Story written by Rick Archer
We had a very
curious event during our Bahamas Trip aboard the Conquest. Our group got
involved in the most competitive game of Musical
Chairs I have ever witnessed.
definitely high drama on the high seas.
Night In the Doghouse
Our game of
Musical Chairs was preceded by the single biggest argument
Marla and I have ever had on a cruise ship.
Before I tell
the story, let me explain that I have never met a person I
get along with better than Marla. We see eye to eye on
virtually everything. We have literally gone years at
a time without arguing. However, Marla is a woman.
I am a man. That alone guarantees there will be a
difference of opinion at some point. Enough said.
started innocently enough. One day before the cruise
ship departed, a very odd person emailed this:
Saturday, September 04, 2010 4:38 PM
Subject: can't go on cruise
My passport, id and everything I own has been stolen. I
will not be able to go on the cruise tomorrow, please
give my tickets to anyone that can use them. Any amount
you can recover is appreciated. Bummer!!!!!!!!!
I have looked forward to the cruise all year. All of my
computers have been stolen. I can go to a library or
somewhere to recover emails. Have a wonderful
Marty, Tim, Lisa, Susan, and Priscilla
Don't ever play with them. They are all killers.
Their cabin was already paid for. That was money down
The upshot was that Marla suddenly had an unused balcony
cabin at her disposal. However, things got so hectic
on Departure Day that Marla forgot all about it.
On the second
day of the trip, someone from the Guest Relations phoned
Marla to ask what had happened to the missing people.
After Marla explained the situation, the woman said Marla
was welcome to give that cabin as an upgrade to another
guest if she wished.
Marla decided to
ask me to help figure out what to do. She found me
upstairs in the Cezanne Dining Room playing Blockus with my
Marty, Tim, Lisa, and Susan. Right
in the middle of one of our usual knockdown, drag out
battles, Marla asked if she could speak to me privately.
What is it? Marla asked me to come up with a plan on
how to deal fairly with that unused cabin. I promised
her I would do just that. So Marla left.
Once our game
was finished, I decided to include my friends in on the
situation. I didn't see any need for secrecy plus I
needed all the extra imagination I could get.
Maybe it was
just me. Or maybe it was the rotten people I hang
with. Whatever the reason, we all focused on how nice
it would be for a person with a non-romantic roommate to get that room.
That way two different people would now have a cabin to
One of the
headaches on a cruise that features so many single people is
what to do when "Lust" hits. I am not sure if it is
designed that way or an accident, but finding a secret
non-cabin place with enough comfort and privacy to appreciate
one of those random moments of
passion seems to be difficult indeed. Mind you, I have
never been involved in a search for an inadvertent love
nest, but I have been told it ain't easy.
In fact, I know
one couple who learned this lesson the hard way. On
our 2004 trip, we
had two single people get drunk at a midnight
party and suddenly flash on each other. Unfortunately, both
had roommates. What to do? In a drunken
stupor, they wandered the cruise ship endlessly in a vain
search for a love nest.
They were so
drunk and so horny that they were running low on patience.
They decided to get it going in an
elevator. Only one
problem. The elevator had windows.
event occurred at 1 am in the morning, the Lobby was
dimly lit with "mood lighting". In other words, it was
very dark in the Lobby. However, the elevator was
brightly lit. That meant Lobby people could see into the
elevator, but no one in the elevator could see out.
The couple in
heat were so drunk they overlooked this minor detail. The
elevator with its black windows appeared to provide them the only apparent source
of privacy on the entire ship. Since no one was using
the elevators at this late hour, they rode the elevator up
and down, up and down without interruption. Things
progressed steadily from home to first, first to second,
second to third, and pretty soon they were rounding third
base headed home to score.
All the while
everyone in the Lobby was being treated to a remarkably
show. Where's the popcorn? You can read
whole story if you wish.
hapless erotic encounter in my mind, I assumed the people
who would benefit from the extra cabin the most would be the single
people. All four of my friends heartily agreed.
I was the person
who came up with the madcap idea of playing a game of
musical chairs to choose the winner. Everyone agreed
that a contest like this with a serious prize at stake might
just work. If so, it would
be hysterical to watch.
in the middle of another game of Blockus. When I
explained that the five of us had made a decision, Marla got
angry. She said it was supposed to be a secret!
angrier because our plan only involved singles. Marla
said that couples would also enjoy a neat upgrade to a
Balcony cabin with a lovely view of the ocean. We
couldn't ignore them.
