Only when the last hour arrived, did I realize that my dress costume made a parody of a drum major’s parade outfit. The goal had been to make it look more cheerful than a naval uniform, while maintaining echos of a 19th century aesthetic. I had worried that it would look too military or too outdated, but avoiding those things gave me a marching band look. At least there were no feathers.
Second thoughts and discomfort snuck in slowly, and then flowed freely. “Balderdash” I said aloud with as much conviction as I could, and then continued the thought a bit more calmly “A show’s an act, the costume plays a part. Without it I’m just in a different costume playing a different character.” Wazn the cat switched his tail while watching me.
I knew that if I felt uncomfortable, those around me would detect it, something would seem off, and my awkwardness would be genuine. On the other hand, if I felt natural, it would all look good and no one would question a thing. The costume was crisply pressed. I took off the jacket and hat, and lightly crumpled them. I did a no-doubt-very-humourous little dance to loosen up the pants, put it all back on, and reevaluated. The result was strangely effective. It really looked and felt more genuine. Wazn shifted his attention to the window.
The heat of late afternoon was too much for such heavy fabric, but it was only for a short while. We berthed.
Within a few minutes, while the crew handled everything with elegant expertise, I came down from the ship and was standing in front of the eccentric Mr. Plankt. All my customers are eccentric, of course. But then, the greeting that left his lips was the least expected he could have uttered, which was, no doubt, his intention. “Saluton! Kiel vi fartas?”
Where did he learn that, I wondered? How did he even know what our language was? Why would he care? Fortunately, while I was thinking these things, I reflexively answered him with the correct response and protocol. After that, he grinned broadly, switched to English, and invited me to follow him in. The crew continued their own show while I performed mine.
Soon we passed through large doors; I was treated as an honored guest. “I really like the beautiful ship you brought. We usually take Sailing Cloud.” Sailing Cloud is the official name for The Barge. “This one has style though. Is it available? Or do you just use it for company business? Your brother never mentioned it.” That last comment demanded slow consideration, but I answered the questions. “That is Silver Moonlight. It is one of the most beautiful ships in the world, and I chose to bring it precisely because I knew you would like it. The only drawback is that it is much smaller than Sailing Cloud, including the passenger quarters.”
It’s difficult to talk about one thing while you think about another. It can also be potentially embarrassing if you mix thoughts with words and say the wrong thing. Nonetheless it’s a useful skill, and although I’m not very expert at it, practice helps, and I make the habit of practicing at times when mistakes are mostly harmless. Over the next few minutes I practiced.