, there was talk of karaoke among the group, although that never materialized. But we passed around cards and addresses and email addresses, and we had Joseph our waiter take a group photo ... And after dinner, we lingered outside the dining room, and hugged and kissed goodbye. We were all invited everywhere ... "if you're ever in our neck of the woods ..."

We all agreed that we were lucky to have gotten each other for dining companions; and it certainly is luck of the draw. We could've been stuck with a group of people who had nothing to say to each other (like one morning at breakfast with a "whole nother" group of people ... )

I've realized that this is the third time in just four months that I've had this feeling of bonding with strangers (see previous blogs ... Chautauqua Friends and Blues Family). Well, four, if I count my food trip to Cleveland last month and the eight of us in that group. ... And I repeat, I'm not a people person!)

But it's a wonderful feeling to meet new people, to have these shared memories and think about them later ... It's sad to think, though, that we'll probably never meet again. It's a brief, but meaningful, camaraderie.

And lo and behold, that which we dreaded most turned out to be the best part of the cruise.

Maybe I am a people person after all.

 
 

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