I defended our
decision. Maybe couples would enjoy a nice Balcony,
but the singles who had roommates would benefit from it far
more. I said it should be limited to the single
Marla lost her
temper and walked out. I was mad too. I was
trying to enjoy playing Blockus with my friends. Marla
had interrupted not just one, but two games to trouble me
with something I didn't even care about. She
had asked me to come up with an idea, I had done just what she
asked, and now I was getting chewed out over nothing.
Plus I was embarrassed that our tiff happened in front of
We were both
angry. Neither of us wanted to give in. Speaking
of balconies, that was the night I learned a new use for
Let's Get Ready to Rumble!
Of course our argument had nothing to do with anything.
We were both exhausted, especially Marla who worries about
everything and takes every single detail very seriously.
Once we got some
rest, the next morning we patched things up. During
breakfast, we went back to the subject. Marla
explained that in a large family, it is incredibly
disrespectful to play favorites.
Yes, maybe the
singles would benefit from the serendipitous room more than
a couple, but it isn't right to discriminate without a
better reason than the one we had based our decision on.
It took me a while, but I eventually saw her point.
should be open to all.
it was Formal Night. Tonight would be our
I didn't originally plan on playing Musical Chairs after our
group picture. Instead I thought of it on the spur of
the moment. When I arrived in the Lobby, I realized that we had practically the
entire group assembled in a spot where we also had the room to
run the contest. We also had plenty of chairs.
All we needed was the music.
So at the last moment I ran back up
my cabin to fetch my boom box. It made more sense to
play some energetic music while people raced around the
chairs. It is called "Musical Chairs" after all.
170 or so people
were being forced to wait for the group picture to be taken
thanks to my tardiness. Unfortunately in my haste, I
made quite a scene when I returned with the boom box.
In order to
get back to the group as soon as possible, I stepped over a barrier to
begin descending down a spiral staircase. That staircase
overlooked our group. It was where the photographer
would shoot our picture from. Unfortunately the
amplifier was very heavy. I immediately tripped.
stumble over the barrier was amusing to everyone. Even
better, everyone thought it was hysterical to see the
photographer stare daggers at me for violating his obvious
heavy amplifier continued to give me trouble. There
were two fake ficus trees halfway down the
staircase providing a second barrier. I swear one of
those trees came to life and grabbed me. I stumbled
and very nearly lost it completely, but
managed to right myself just in time. The crowd
At the time no
one in our group had any idea what I was up to, but everyone
agreed I was wildly entertaining.
Jenny, Charley, Barbara
picture taking ended, I explained to everyone what I was
trying to do. Let's all play Musical Chairs!
Once I explained
the reward, not
surprisingly, a bolt of electricity surged through the
group. A chance to be silly and win a big prize was
impossible to resist!
I would estimate
about 30 people decided to participate. Unfortunately,
that was 10 more people than we had chairs for.
elimination round would take out ten people. They
would be the first to go in one fell swoop.
So who got out
there? It was mostly singles, but, as Marla predicted,
there were definitely some couples out there.
of the couples did not choose to participate, but that was
by choice. Marla had been right all along.
Everyone was given the chance to make a fool of themselves
if they wanted to.
reason all our friends come on these trips. They want
the chance to show the world they still haven't quite
grown up yet and they are proud to cling to their immaturity.
A silly kid's game like Musical Chairs was right up
Linda, Veronica, Alicia
Rather than turn
off the music, I used a whistle to stop the action. Well, here we
are after the first whistle. Witness the concentration
and looks of satisfaction at making it through Round One. These are happy
faces that we see.
Ten people had
just been eliminated.
Steve Gabino, the man who took all these pictures,
concentrated more on the thrill of victory than the agony of
the feet. Steve's camera
conveniently ignored the lady I noticed over in the corner
going boo hoo hoo at being taken out so swiftly. She really
wanted that room!
The lady in blue
clapping is Marlene from Dallas. She and her friend
Leslie, the cool blonde with the purse, were roommates.
They were both ready to ditch each other if
the opportunity presented itself. However I don't
think it had a thing to do with each other. If forced to
guess, they both had plans on what they would do given the
privacy. If one person won, they both won. So
why not both compete and double their chances?
If I had one
regret, it was not getting everyone drunk first.
Everyone was quite polite for the first round, but once all
the nice guys were eliminated, you could see the competitive
natures emerging. The funny thing is that no one
seemed to care they were running around in formal clothes.
Given a little
booze and I think we would have had a video worth a visit to
YouTube. Even as it was, we got some great shots.
In this picture
we have Pam Brautigam,
Leah Maciel, and Rose Hitchcock all very pleased to find seats waiting for them.
incidentally, ended up getting married on this trip to Jerry
Zwecker. They had been high school sweethearts who
moved apart, then found each other again while working on a
Bellaire High School class reunion. This cruise seemed
like a great time to make their rekindled love official!
