More arguing, more offers, and finally sleep—alone in my lounge.
Third Day: I need about nine hours sleep to survive and with less than three again the previous night, I could
barely wake up that morning. I dragged myself upstairs to the Ladies’ Room, locked the outside door,
stripped down to nothing and washed as completely as I could. Unfortunately, the towels were on one of
those revolving racks and since I was too short to completely reach it, I had to stand there naked, dripping
wet, waiting for the air to dry what couldn’t be reached with the towel.
While drying like that, I set my hair, removed the five-day deodorant pads which were wrapped in
foil to prevent them from drying out, brushed my teeth with the bristles of a broken-off toothbrush, and
brushed my very long hair with a tiny fold-up brush that could only coif about five strands at a time. Then, like any female, I put on all my make-up because nobody had been able to convince
me to leave it at home even if I were a stowaway and short on space.
I went out on deck, hoping it would be nice enough to sleep in a deck chair, but discovered it was
raining. Later, I bumped into Bob and he asked me to see Bonnie and Clyde at 2:30 with him; another man
invited me to the 4:30 showing, and I accepted both invitations hoping I might get some catnaps. I don’t
know whether it was my exhaustion, the dark, or the steady staccato of the machine guns on the screen, but I
slept through the movie both times, despite a recurring nightmare that I had been caught and was being
chased all over the ship.
That evening I had a new problem to worry about: would I be able to hold up in appearance for
another four days until the end of the cruise?
I was beginning to look pretty awful. My eyes were almost closed and quite bloodshot from lack of
sleep. My make-up was a mess, since the Ladies Room was so dark that even if I managed to get my fake
eyelashes on my eyes instead of my nose, the rest of my make-up was too heavy for the bright lights of the
rest of the ship. And, since I couldn’t go to the beauty parlor (they ask you for your cabin number) my locks
resembled the bushy mane of a hippie. “All those handsome men on board are going to waste,” I thought
sadly. I realized that with the way I looked, it would be a miracle if anybody ever asked for my phone
number back home. And then I remembered something I had almost forgotten—it would be a miracle if I
even got back home.
Fifth Day: Perhaps I should have felt better that day, since the previous day had been spent in port—not
shopping like the other people on board, but sleeping on a beach-chair, since my plan to rent a room to
shower and sleep for the day had failed. I had no reservation and the only room available cost fifty dollars. I
was tired, but I could never be that tired.
But that wasn’t the only one of my plans that had not gone according to schedule. First of all, I had
trouble holding so much liquor. Because people were spending a lot longer in the dining room (while I was
stuck in the bar) than I had expected. Secondly, although there were some free buffets to munch on, they
were badly spaced and I almost starved to death between noon and midnight with only some tea and pastries
in between. In addition, I was absolutely filthy, because there were no public showers, and bathing in the
pool proved harder than I had expected. Furthermore, my clothes were dirty. I knew they might become
messed and wrinkled stuffed in a purse and attache case, but my wrinkle-proof clothes weren’t, and I
couldn’t steam them out by holding them above a sink of hot water in the Ladies Room since my arms would
soon start aching, and the water wasn’t really hot enough to produce steam. And finally, sleeping in the
lounge was impossible, fully dressed with all the lights on, on two small chairs with a bumpy patent leather
purse for a pillow. But what bothered me most was not that sleep was uncomfortable, but that there wasn’t
enough of it. I never dared retire until the lounges and bars were deserted (around 4 a.m.), and then I would
awake the second I heard any noise on the ship, which usually started around 7 a.m.
And the night before, I had a very frightening experience. I thought I was safe and that no-one
noticed me behind that pillar, but around 5 o’clock in the morning a crew member apparently found me
sleeping there and I woke to find a man’s hand down my dress. I was about to scream, but realized that, as a
stowaway, that would be even more dangerous. So instead, I fought him and ran out of the lounge and then
stayed trembling and much too frightened to return.
Nevertheless, I had to continue to stay out in the open, since I knew so many of the people on the
ship by then that if I suddenly left to hide, my disappearance might be noticed. So I decided to enter the
women’s ping-pong contest. I’m a pretty good player, but I knew that as a stowaway I would have to lose,
since prizes, or notices to collect them, are usually sent to your cabin. So to be certain I would drop out of the
tournament quickly, I was the first to sign up. And then I waited for over an hour for somebody to play with.
Nobody else showed.
Nervously, I began combing the lounges, pleading with every female I saw who was over the age of
six to enter the contest. But nobody wanted to play ping-pong early in the morning, especially since the ship
was swaying slightly. So I finally gave up, and returned to plead with the social directress to cancel the
Instead, she insisted on declaring me winner by default. “Congratulations,” she bubbled, “We’ll
deliver a prize of pale champagne to your dining room table at dinner.”
