In addition to our students, staff, faculty, family members and crew, the MV Explorer shipboard community has another contingency called the "Lifelong Learners," adding yet another layer of uniqueness to this floating college campus. For not only do students eat and sleep in the same physical space as their professors, and further share the ship with various family members and young children, we also have a group of auditors -- people who are just here to travel, learn, and take classes for non-credit. Typically speaking, they are more of a retired crowd. The ones who spent their entire lives cranking to then hang up their hat one day and sail around the world, putting good use to that lifelong savings. Over the years, there have also been some more non-traditional LLLs. People as young as 24 who for whatever reason were not able to go on Semester at Sea as a student, but can now travel. How they can afford it, who knows, but they are a wonderful addition to our community, and I especially enjoy their daily 1700 happy hours.
The LLLs are a friendly crowd, here to engage and contribute in any way that they can -- with the exception of one woman named Gladys who discovered a few years ago that living on ships full time is more cost effective than convalescent care. If Gladys were a drink, she'd be a Molotov Cocktail -- just when you think you're about to take a sip of something sweet and vintage, she spits fire. She's the kind of woman who offers you a stale cookie then cackles when you take a bite. But along with the makeshift bridge-friendly table top made in her honor, she's a fixture upon the decks of the Explorer, like the wall of rocks, the giant toaster and the Piano Lounge artwork known to most as "Lady Masturbates with a Ladder."
Over the years, two of my favorite people have sailed in the role of Lifelong Learner Coordinator -- Deb Resling and Betty Waldron, two of the kindest people you will ever meet. From planning social events to organizing ship families, they've always been a face in the community. However, Spring 2010 has brought about a newfound zest from the sea oftentimes entered into the Olympics under such nom de plumes as "Dead Sea," "Silver Sea," or my personal favorite, the "CannotSea."
At the orientation, when this woman burst into the AV Booth excitedly asking for a wireless headphone mic, I assumed she was going to talk about fitness or was a professor planning to dedicate both hands to a flipchart. Twenty minutes later, when Kathy took the stage and I cued the lights as requested, a star flew out of the gates like Barbra Streisand singing a Yentl medley. Gone are the days of bridge tourneys and stiff martinis, we've gone motivational and I love it! Suddenly we weren't in the union, we were on the set of QVC, willing to purchase diamonds and blenders. She strutted across the stage like the late Billy Mays, tossing air quotes, raising the roof, and getting us revved up like the Colts taking the field. So what if I work twelve hours a day. I want to adopt 4 children. No wait. Maybe 8, or 12. My god, these poor homesick kids need a hug and someone to play scrabble with. I'll take them all, damnabit!!