Five people are
competing for four chairs.
Jeff Hanrahan got one. Rebecca Westmoreland, the black
haired lady, got the second chair. Tim Crist wearing the tux
got one too. Tim was one of my rotten Blockus friends
who got me in trouble with Marla with his suggestion only
singles could play.
After getting me
in trouble plus beating me at Blockus all day long, I made
sure he didn't win this contest. What's the point of
organizing these trips if I can't be petty?
Next time let me
win at Blockus once in a while.
Lobster Boy Dave narrowly edged out the mystery blonde for
possession of the final chair. I remember the
blonde lady made a serious lunge for the chair. She
ended up losing her balance and plopped down square on
I am sure Dave
was thrilled. He got the chair and a lap dance too.
I think he enjoyed the chance to have this stunning woman sitting on
his lap, even if for just the briefest of moments.
Oh, please, look
at Lobster Boy Dave. He knows he just won a close one
and he is playing to the crowd.
My word, he got
such a bad sunburn that day. We could have rented him
out as a giant Christmas ornament.
Now look at him
strut. I'm too sexy for my jacket. I'm too sexy
for my tie. I'm burnin' up and feelin' lucky!
I'm gonna win me a room!
Tonight I'm gonna be ready to zoom!
textbook hip-first seating technique for Pam, Leah, and
know how to look good grabbing their chairs!
Here we have
pretty Rose Hitchcock, plus Tim, plus....oh no, not Lobster
Boy Dave again!
survived another round, so he is exulting.
I remember this
as a close call. We didn't have enough room for a
circle, so we had two rows of chairs back to back. We
had removed one chair at the end of this row.
What you may
notice is that Rebecca, the lady in black, is slinking away in defeat.
She was just rounding the corner when the whistle blew.
Dave got one seat, Jeff with his back to the camera got the
other. Rebecca never had a chance.
And now Rebecca is
gone. Dave just eliminated her. Does he show even the
slightest bit of regret?
Heck no. He's in
it for the kill.
Here you have
two Tiger Women - Peggy Mac and Penney Warren. Both
ladies would be my candidates for the SSQQ "Designing Women"
award. They both study all the angles.
I am not sure
why it appears that two women have a choice of four seats,
but I like the way Peggy slides her hand along the chairs.
That means she is as close to a chair as possible without
Peggy is alert, she's looking down at the chairs and just
waiting for the whistle. Then she will pounce!
We can't see
Penney's face, but she the same body language as Peggy. She
is looking at the chairs and studying the position of
everyone around her. Penney is about to turn the
corner in a second. That's the most vulnerable time.
My hunch is she is slowing down to delay the turn as long as
Oh my goodness!
Look what we have here! Lobster Boy Dave
has just narrowly missed getting a seat when Alicia clearly
gained possession of the chair.
The look of
astonishment tells it all. So close. As you can
see, Dave is desperate. He is beaten, but he stills
tries to wedge his bottom in against all odds. So what
if Alicia is in the way?
competitors look on with a mixture of pity and amusement.
They will live to make it to the next round.
Only one person
gets eliminated per round. Interestingly, this was
Dave's THIRD close call. First he beat out the blonde
woman. Then Dave and
another woman were involved in a tie. They
both got half a seat, so I declared it a tie and let them
both try again. Too bad
we don't have a picture of that one.
laughs as her roomie Alicia took Dave out. Dave lived
on the edge throughout the match. This close call was
a fitting end for our gladiator. He didn't mind. He
was in it for the glory.
And here I am,
whistle and all. I was clearly enjoying myself.
I was learning
all kinds of tricks. My favorite was the fake whistle
trick. I figured out that many people were watching me
carefully to see me put the whistle to my mouth.
I noticed on one
round several people
began to jump for seats before I even had a chance to blow.
Weren't they clever?
I decided to
teach them a lesson.
So I began to
fake like I was blowing the whistle only to send out no
sound. The fake worked. People hit those seats
in droves only to realize they had been tricked. As
they rose back up to continue, that's when I blew the
whistle. Now the less conniving participants had the
inside track on a chair.
I learned the
art of the slow whistle and the quick whistle. Don't
want anyone to anticipate the snap count!
How sad. The
ranks are clearly dwindling.
In this picture we
have Andrew Bach, Tim Crist, Jeff Hanrahan, and
In front of
Marlene, that is Carolyn Cowan in the purple dress as she
rounds the corner.
blows and the women leap to their chairs.
Penney, Jenny, Leah, and Pam in blue.
