It was 9 o’clock and I was looking for Magnums cafe. I was on the 6th floor not having a clue where it was. I asked a slender, diligent cleaner brooming the floor and he said “Thecket.” I replied back “what?” He repeated it a few times – even enunciating it a tad clearer: “Dhekeite.” I was confused but after the umpteenth repetition, in which he even yelled at me “Dhekeyte” like a pungent curse, I understood it to be “Deck eight.” This kind of experience was common the cruise. The vast majority of workers were Filipino. Everybody, from stewards to janitors to chefs, Filipinos were everywhere; literally everywhere. It almost makes things a bit inauthentic, especially when you’re sitting at the Italian dining hall or Indian buffet and the Filipino waiter blatantly murders names like”Parmigiano Margherita” or “Kashmiri Chicken curry.” Since this wasn’t Air Philippines or something, I was curious as to why the ship was laden with people from this particular region. And this isn’t one of those situations where you can’t decipher if someone/some people are from Japan, China, Philippines, Thailand etc. There were visible name badges on every employee, with the flag of their nationality. Being the expert sleuth I am, I decided to investigate. I politely broached a conversation with my suite’s steward, Jason, a young man with little height but conspicuous joviality. Our confab started sinisterly. We were talking about family, and he mentioned how his father was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants when he was ten years old. I shared my condolences and he told me how he works on the cruise ship for 8 months a year to put his brothers in college. This touched my heart a little bit. How selfless could one be to devote two-thirds of his life for his brothers? It would be difficult to clean bathrooms and set beds for only even myself, alone. I couldn’t imagine being so altruistic as he is. After tip-toeing around the subject, I finally extracted what I wanted to know: he, like all other Filipinos, labor on ships opposed to other jobs in their home-countries because on cruise ships, they earn over double the salary they earn in their country. He told me that the only rich people in his country are the corrupt politicians. Even High School teachers with college degrees don’t make nearly as much as Cruise ship employees do, he claimed. Generally, the predominant nationalities on cruises – Filipinos, Indians and Central Americans, earn quite fruitful salaries on cruise ships in comparison to the salaries of their countries’ low wage economies. This comes with a difficult sacrifice of family life, which Jason expressed his longing for. James Abbgy succinctly explains this phenomenon on Quora (link here).
The night ended with a stand-up comedy show at the Spinnaker Lounge with comedian Jeff Harms. The show was memorably hilarious. This one segment hasn’t seemed to leave my mind yet when Jeff retrospects to teenagehood and talks about going to the store and purchasing a jock with his mom. Another segment was pretty funny where he called Chihuahua’s “squirrels with a bad thyroid.” Since Mr. Harms genuinely pled the crowd to help fund for his granny’s liver surgery by buying his book, I bought a copy after the show. Being the millionaire blogger I am (haters will say that’s fake) I self-assuredly asked Mr. Harris if I could interview him for my blog tomorrow. Surprisingly, he was interested and we set up a time for the next day. For half an hour before bed, I was cogitating on how to interview the comic: what questions to ask, what to say, whether or not to potentially record the audio of the interview and do a Q + A- type post. Fortunately, it came to me that premeditating a conversation is an imbecilic pursuit. The best conversations are organic and extemporary. We rendezvoused at the Indian buffet the next day, but I emphatically expressed my cynicism of public space because of such circumstances (he’s kinda famous) to thwart annoying “sign-my-shirt” beggars or stupid “can I please take a selfie?” solicitations from people who have nothing better to do. After discovering that nearly all the cafes on the ship were chockablock with people, we extemporarily (cough cough**) found an empty chapel, oddly enough, to talk. Jeff is a very warm, grandfatherly-like person to talk to. I thought our conversation would be like a “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”-type deal, but it was just a pretty normal talk. He has a pretty cool history: He graduated the University of Denver with a Master’s in Theatre and ended up teaching drama and stand-up at schools and colleges as well as acting in plays himself. Currently, he tours around various cruises throughout the year performing stand-up for a living. A cool factoid I learned about his family, is his daughter works with the Peace Corps in Africa, teaching Biology in Liberia.
I remembered attending a comedy show once where a comic asserted how thinking about “what’s bothering you” is the best way to construct jokes. Nonchalantly, I questioned “What’s bothering you?” to Jeff and received an interestingly not-so-funny response. Jeff was severely bothered by the Trump administration and its actions. Especially due to the appointment of Betsy Devos as the Secretary of Education who he didn’t deem to be qualified because she had never attended or had her children attend a public school. Our conversation veered deeper into politics where he shared his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but contradictorily his opposition to the Anti-Police narrative. Despite our political discussion, he asserted how he stays away from incorporating his politics with his stand-up comedy because that could potentially divide his audience. This is common for a lot of traditional, renowned comedians like Jerry Seinfeld. I recalled Jerry expressing his frustrations on Late Night with Seth Meyers about people becoming oversensitive to things and taking offense of his hilarious gay French King joke (link here). Besides asking questions and talking about politics, I did manage to sneak in a couple of jokes I had thought of earlier like how my Indian-born parents are so “Asianly” obsessed with getting good grades at school. Overall, it was cool talking to Jeff and I felt proud I even asked him for an “interview.” That is the beauty of being a blogger, even if your mom still takes you jock-shopping and your uncle Sanjay in India is the only one who reads your shit. Whereas awkwardly asking “Could we talk sometime?” I sophisticatedly inquired “Hey, I’m a blogger from Canada, could I interview you for a comedy segment?” Comedians are chill folk. Hopefully, I meet more in the future and even pursue my passion of doing stand-up (shhh, secret). Here’s a video of Jeff’s work (Jeff Harms comedy) – a cool comedian and person.