Monday, July 5, 2010


"BORAT," is the funniest movie I ever saw! Sometimes, my son Andrew and I seem to be the only ones who fully appreciate the genius of it's star, Sasha Baron Cohen. I frequently find myself quoting from it but so few of my contemporaries love it as we do.

Hidden in all of Borat's high profile visual shenanigans and verbal slapstick, is the tiniest bit of prosaic mastery...the clever name selected for his over bearing, behemoth wife...Oxana.AS AN EIGHT-YEAR OLD, I ONLY RECALL THE SNOT POURING OUT OF THE OX'S NOSE AT THE CATSKILL GAME FARM, (UPSTATE NEW YORK). THEREFORE NAMING BORAT'S WIFE WITH THE "OX" PREFIX FURTHER PAINTS THE PERFECT PICTURE.

I liked the name Oxana so well that I used it in a recent blog, "THE GLENDANIAN CONNECTION TO FAST-FOOD." So it was a complete and pleasant shock to find out that Oxana, is a real girl's name in Russia. And fate brought me, "the gorilla my dreams," Oxana, on my family's vacation last week.

After loving our first cruise two years ago, we decided to try it again. This time we hit three Caribbean islands; Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Grand Turk.

Like any cruise, the time spent aboard ship affords guests the opportunity to be lavished. The crew of young enthusiastic individuals are trained to excel in hospitality. Even with all my wisdom, I can't imagine how these folks are molded into a seamless army of energetic, cheerful work-a-holics. My only guess is...the staff is desperate for work. And while it seems that they come from every corner of the earth...they don' least not from the US of A.

I think its safe to say that the reason there are no Americans working on these ships's not in our culture to voluntarily impress our self into virtual slavery. Simply put, cruise ships are NOT of USA registry. Therefore as employers, they aren't subjected to our minimum wage laws, hours per day maximums, benefit packages etc. Perhaps an American who was down on their luck could survive the job for a few days. But after committing oneself to the bedlam of a sea-faring insane asylum...especially kowtowing to the behest of rich people or even worse, the whimsy of wannabes vacationing over their means...the true red, white and blue spirit, in the form of A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E would shatter the American work experience.

In any service industry, this attitude is the hallmark of success. Aboard a cruise ship, that means that there are tons of workers from a core of ten or so third world countries. You can see how they covet the job and bend over backwards to assure that even the worst crank, is served to the best of their ability.

While this lust to please is evident throughout the is more pronounced in the gourmet dining room. For each meal, after you wait in line because every seat is occupied, you are greeted by a lead hostess and/or a maitre d'. When a table is available, a secondary hostess escorts you to a serving team consisting of a waiter and two assistants.

The least experienced of three is relegated to getting extras or filling water glasses and busing the tables. Apparently this position carries less of an English speaking burden. On one occasion I asked Attila, our Hungarian second helper, "How do you say the number one, in your language?" His response was, "World War One started in 1914."

After that, I made it a point to avoid putting these people on the spot. But a couple of dinners later, my jaw dropped because I experienced love at first sight. Even though she was taller than me and her uni-brow looks were more oafish than plain, I took solace that there was no snot pouring from her nose.

Her name tag was spelled differently but as soon as I sounded it out, I was smitten. My dreams had come true. Without rehearsing, my words just slid through my throbbing lips, "Excuse me, how do you pronounce your name?" In a bashful manner suggesting that she wasn't used to hearing anything other than orders she stammered, "O-O-Oxana." While my son muffled his grin I said, "That's a beautiful name." Oxana blushed during an awkward pause. Suddenly, a three-year old screamed at the next table. Oxana took it as a cue and scurried to the disturbance.

For the next fifteen minutes, nearly everything stopped in our area of this elegant restaurant. This little boy just kept making blood curdling screams which attracted a squadron of workers who came by to pacify him. Other than handing the little bastard one fat crayon after another to encourage him to shut-up, the unembarrassed mom made no effort to discipline him in order to end the hi-jinx. Simultaneously, the muted dad couldn't be bothered as he swilled one Johnny Walker Black after another.

This was not an ordinary unruly child. This poisonous imp never went a full minute without hollering even when the maitre d' did magic tricks and the first waiter's assistant poorly sang Norwegian carpenter songs.

For such instances, the cruise line should have hired the "NANNY" from TV, "THE DOG WHISPERER" or at least "DIRTY HARRY," because unencumbered by parental supervision, this pre-school menace was allowed to slide out of his highchair. When he was corralled by another waiter, I was hoping the patience-tester would have been slapped with a halibut. Instead the resident evil tyke was politely set back in his chair. But before the manacles could be clamped down on him, he made a daring escape by climbing out and jumping to the floor. Unchecked, he slithered for several seconds in the aisle as waiters carrying full arms of plates narrowly missed stepping on or tripping over the diabolical mischief-maker.