I see Leah took
her shoes off to improve her quickness. Smart move.
Faces in the Crowd
Musical Chairs Superstars provided wonderful
entertainment. As they raced around the
chairs, our impromptu competition drew quite a
crowd. There were easily a 130 people
from our group alone and close to a hundred
more passengers watching from distance. Many
of the onlookers lined the railings above.
They had a great view and laughed appreciatively.
We put on quite a show.
Maxwell, Roberta Burns,
Mark Sellers, Velma Roppolo
Edward Sanchez, Rachel Martin,
Cathy Riser, Karl Rorabacher
Ron Paradoski, Charisma Petrie, Barbara Miller, Cindy
Moore in white
Ochsenbein, Barbara, Cindy,
Lisa Kang, Liana Waldberg
members weren't the only ones watching. One level
above, spectators lined
the railings from 3
Mystery Lady, Maite Rombado,
Kristi, Amber Poole,
Carolyn Reed seated,
Andy Bach, Mary
Cioffi, Marianne Pearce,
Crystal, Linda Fleischer seated
Sullivan, Liana, Sylvia Wetuski, Jeff, Mack Warren, Lila
Another one bites the dust. This time the odd man out
is Alicia Manrique, the same lady who narrowly eliminated
Lobster Boy Dave earlier.
These people lived by the Gladiator credo -
We who are about to die salute you.
Here the survivors include Andrew, Rose, Carolyn Cowan, Tim,
time I think it was Andrew Bach's turn to be eliminated.
It looks like Pam Brautigam and Rose Hitchcock put the
squeeze on him.
in the red dress
with Leah Macial and Penney Warren beside her.
demonstrates her classic seat-grabbing technique.
Sandra was the
sharp-eyed lady who got a $100 trip for her sister Carolyn
Reed. At the last minute someone had to drop out, so
Marla offered a first come-first serve opportunity to the
cruise group. Sandra hit the email button seconds
and Leslie Taylor are pictured here.
Tyler is already seated while Leslie hasn't even made her
move. Obviously that purse was a handicap.
bothered me. It showed me that Leslie was more
interested in guarding a purse with no money in it (we all used
sea passes for money) than she was in winning.
You can just see
in her face. Ladida. She is too cool, too gentle
to have any chance to win. You have to have passion.
In a ruthless
contest like this one, a person has to know their
yourself. Musical Chairs is not for sissies. Ask
Tyler. He is a tough guy. He has the right look
of determination. Tyler's mother is Peggy Mac, the
Designing Woman. I am sure Peggy was very proud of
Tyler's impressive showing.
That's my boy!!
alone verifies Darwin's Survival of the Fittest.
I have seen
Disney films with lions stalking their prey. These
women are straight out of the animal kingdom. They
have the look of the Hunt written across their faces.
Look at Peggy
McElroy stroke her chair! Oh my goodness. Not since The Terminator have I
seen such a look of relentless pursuit. If I had Peggy
Mac chasing me, I might just jump
overboard and take my chances with the sharks.
she would probably jump in after me and the sharks would all
say 'Welcome back!'
On the other
hand, as Sandra and Penney trail Peggy Mac, they look just as intense.
The nice guys
and the nice girls have long since departed.
the killers remain.
his pictures. Here in picture
#5795, Marlene is in front followed by Rose and Jenny.
As the numbers dwindled, the tension mounted. Jenny
and Marlene are concentrating.
Now look at
Rose. It looks to me like Rose has completely stopped!
What's that all about?
She is smiling. She is distracted.
She is standing up straight. Everyone knows you can't
"spring" or leap to a chair with straight legs. You
have to bend your knees to jump. In the jungle, that
precious microsecond is everything.
is looking at the chair directly beside Rose.
Even though Rose
is closer, if the whistle blows, who do you think is going
to get that chair?
Now there is
another chair directly behind Marlene. I am positive
Marlene was ready to twist backwards and grab that chair in
Rose, get your
your head in the game!
This is picture
#5796, the next picture after the one above.
It is rife with an undercurrent of tension. Obviously
the whistle has not blown yet.
Uh oh, Rose is
still oblivious. Meanwhile, Jenny is preparing to take
Rose out with a
nudge to the butt. One push and that chair belongs to
Jenny. Rose is toast!
I told you
Musical Chairs isn't for sissies. What I find amusing
is the grin on Jenny's face. She has no mercy.
This is a woman who wants that cabin big time!!
Sandra rounds the corner, she is begging for the whistle to
blow. She has a clear shot at that chair right in
front of her.
This is picture
Richard is safe.
