Adversity can strike us anywhere and at any time without warning and often for the most unexpected reasons. Even on a modern cruise ship relatively close to shore in calm seas and good weather.
A Carnival lines cruise ship, the Carnival Triumph, was left stranded in the Gulf of Mexico by an engine room fire on Sunday. For four days the ship with 4200 people on board has been without power, passengers have been forced to use makeshift toilet facilities. Reports in the main stream media and on-line have focused on overflowing toilets, the stench of sewage, people sleeping on deck and all the bad stuff. Some reports hinted that the crew were not doing as much as they could to alleviate the passenger’s misery.
The Toronto Sun reported that the ship was towed into dock in Mobile, Alabama late on Thursday.
There are two different points to consider here, both connected and influencing each other.
The first is the way in which we handle adversity, whether we overcome it, make the best of a bad situation and survive relatively unscathed with our dignity and reputation intact. Or let it overcome us, reduce us to whining victims and affect our lives negatively.
The second, and the reason we need to develop a strong instinct for discernment and critical thinking has been demonstrated this week by the media coverage of the stranded cruise ship. I often complain about a liberal bias in the reporting of political, racial, religious or gun ownership issues. But the cruise ship stranding is a shining example of a bias for sensational, bad news.
Sensational reporting of the unpleasant conditions on board probably encouraged more passengers to voice their frustration and added to the volume of bad press. The comments of those passengers who were trying to say that conditions were not that bad, that the crew was doing everything possible to help and that supplies were being ferried on board by helicopter were largely unreported.
Hearing the early reports of the incident, it sounded horrific. Then I thought that those on board could not be in any immediate danger as no large-scale rescue operation was being launched, weather conditions were still good and the ship was in helicopter range of shore so that urgent supplies could air-lifted out to it.
This morning, several passengers have been reported as saying that conditions were not as bad as made out, the crew acted admirably, toilet facilities were difficult for a time, but not impossible. Some sewage tanks or pipes did overflow but the whole ship was not covered in excrement, a few unfortunate passengers from cabins close to the engine room did have to sleep in passageways or on deck because of the smoke – but not the numbers that had been suggested in the media.
Accidents happen. Despite the current politically correct tendency to apportion blame, prosecute an offender and extract the maximum punishment for even the most minor events, accidents have always been, are and will be, part of life. Are accidents preventable? Many are but who amongst us has not caused, been a casualty of or had a near miss from, an accident?
Any one who has had a long association with any form of equipment knows that despite excellent maintenance and safety procedures, sooner or later some part will break or malfunction. Murphy’s law states that this will be at the exact time and in the ideal situation to cause the maximum level of embarrassment, expense or harm.
At this stage we do not know if the cause of the engine room fire that crippled the Carnival Triumph was preventable, due to poor maintenance, negligence, faulty components or procedures. That will be the subject of an investigation and I expect, lengthy and costly litigation. In any event, the fire and the consequences were out of the passengers’ control.
What was in their control was their reaction to it. Reactions seem to have ranged from viewing it as an inconvenience to an absolute horror story. Put in perspective, lack of toilet facilities and running water are conditions that millions of people on this planet live with all their lives, not just for four days.
It is understandable that passengers would have expressed their displeasure and frustration, they had paid good money for a pleasure trip, not an endurance test for arduous living. But when it becomes obvious that the captain and crew cannot wave a magic wand and fix things immediately, it’s time to stop complaining and do whatever you can to make the best of a bad situation for all concerned.
That’s how you overcome adversity, survive and come out of it a stronger person, not by whining complaining and fighting other passengers for food as was also reported.
I speak from experiences worse than 4 days on a cruise ship with no toilets. History is full of examples of others who survived far, far worse than anything most of us are likely to face.
How would you face adversity if it was thrust upon you? It’s worth thinking about.
Wishing you success.