A petite, secondary hostess from another section picked the scream-machine off the floor. She was pleasantly chatting him up as Oxana brought a chocolate milk in a fancy glass. The boy's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. While Oxana held the stemware, this personification of malevolence deeply sucked the brown nectar through a straw. With a big smile, he motioned to hold the glass himself. As if hypnotized by the charm of the miniature Charles Manson's Svengali-like smile, Oxana naively gave in.  She was in the process of relinquishing her grasp when the momentary calm mood came to a crashing halt as the sociopath in training, with depraved indifference, knocked the goblet to the Italian marble floor with a swift backhand stroke.

While the train-wreck was being swept and mopped up, I wrongly thought the family finally realized their folly and gave up before their entrees arrived. The dad got up first. Surprisingly, they had a second son. He was about five and was so short that the height of the booth obscured him from our view. Even more shocking was that the dad took this, "good son," (presumably to the bathroom) and left the screamer at the table with mom.

Amid the constant shouting, a cocktail server set down another double Johnny Walker for the dad as we finished our meal. The good kid and the dad returned as mom stroked, "Old Yeller's," head while handing him more super-sized crayons. Dad wasn't seated three seconds when he downed his drink in one giant swallow. At the same time, inexperienced Oxana bused our table. Rather than get help or make two trips, she managed this feat of strength while balancing all our dishes, saucers, glasses and silverware. It reminded me of the guy on, "THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW," who used to spin 37 plates at the same time. Still, I thought it was bad judgement on her part so I focused on the attention-grabbing mini-devil.

Oxana slowly and carefully turned away from our table. Her six-foot frame stood erect as her confidence grew. Synchronized with her first step towards the kitchen, the kid flipped one of his thick crayons over his head. It's high trajectory was witnessed by my whole family. Everything was happening so fast...nobody could warn Oxana. The waxy, burnt sienna-colored cylinder fell at her feet. Unfortunately, she was the only person in the area who didn't see the danger lurking in her path. Despite the edge of her shoe nudging the colorful hazard, she was unimpeded by it.

She was one step past the threat when the dad anxious to prove that; the demon seed doesn't fall far from the tree, spoke for the first time. "Hey you," he cried. Eager to please, smiling Oxana pivoted to face him as he added, "Pick up my kid's crayon." Oxana maintained a forced smile as the dishes shifted in her arms. After managing to avoid a HAZ-MAT spill of biblical proportion she sighed, "I'll be right back."

That scene would have fit perfectly into the Borat movie. Except in the true spirit of Sasha Baron Cohen's political incorrectness, the miniature Charles Manson and his dad would have been thrown down concrete steps by the cruise security force...twice!

Oxana became a bigger hero to me for the rest of our journey. I even gave her a theme song by substituting Oxana every time the lyric, "ROSANNA," came up during the 1982 TOTO smash hit (rock-n-roll) of the same name. Soon, I had my whole family singing or humming "OXANA," every time we saw her.

Yeah, now tell me how an American would have handled Oxana's situation. I say, she would have purposely dropped the whole mess at the dad's feet, picked up the damned crayon and said, "Shove this up your ass...sir!"


Anonymous said...

This Charley Manson blog was funny. You really threw the book at that kid. I bet the end is very accurate --- FARNSWORTH

Anonymous said...

That was hilarious. It reminded me of a not as funny cruise-ship dining room story we experienced shortly after we were married.

For some odd reason when my wife and I were still in our twenties we cruised on a Greek ship in the Mediterranean. Back then young people didn't go on cruises - only old people did. Since we were the youngest (and obviously the least classy) of the passengers they seated us in the dining room with other undesirables who they thought we might have something in common with: A old couple from Flatbush. Beginning on the first night the gentleman (whose name was Hesh) asked that they bring him Halavah. Of course they didn't have any and never heard of it. Each and every meal he would ask for it and argue with the wait staff about it.

As for screaming kids, we had a good experience recently. After about two minutes of a three year old yelling like a banshee at our favorite Sushi place and with the parents just sitting there, another customer got up from his chair and walked over to the noisy table and said to the father. "Sir, would you please take him out!?" The father was so intimidated he immediately complied.


Anonymous said...

Minny Manson, very funny --- GG

Anonymous said...

I liked this "OX" tale - SLW

Anonymous said...

A fine citizen of this country would NEVER give his/her true opinion of telling a guy to shove a crayon up his ass. He may be genuinely THINKING it however.

Anonymous said...

Poor Oxana. Serving the public is nearly impossible these days. At least when non-cruise ship casino dealers have a bad shift, they can home.

I can't wait to hear which parts of your story were true. The father didn't really demand that Oxana get the crayon?

M of M&T

Sol said...

Oxana should have put a concentrated laxative into little Charley Manson's chocalate drink. That would have strategically placed him in the nearest restroom and away from public view for quite some time.