Tomorrow marks the beginning of my 24th year of teaching, and despite the many years that have passed, I remember well my first day as a teacher. In truth, my clearest memory is of the first hour of my first day as a teacher.  

Incoming students had to locate their name and room number on lists taped to the walls around the school, and then find their way to their homeroom class. Some students arrived early and waited in the hall outside my classroom, even though the door was open. It seemed nobody wanted to be the first to enter the room, but when the first bell rang, they slowly started to filter into room I shared with the tennis coach, a veteran of more than 30 years in the profession.  

At that point, I didn’t even have 30 minutes of experience to call on. 

After the tardy bell rang, the principal came on the speaker, gave the standard boilerplate first day greeting and made a few announcements. When that ended, I, the newly certified teacher, had to speak the first words I’d ever say to a class. With little confidence in my voice, I announced I was going to start by calling roll.  

Taking attendance at the beginning of the period is what teachers do, and I had performed this task many times as a substitute, but this was different. For the first time I was calling out the names of my students, ones for whom I had a great and continuing responsibility.  

About 10 seconds into calling the students’ names, I realized the paper I was reading from was not steady, making it more difficult to read. I paused, looked down at my hands and realized I was holding the class roster as if I expected someone to come along and rip it out of my shaking hands at any moment.  

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My wife and I lead what we consider to be simple, unassuming lives.

We still live in the same modest house we bought over 30 years ago when we were in our mid-20s. That’s a time in life when many couples buy their “starter” homes.

Fast forward 30 years and most starter homes in our area are far larger than the house we bought, Based on a couple of decades of conversations with young couples, I doubt the majority of them today would want to begin their lives together in a home that is a cracker box by modern standards.

We never up-sized when our family was growing and have no plans to downsize now that we are empty-nesters. In other words, our starter home is likely to be our “finisher” too.

If you were to look up the demographics of the suburban Bay Area of Houston, you would see many spacious, elegant homes owned by people much more affluent than a couple of teachers–one full-time and one a part-timer.

It was odd to me when our boys were growing up that their friends were much more likely to hang out our little place than host our sons in their often newer, more spacious houses. At the time I couldn’t understand why our humble house served as a hub, but I now think that, to many kids, our simple abode felt more like home than the houses in which they lived.

As with our home, a pattern of modesty and simplicity covers many other areas of our lives. When we cruise we almost always book inside cabins, which allows us to cruise more frequently in cramped simplicity than once a year in relative luxury. Allthough I usually book small, windowless cabins, I try to book them on floors where they are across the hall from the high-end suites. This mimics the placement of our home where we live in one of the most modest areas of an affluent community.

In our home city we can expect a responsive government and dependable services. In the same way, we know the cruise lines are going to take good care of the people spending big bucks on the most desirable and expensive cabins. For us, bunking in proximity to some of the most opulent quarters on the ship means we will never have to worry about being assigned to an inexperienced or inattentive cabin steward.

With that type of planning it could be argued that we don’t want to live as simply as we claim, and I would not have you believe that we lead lives of asceticism. In truth, we like some of the better things in life, but mostly as a change of pace. Like poor Cinderella who got to attend the ball in style before the clock struck midnight and it all went awry, we enjoy the little luxuries of cruising before returning to reality.

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As I am trying to go to sleep at the end of the long embarkation day, I’m struck with the thought that this whole vacation might have been a huge mistake. That thought is hardly uncommon for me. I’m hit with it at the end of the first day of every cruise and many other vacations too.  

Fortunately, I’ve learned in most circumstances that my snap judgments are not very reliable, and this proves the case once again. On our first day at sea, I’m always looking forward to the opportunities the day will hold.  

Today, Tuesday, we wake up early. Becky is up by 5:30. Shortly after that I snap out of the stuporous fog that occupies the shadowland between sleep and consciousness. I start to get out of bed, but settle for sitting up, a pillow propped behind my back.  

Morning routine phase one, complete.  

Becky asks me if I remember the idiots who came down the hall and had a loud conversation near our door at 3:00 in the morning, and oddly enough I did. I’m not easily woken from a deep sleep, whereas Becky wakes up when a flea clears its throat. The Mom gene is strong in her, so she did not rest well overnight.  

Shaking the cobwebs from our eyes, we throw on the clothes we wore yesterday and take the elevator to the Lido restaurant on Deck 10. 

There are many things to like about Carnival cruises, but the 24-hour access to fresh coffee, ice and a few other drinks in multiple locations is a major plus. (Do you hear that, Royal Caribbean?) 

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We finally got into our cabin at 1:45 and were pleased with our selection. It’s an interior cabin, but squarer than the usual rectangular room, and the layout gives us far more room to move around the room than on other cruises.

On every cruise Becky insists we take a nap after our embarkation lunch. Of course, she insists on naps after lunch when we are at home too.

Normally I’m not too excited about beginning our vacation with a nap, but today was different.

I had gone to sleep the night before about midnight and woke up at 4 AM that morning. When I saw the clock, I intended to go back to sleep, but I was wide awake. By the time we got to our room, I was running on the fumes of my four hours of sleep and desperately in need of nap.

We were ready to lay down by 2:00 but this ship was having an early muster drill, so I figured we could sleep for 45 minutes and have 15 or 20 minutes to recharge with coffee before we had to head to the muster station.

It was a good and workable plan, but sleep evaded us thanks to people banging the walls and yelling in the hallway outside our door.

Just when I was on the verge of sleep someone barking in the hall would startle me back to full consciousness. After my anti-nap I got up feeling worse than when I laid down.

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After an uneventful 32 minute drive from Friendswood to the Galveston, I dropped Becky off at the Carnival terminal where a porter took custody of our bags. Becky grabbed our carry-ons to wait for me while I went to park our car.

Even though the lot I always use, Galveston Park n Cruise, is directly across the street from the Carnival terminal, I am forced to follow a long, congested road in the opposite direction. Eight minutes after dropping Becky off I finally exited the port and drove a mile back toward the terminal.

I checked in at the parking lot and used a crosswalk to get back to the port. The police officer directing traffic wished me a great cruise.

Nice cop.

Once across the street I walked a clearly defined foot path with my eyes directed at the terminal to see If I could spot my wife. At this point I heard a shrill voice yell “You can’t do that”. The voice belonged to a young female officer and it was directed at me.

Preoccupied with finding my wife I had forgotten the walking path crossed a lane for exiting parking shuttles and I had walked out in front of a distantly approaching vehicle full of departing passengers and their luggage.

Perturbed cop.

Having cheated death by shuttle bus, I found Becky and we were inside the terminal a minute later.

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