Shirley Jones and Marty Ingalls were on a morning television program today (talking about love and a long marriage) and on a cruise ship with Bob and me in 1994. Dad had come to stay with Stephen while Bob and I flew to London to take a 16 day cruise back to New York, via Rouen, Brugges, Waterford, Rekyavik, Halifax, and Newport.
Shirley became our "close personal friend" the day the tour bus burned to the ground (yikes!) on the way to the Waterford crystal factory. We had been on separate buses, excitedly wending our way down the very skinny twisty turny road in Ireland. Our lilty red-haired very Irish tour guide was explaining why the roads were so twisty turny. "The roads are like this so that the evil spirits cannot follow us. Oh, look! There's a mockingbird! We Irish believe that lone mockingbirds are bad luck, so every time we see one, we..........." Suddenly there was no more microphone on our bus! From our mid-bus seat, Bob and I could see her and the bus driver trying to get the sound system to work again. Then he stopped the bus to give the problem a bit more attention. (I suppose he knew we had all paid very dearly for this cruise and all the tours, so we deserved his full attention.) The bus in front of us (with Shirley on board) stopped when we did, and our driver got out to go ahead to explain to the other driver what was going on. As he turned to walk back to us, his eyes widened and he began to race back onto our bus. "Out the back, out the back," he yelled. "Fire, move quickly!" We all sat like frozen fish, waiting for further instructions. All of us, except Bob. He leapt out of his seat and followed the driver to the back of the bus where both pushed open the emergency exit and jumped to the ground....all the while yelling, "Move to the back of the bus!" Slowly, the rest of us gathered our senses and began to roust ourselves out of our seats and turn toward the back of the bus.
I now know how people can die of smoke inhalation. Thick black smoke began to rise from the bus floor as we all shuffled to the back. "Jane! Jane!" I could hear Bob yelling from the back door. We were all moving so slowly. What I soon found out was that there was a six foot drop from the emergency exit to the ground outside, and the little ladies (the average age on our ship was probably 85) were sitting down on the high ledge, "scooching" forward and then being pulled out by Bob and the bus driver. That sitting down and inching forward took up a lot of time, but even I wasn't a fan of just jumping out. That ground was a long way down! Finally, we full bus load of tourists all emerged safely, all raced (hobbled) about 100 yards away and then all turned to watch our bus burn to the ground! Thank goodness we were on our way TO the Waterford factory and not FROM it. We could have lost all our crystal!
As it turns out, there was an electrical short that caused the microphone to cut out, that caused a small fire, that caused all the smoke, and that caused the bus to become a smoldering shell of its former self.
Plucky tourist we, we all boarded other tour buses - Bob and I onto Shirley's bus, sitting squashed, right next to her. We completed the tour as "close personal friends" together, bought crystal, and made it back to the ship in good order. I have to admit, we all drank a stiff hot toddy that night!
It seems that the lone mockingbird is indeed bad luck. And when you see one, you must whistle! That's what we had all failed to hear to do and what we had all failed to do. Now you know.
To get back to Marty and Shirley --- they were lovely, funny, chatty, real people. They were such different personalities -- he off his rocker hysterical, she calm and poised all the time. They made us all realize how laughter needs to invade every long-lasting relationship. I, your unlicensed, unprofessional marriage counselor, have decided that laughter, along with just being politely nice, will help sustain a good marriage. I'm so lucky to have experienced both the laughter and the love in my own life.
Tell everyone you love, every day, that you love them.
Happy Valentine's Day!