By Phil Trieb
Phil Trieb is a carpenter and former newspaper editor living in Gary, S.D.
My fingers freezing as I cleared snow, my mind drifted to the Caribbean and those crybabies complaining about "unsanitary conditions" on a disabled cruise ship.
So sewage was flowing in the passageways, so they had to sleep on deck, so they had to eat sandwiches. Boo hoo. The ship didn't sink; nobody died. Have they forgotten that only last year the Costa Concordia ran aground in the Mediterranean, and 32 died?
So I have no sympathy for these whiners. Oh, not because I was out working in a minus-30-degree wind chill. I was thinking of all the other locations in the world with "unsanitary conditions," all the places where people are dying, or starving, or just having difficult, miserable lives.
There are Syrians being slaughtered by Bashar al-Assad. There are North Koreans starving, while "Dear Leader Jr." Kim Jong-un basks in affluence. There are innocents in Africa and the Middle East being butchered by al-Qaida, the Taliban and other Islamic militants. Mexicans continue to die in drug violence.
And there are untold millions in the poor world working long hours, in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, to produce the cheap goods the wealthy world demands.
Even in our rich country, Americans with dangerous jobs produce the food to keep those buffets full on those cruise ships: farmers slogging through manure to feed and care for livestock; fisherman chilled to the bone, daily facing serious oceangoing peril, hauling in seafood; and the butchers and bakers and candlestick makers who process it all.
Did anybody die when the toilets backed up on that Carnival Cruise ship? Did any of those babies bawling on this bothersome cruise consider that nearly 5,000 souls have perished at sea in shipwrecks since 2000?
Why were they on this ship anyway? Many vacation cruises seem to be cruises in name only. These luxurious leviathans are destinations of decadence that just happen to float. But the experience is hardly maritime for the passengers. They don't swim in the sea, they soak in pools and hot tubs on board.
These floating cities have amusement rides, casinos, theaters, bowling alleys and food, food, food, with an incredibly low passenger-to-staff ratio. Ship's workers cater to their every whim. The vessels might as well be moored at piers; the experience would be little different.
And if there were an engine fire or other mechanical failure, the passengers could easily disembark, collect their refunds, and not be subjected to the indignities of "unsanitary conditions."
Oh, but the liners do stop occasionally, where tourists can get a taste of "local color" in exclusive ports of call that will insulate them from any real contact with the natives.
My wife actually wants to go on a Caribbean vacation. But we won't take a cruise, as we'd like to experience island reality. And if we see an opulent ocean liner pull dangerously close, we won't have to run for lifeboats. Just to the other side of the island.