“Which one to Battambang?” we ask the dock master in chorus.
We follow the line of his skinny finger and see this tiny speck of a boat absolutely mashed like a sardine in between two other larger boats. The boat to Phnom Pehn is next to it, with people given refuge on the boat’s roof. The roof? What in the Hello Kitty were we getting in to by doing this?
They herd us down to the boat, whereupon our luggage is taken away over the rickety canvas top of the boat to the back of it. We’re told to go underneath, and for right now, that is a relief compared to spending hours on the boat’s rooftop.
More people pile into the boat, trying to balance out its buoyancy with our weight. It’s like playing Tetris, only with your life, which you don’t want to give up drowning in a muddy lake.
Luggage is ferried across the boat’s thin canvas roof. Back and forth, back and forth the laborer plods. The boat next to us, secure in its masculinity, starts to pee water from its hull right into our “if this were a locker room, you’d be the kid who gets beat up” boat. We shriek at the other boat’s captain to stop the water flow before it sprinkles us with bad aim, but he’s smoking and smiling just a bit too much. He’s clearly enjoying watching us be horrified by the nasty water spewing out.
Thankfully, after a moment or two, he cuts the overspray, and we settle back down into complacency.
The boat’s nearly full now, but more boats keep arriving, shoving our little wimp of a vessel into an even tighter space. We rock precariously back and forth like a child’s toy boat in a bathtub full of water that isn’t covered by my worldwide medical insurance, as so astutely observed by another tourist in the boat. He may have been a medical insurance salesman.
And what made us think this was a good idea?
Then, just as the rocking stops, the people in the very back start yelling, “The boat’s sinking, get out!”
I thought they were kidding.
All too quickly, it became quite apparent that they were dead serious as they tripped over us to be the first ones out.
“Oh my God, it’s really sinking!” shouts another girl.
I wonder if Jack and Rose are at the front, arms out stretched. If they only knew.
Apparently, I have boarded the Titanic.