Fortune favours the fumbler

While coming back on the ferry I was the sole witness to a minor miracle.

My excessively short-sighted eyes have never got on well with photochromic lenses; besides, when I buy my expensive, extra-thin, extra-brittle, extra-fragile glasses – suitably powerful for my somewhat extreme condition – I always get a second pair of (optionally sun-)glasses free. This means, however, that when I go from outside to inside, or vice versa, I often find myself juggling with a glasses case and two pairs of glasses.

I got slightly lost on deck 9, looking at Jersey go past in the distance, and ended up on a staircase that, in retrospect, I might not have been meant to be on. As I stepped through the double-door airlock and inside, I began the tedious process of swapping to my clear (and much more expensive) glasses. As I did so, I dropped my glasses case, still containing my clear glasses, just at the top of the stairs.

An architectural feature of stairs on a ship is a gap between the stair treads and the wall, presumably to let water gradually pour away into the bilge rather than wet every step as it goes down. My glasses case dropped down this gap, and I heard it drop: really, really drop. It clattered two or three times before coming to rest a good ten or fifteen metres below: it just made that kind of… distant, echoing sound.

I raced down the stairs, heart pounding, having difficulty seeing each step with my prescription sunglasses still on. The last thing I wanted to do at this point, I thought, was snap my ankle as well as my glasses. Deck 8, 7, 6… no sign of the case or the glasses. Deck 4 and below was the car deck, locked away behind closed doors during passage, so I was beginning to lose hope as I rounded the top of the first half-flight between 5 and 4, when I saw below me, on the deck-4.5 mezzanine, my glasses. No case, just my glasses.

Fragile, spindly, almost invisible against the grey flooring, they were complete and entire, appearing utterly untouched by their long drop. The glasses case was long gone: it had presumably continued past the car decks and into the bilge. But it must have struck the handrail on this last-chance outcrop; popped open and disgorged its contents, which spun away with sufficiently low vertical speed that they merely skittered; afterwards, the case had continued on its dark flight into the ship’s bowels.

I took my sunglasses off, and peered at the other pair, in a suitably myopic fashion. Then I unfolded them fully, and propped them on my nose. They still looked and still felt absolutely fine.

(Bear in mind, by the way, that the case was only a bog-standard free-with-a-pair B**ts offering: it wasn’t some kind of Samsonite super-case. I think the hinge might even have been on its way out, so it was nothing I would’ve felt bad about losing on its own. Mind you, in retrospect, I’m rather glad that the hinge sprang open like it did, as everything fell together past deck 5.)

Counting my blessings, wondering if I was actually asleep in my cabin dreaming, I trod gingerly back up the stairs. On my way, I found no door that didn’t lead into staff canteens, the back of the café or otherwise official-looking rooms. As I say, I probably wasn’t really meant to be there. So for a good hour afterwards, along with my continued astonishment, I felt mildly transgressive at the thought that, even once I’d shakily made my way to the cabin, part of my belongings would still be trespassing on that staircase: unseen, undiscoverable, their function in this world most definitely accomplished.

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This entry was posted in boats, body, emotions, experience, fear, france, infirmity, loss, person, surprise, tourism, transport. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fortune favours the fumbler

  1. looby says:

    My girls loved going exploring on Brittany Ferries; not sure they got quite as far as you though.

    • smallbeds says:

      Yeah, the MV Bretagne is one of the older ones, so the gears behind the watch-face are more readily accessible, if you see what I mean. On reflection, its age could also lead to idiosyncracies like a staircase that was in bounds, with all the rooms off it out of bounds.

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