There's a ship called Ariana out on the high seas now. It will eventually arrive in Dubai to pick up fifty boxes with my name on them.
The thought that my stuff is going by sea – something I haven’t had a chance to do yet – fired up my ever-ready enthusiasm for all things boat-like and my rep at the shipping company has collected a few dinner party stories. She thinks I'm especially neurotic about my possessions. First I wanted the name of the ship, then I wanted to know how big it was, how fast it went and where it's coming from. I did stop short of asking for a nautical chart and how much draught it needed, but it was close. All I got was the name and I'm not at all sure I wasn't fobbed off with any old thing (if she thinks I don't check the ship listings, she's going to be thinking differently soon).
Then I did some intense cajoling to be allowed to watch the loading. She spent a lot of time assuring me that every care would be taken of my cargo, disregarding my assurances that I wouldn't notice if they tipped the whole lot over the side. When she realised I'm not easily dissuaded when I really want something, she thought fuck this and went for the nuclear option – "security clearance".
I wanted to ask her whether she knows that the anchorage is poor, so the ships need to play out more chain when dropping anchor. Well I do, so there. And much use it is to me. I've watched the activity in the port from my office tower almost every day for the past six years and I still haven’t managed to find someone who can get me in. I did get in once during one of my walks, slipped in through an open gate in the shadow of the container giants. I was escorted out after a blissful five minutes.
I won't be going down to the docks this time either. I won’t see the pilots bring her in, though I know exactly how far away they will board her – I've seen hundreds come in – but at least I have representation this time. My shoes and bags alone are worthy ambassadors, and that's only a quarter of the boxes.
For two more days I will live with their echoes and then I will be gone too, though sadly not in a cargo ship.
*Coordinates of the port control tower.
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