I turned paler than the champagne she promised. “But I don’t like champagne,” I lied, realizing that
I would definitely be caught when they discovered I had no table.
“But maybe your table will like it,” she argued.
“But I don’t like the people at my table,” I countered, “so why should I give them my champagne?”
The social directress fixed me with a stare she reserved only for unsociable passengers. “How
would you like a picture of the ship?” she asked.
“Beautiful,” I said, trying desperately to get some enthusiasm in my voice.
“Good,” she said. “We’ll inscribe it with your name and deliver it to your room tomorrow.”
I walked away, probably the most unhappy winner they’d ever had on board. Well, I decided, I
wasn’t going to let myself get caught over a stupid mistake like that. So instead of letting them deliver their
prize to my non-existent cabin, I spent the entire afternoon in the social directress's office, purposely making
a complete nuisance of myself until she finally in disgust gave me the crummy wooden photograph of the
ship. I didn’t have room for it on the piano, and besides which I was so disgusted with the whole incident that
I wanted no mementos: blithely, I tossed the photo overboard—and then watched in horror as it floated
several miles out to sea in full view of all the passengers.
A woman I had spent some time with on the ship watched this curiously and then came over to
congratulate me, hesitantly, for winning the women’s ping-pong contest. I thanked her just as
unconvincingly, and then braced myself for the temperance speech, since every female I met over 30 had felt
obliged at some time in the voyage to give me a motherly lecture ("for your own good") about missing meals
Fellow Passenger Abuse
"Is this your first cruise?” she asked instead.
“Fifteenth,” I said truthfully.
All of a sudden, she turned on me. “You’re a bloody liar,” she spat. “You can’t possibly afford to
have gone on so many cruises.”
I tried to tell her the truth: that I had to travel for business and I’m afraid of planes but she
“You couldn’t even afford planes,” she said snobbishly. “First, you never wear any jewelry. Second,
nobody with any class would wear such terribly creased and dirty clothes, and third, I often see you going
down below to your room, and why should a ‘rich girl’ have a room on a lower deck?”
I would have preferred her to think I was a stowaway rather than a liar, and I desperately wanted to
tell her the truth: that my jewelry was purposely left at home so that it wouldn’t be taken as payment if I were
caught etc. But there was nothing I could say, since it would be dangerous to let anyone know the truth about
me, so I walked away instead, feeling very embarrassed and self-conscious.
Sixth Day: Although the trip was almost over, I still couldn’t help jumping every time someone came up to
me from behind, and I continued to turn pale every time an officer looked at me for more than a second. It
was obvious that I had been completely accepted by everyone as a legitimate—although definitely odd—
passenger. But I still couldn’t relax, perhaps because the biggest problem still loomed ahead: getting off the
ship the next day without the immigration card or customs declaration that all the passengers had already
received in their rooms.
I was so exhausted that last day that I barely remember it. I slept a little in a deck chair in the
afternoon and, as usual, fought off the men that night (I had become something of a hopeful conquest for
them, rumored to be the only single girl who had not been in a man’s cabin during the cruise). But as a
stowaway, I was more scared than flattered by all the men trying to change that situation. Of course, I had
expected attention in those low-cut dresses, but so many male passengers and 500 love-starved crewmembers
after me was ridiculous. My biggest problem now wasn’t even the men who kept trying to escort me to my
cabin, since I was usually able to discourage them with a story I had made up about having a seasick
roommate who was always throwing up in the cabin. But, as a stowaway, I was constantly alarmed every
time somebody asked me for my room number so they could call me, and I would become almost hysterical
when someone told me that they had already tried to call me but couldn’t find my name on the passenger list.
(“I bought my ticket the day before the trip and they probably didn’t have time to put me on the list,” I would
lie.) Even Bob (from the second night) was a problem, since I didn’t want anyone to spend too much time
with me lest they become suspicious of my rather bizarre behavior; but Bob was constantly following me
around. If I had wanted, I suppose I could have used him to my advantage throughout, since it would have
been easy enough to have hidden out at night in his room (or any room, since there were plenty of other
offers) instead of sleeping surreptitiously in the lounge. But while most stowaways try to get inside help, I
had been so determined to make this trip on my own, and without anyone knowing what I was doing, that I
constantly refused him. But that final night, I cheated and went to his room.
He had a beautiful bottle of wine waiting , and the bed was neatly turned down when I went in.
“Mind if I lie down?” I asked.
