February 24, 2018 by phicks2012
Years ago, not long out of college, I worked for a while as a travel agent, and, let me tell you, as jobs go it probably ranked (for me at least) somewhere down there with septic tank-swabber or pot-scrubber. That’s, of course, giving my former boss credit for being a basic human being rather than an evil overlord from the planet Govnar.
I don’t know whether travel agents get paid a living wage these days or not, but I got paid next to nothing, had to work with a “golden girl” who (being tight with the boss) successfully blamed me for all of her mistakes, and (in the days of pre-computerized offices) had to deal with HUGE and constantly changing binders of actual “paper” to look up rates.
On top of those “normal everyday” things though, I was forced (and I mean that literally, if I wanted to keep my wonderful job) to go on what were termed “Fam” (or Familiarization) Trips. The thought here was that if I’d been on the trips myself I could more successfully sell them to hapless clients, right? Right. That, of course, assumed I had a “good time”, and didn’t have to outright lie about it.
It sounds like a real deal to stay free at a hotel or to have a free cruise, doesn’t it? But “free” is relative. These days hotel stays and cruises like this are the sort of useless “prizes” you “win” if you have the right scratch-off code at a Grand Opening for a local car dealership, or if you attend a seminar where they’re trying to sell you a time share in Iowa. Free lodging, but they plan to stick you for literally everything else. So trust me, I’d cheerfully have taken the cheap electronic gizmo or the matched parachute luggage. I’d at least have come out ahead that way.
When I went on one of these things I had to pay my own way to the locations, and handle all tips and gratiuties myself. I also had to pay out-of-pocket for anything extra, and on what I was making at the time I’d have been pushing it to afford a slot at a KOA Campground or the No-Tell Motel.
So, at one point I was told I had to go on a Bahamas Cruise. Yeah. To start off with, I had to pay for my own round trip air fare to Miami, and when I got on the ship my cabin was a narrow (maybe 6′ wide), uncomfortable gray cell (as a matter of fact, I think the walls were actually metal) far down in the bowels of the ship and with narrow bunks that were virtual torture devices. It was also shared with a total stranger who didn’t want to be there because she wanted to bunk with a friend, and who never even told me her name.
As far as I could tell, everyone else on the ship was there with friends or as part of a couple, and was totally uninterested in meeting anyone new. I knew no one at all, and, despite trying to mingle, I didn’t meet anyone at all to share time with. The food was good, but being alone on a large ship, I found myself wondering stupidly just where Julie and Gopher were hiding. Nobody cared — how could they in that big a crowd — that I was bored, and lonely, and freaking misterable. In the meanwhile, if I wanted anything I had to tip the steward or the whatever, and if I wanted to take any side trips, well, that was out of pocket too — and, of course, by myself, even if there was a group.
It was literally the worst “vacation” I’d ever taken, and I came back to my dead-end job wanting to hurl my boss into a large vat of toxic waste (that had that even way back then). I also came back with a good deal less money in the bank than before, and was expected to rave to clients about how wonderful the cruise had been. Yeah! Best EVER!
So now when people suggest I go on a cruise, or I see one of those promo commercials for cruise ships that hold a gazillion people and look like floating amusement parks, I find I’m not even remotely tempted. That stupid “Fam Trip” did the trick for me, and I’m fairly certain that if I couldn’t find anyone to hang out with as a reasonablly hot 20-something there would pretty much be no WAY I’d succeed NOW — okay, short of signing up for an Old Farts cruise and having some old geezer with gout hitting on me because he’s looking for a caretaker in his old age, or is seeking a meal ticket.
Don’t get me wrong, I think I’d love to go on a Windjammer Cruise (do they still have those?) on an actual sailing ship, and European and Alakan Cruises on small ships sound really tempting, just because of the locations. But when it comes to those huge, impersonal cruise ships with everything short of roller coasters on board, well I can easily manage to get lost in a crowd and have a miserable time attending a monster truck rally. I can be alone and bored at home, and I can do both for a lot less cash. 😉
Now, if I ever won the lottery though, I keep getting these emails offering yacht rentals…… 😉