When last we parted I was glued to a six-foot tall smokestack on the famous luxury liner, The Queen Mary, which is docked in Long Beach, California. As part of our Freedom Years Hollywood Tour, we had dinner on the grand old ship.
Everything was fine until they wanted me to walk around the deck and down steps at the back of the ship. My acrophobia, or fear of open heights, kicked in. Actually I had forgotten I had it. Living in Greenville one is seldom exposed to great open heights.
A long time ago we took our eight children to Kings Island, and of course, we went up on the Eiffel Tower. I remember hearing my husband ask the kids, “Where’s your Mom?” And I remember hearing my young daughter reply, “She’s back there holding onto the wall.” I was.
One other time when our Sister City visitors from Gruenstadt, Germany, were here we took a tour of the BASF factory. The tour included going all the way to the top of the BASF tallest building to see the great view of our fair city.
I caught a very quick look at the view, which was great before I froze. A kind young man named Mike recognized my plight and took me down to earth quickly via elevator.
So, two examples in over 50 years, no wonder I forget about it. But anyway, there I was. Our escort asked me please to stay put while she checked on the others. No problem. I wasn’t going anywhere.
She returned quickly, and I told her I wanted to return to the lobby. She took a deep breath and said OK. But before we could turn around, we heard someone coming up the steps. I could not go down.
Two very well-dressed, impressive looking gentlemen were on the steps. One was wearing a finely tailored tuxedo. Our eyes met, and he recognized my fear. He walked over to me and asked, “Is there a problem?”
I nodded my head silently.
He said, “Heights?”
I nodded my head again. Folks who know me around here would be amazed at how quiet I was.
He told me to take his arm. I was surprised at how easy it was to let go of the smokestack. He pulled a long silver keychain from his pocket and said, “We are going to walk over to the door behind you, go inside the ship, and I will take you to your friends.”
Next thing I knew we were really inside the ship, in an area I don’t think many tourists get to see. It sure wasn’t fancy, but the floor under my feet was solid, and my fear was gone. We enjoyed our private tour to our dining room, and quickly joined the rest of the Freedom Years tour.
Before the gentleman moved on he told me that after dinner he would send someone to take me safely off the ship. We had a delicious dinner, which we enjoyed tremendously. I don’t think the others were even aware I had disappeared for awhile.
As we prepared to leave the dining room another tall gentleman, this one in what looked like an admiral’s uniform to me, appeared at my side. He had conducted the tour for the others. He told me he would be right back for me and my escort and take us safely off the ship.
In no time at all he returned and again we were moving on a solid floor through the undecorated insides of the ship. He looked at me and said, “You did not take the tour.” I said no, so he said, “Ah, then, I am going to show you something the others did not see.”
We went through a hallway and walked into the Grand Ballroom. It was indeed grand. It was as wide as the ship. There were large, beautiful paintings on the walls, old-fashioned carpets under the tables and a polished dance floor in front of a huge bandstand. The escort and I just stood there and inhaled the elegance.
Finally we moved on to the elevator and down to a wider gangplank than the one we had entered on. The gentleman in the uniform smiled and said, “You’ll find your friends right outside to your right.
I looked down at the gangplank, and I heard him say, “Remember, stay in the middle and don’t look down.”
I smiled confidently and thanked him as we walked away from The Queen Mary. Those folks really know how to treat tourists, even scared ones
This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate March 7, 2007..