It was a silly question. He led me to the bed; I took one long look at that long bed and soft pillow
and complete exhaustion hit me. I don’t even remember falling asleep: I just remember Bob waking me up.
“I’ve heard of women who fall asleep afterwards,” he said with amazement, “but I’ve never met
anyone who ever fell asleep before.”
I smiled. He kissed me. “What time is it?” I asked sleepily.
“Five to twelve.”
“Oh my God!” I screamed and jumped out of his room and up to the lounge. Nothing, not even sex,
could make me miss the midnight buffet.
Later that night in the lounge when Bob came up and asked for my home phone number, I decided
to give it to him. But I wondered whether he would still be so smitten with me when he called and I told him
the truth: that my name wasn’t Jane but Paulette; that I wasn’t a passenger but a stowaway.
Seventh Day: When I woke up that final morning, I saw that someone had distributed mimeographed
comment cards during the night in all the lounges, including mine. I picked one up and started checking:
food, excellent; service, excellent; entertainment, excellent; accommodation—poor. “What did you most like
about the trip?” I wrote down “The price.”
“What is your name and cabin number?” What the hell! I signed the captain’s name and went
upstairs and submitted my card.
Although I should have been hiding already, I couldn’t resist joining the other passengers to watch
the pier as we approached. Suddenly there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that all passengers
had to report to the main lounge for immigration. I had to hide quickly—but where? I dashed down to the
Ladies room. It was locked. I tried several cabin doors. They were all locked. I went down to my lounge. It
was already being cleaned for the next voyage.
I started walking around the decks, probably more frightened than I’ve ever been in my life. There
seemed to be nowhere to hide, nothing to do. Finally, I saw a cute-looking room steward, and on an outside
chance, told him that I had already turned in my key and had to lie down in a room because I was too ill to
stand in line. I asked him for a room on his station, and to my surprise, he agreed—in return for my phone
number back home. I gave him a phony number, but fortunately the empty room he unlocked for me was real.
As soon as I entered, I saw the bed, but I didn’t dare to sleep, or even lie down, because I was so
exhausted I could easily have slept through until the ship sailed again. Being a stowaway once, I thought
ruefully, had been once too often. So I instead nervously paced the floor for four hours until it sounded like
all the passengers had gone. I emerged at last, trembling, to walk the ‘last mile’ to the gangway.
There were five security men standing there.
I walked past them, trying desperately to look relaxed and nonchalant, but I was so white with fear
that even my slight suntan probably totally disappeared. I had almost reached my goal, the gangway, when once again I
met the doctor.
“We’re sailing again tomorrow morning. Why don’t you go with us so I can spend more time with
you?” he asked me.
“It’s too expensive,” I said honestly.
He looked me straight in the eye. “Then why don’t you stow away?” he asked.
My heart started beating like a cuckoo clock gone mad. Had he figured it out, or had the panic
throughout the entire trip turned me into a hopeless paranoiac? I scrutinized his face carefully but I could
detect nothing. And I realized I would probably never know. Perhaps he had indeed guessed, but if he had,
he had been man enough not to try to extract any payment from me for keeping my secret.
I continued to walk down the gangway, aware of his eyes still watching me, and my knees shook so
badly I almost fell down the incline. Would my assumption be correct that all the passengers would be
finished with customs and all the customs men would have left for lunch? I was greeted with the most
wonderful sight I had ever seen at the end of the most miserable trip I had ever had.
The pier was empty.
I walked outside, feeling calm for the first time in seven days, deliriously, joyfully, unashamedly
ecstatic. “I made it!” I wanted to scream and I couldn’t wait to tell my friends at home. Now I understood
why sailors sometimes kiss the ground when they land on shore. Although there were no cabs around, since
the ship had docked four hours earlier, I just stood there outside, smiling, thinking about the hot bath and
long sleep that I would be able to have at home.
Suddenly, a police-type car with four security men pulled to a screeching halt in front of me. My
heart dropped as I remembered a statistic I had read in my research: 20% of all stowaways are caught when
they think they’re already safely ashore.Was this the end for me? Had I gone so far only to be caught at the
very last second?
“Were you a passenger on that ship?” one asked me.
“Yes,” I said.
“Where’s your luggage?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Is something the matter?”
“There are no cabs,” I said.
“Where do you live?”
I gave him the address.
“Oh that’s not too far,” he said. “Jump in. We’re always glad to help a lady in distress.
And they drove me all the way to my apartment (probably the only time that pier police had ever
driven a stowaway home without realizing it.) I had to stifle what I so desperately wanted to announce to
someone : “I am the first successful female stowaway at sea. At last I’m first in something!”