So are Leah and Penney, the women with their backs to
Richard directly behind him.
Leah has a black dress with bare shoulders and
Penney has the strapped dress.
and Jenny are happy. They will make it to another
something seems wrong. In the previous picture, Rose was
sandwiched between Jenny and Marlene. Now there is no
sign of her between the two women. Where did Rose go?
And how did
get behind Marlene? I am not sure how the women got out of order,
but I think when Rose stopped, Jenny decided not to push
Rose in the back, but instead went around her. In
addition, Sandra passed Rose too.
guess is that Rose must have stopped for some reason and
both Jenny and Sandra decided to bypass her.
women preferred to have the unpredictable woman behind them.
makes any sense.
#5797 again in a closeup.
If you look
closely, Rose and Sandra, the two ladies with the matching
dresses, are fighting it out. They are duking it out for the remaining seat.
So, which woman
won the skirmish? Did Sandra win? Or did Rose
win? Or did they both survive?
Rose had been
flirting with disaster. Would her attention lapse cost
her a seat?
Believe it or
not, Rose won. Rose appeared in the next set of
pictures, but Sandra was nowhere to be seen.
I guess Rose
woke up just in time to save her seat.
This is picture
#5806. Steve added his nine "Faces in the Crowd"
series between this picture and #5797 above.
Marlene is the big winner here. Jenny is safe and so
surprise is that Peggy has just been eliminated. You
can see her walking back to the crowd. Once the
whistle blew, Peggy knew she had no chance so she just kept
walking into the crowd.
welcomed by Leah, another lady who made it to the Final Ten
only to be eliminated in a recent round. This touching
scene is reminiscent of the dead Greek warriors who welcomed
the newly-fallen to Hades during the Trojan War.
By the way, that
is Rose sitting there looking at Peggy. As I pointed
out, she must have
won the skirmish with Sandra.
But I don't get it... Rose is suddenly back in between Jenny
and Marlene. I promise I am listing the pictures in
order. I have no idea why the order of the women kept
switching. Obviously there was constant jockeying for
Here we have a
dramatic picture of Rose being suddenly eliminated. I
may have underestimated Rose. Earlier I thought she
was almost certain to lose to a seat to Jenny or Marlene due
to her lack of concentration,
but she magically survived.
however, her luck ran out. Poor Rose. She wasn't
on her toes. And that's how it goes.
By the way, do you
see that empty chair right behind
Jenny? I can't see anyone aiming for it. I
guess there must be someone out of the picture
about to sit it. Otherwise Rose would have run around
Marlene to grab it. That is a mystery.
With Rose out of
the picture, we know Jenny, Marlene, and Penney were still
in the game. At this point,
my money would have been on Jenny. She had the right
idea. Jenny was ready to push a woman in the back if
that's what it took.
Plus I could see
by her legs that Jenny was athletic. Indeed,
Jenny later told me she was a Junior High School Physical
Education instructor. Not only that, she conducted
"Musical Chairs" tournaments in PE all the time!
Experience, and Ruthlessness. It was no accident that
Jenny had made it this far. I expected her to take it
My next picture
shows Penney and Jenny squaring off for the showdown.
I can only assume Marlene was just eliminated. In
addition, I never did figure out the explanation for that
empty chair in the previous picture.
ago I had been told by Marla to turn my back while the
contestants circled the chairs.
I didn't want to turn
my back because I didn't want to miss out on watching the fun. However I
Marla. By turning my back, no one could
suspect I was playing favorites. No one likes a blind
ref, but everyone prefers a blind whistler.
Too bad I didn't
watch. Maybe I could have figured out how people were
switching positions! You just never know what might be
going on behind your back.
I did not want
to turn my back for the final round, but I had no choice.
the best man win. Or something to that effect.
It's down to our
final two ladies. As you can see, Jack, Keith, Tom,
and Charley in the background are greatly amused.
Heck, we are
were. This had been a very spirited competition.
Everyone had done their best to win.
So here we are.
Which lady do you think
wants it the most?
Jenny? It's Ennyone's guess.
At the moment,
Penny has a clear advantage. Jenny is out of position.
I think Jenny should have hesitated on the other side of the
chair. However, unless the whistle blows at this exact
moment, Jenny will soon be back in the running.
See if you can
pick the winner before looking.
And the Winner Is.....
The Thrill of
Victory goes to Penney.
As you can see,
Penney was a very happy girl.
Let me add that
Jenny was a very good sport.
To the victor
goes the spoils.
I heard a rumor
that Penney threw a huge party in her new Balcony cabin one
night. I wasn't invited, so I have nothing to report.
That's probably why I wasn't invited.