I’m not a worldly traveller, but the year before the birth of our first child, my wife and I went on a cruise. There were lots of great memories, and lots of great stories, but only one that was inspiring enough to cause me to join in on my first FFAF.

Our cruise went halfway through the Panama Canal, with various stops. This highlight story occurred at our last stop – Cozumel, Mexico, where we’d signed up for a tour of the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum. Since the ship docked at Cozumel, we had to take a ferry to the mainland. The ferry ride over was pretty rough, with even my wife (the former naval reservist) feeling a little queasy (though I was fine). After the ferry ride, we had a long bus ride to get to the ruins, and then a quick tour. It was a really good time, and we got some fantastic photos. I’m still not getting to the point though :)

Anyway, the ferry ride back was much more smooth than the way out. When we got back to Cozumel, we were in an interesting position. We were in the front two seats on the side of the boat with the gangway, but we were stuck behind a set of stairs. End result was that we had a perfect vantage point for the most entertaining thing I’ve seen since, well, maybe ever.

I should preface this story with a bit of the Mayan knowledge that our guide passed on. Mayan descendants tend to be quite short, this is partly why the Mayans were conquered by the Tolteks and the Spanish. The end result of this is that the doorways on the boat weren’t particularly big. Subtract from that about a foot or a foot and a half due to the gangplank being put through the doorway, and all but the very very short had to duck to avoid hitting their heads - on a packed ferry of over 200 people, only 2 or 3 didn’t have to duck.

Having had experience with this, the crew had this bright red foam pad that they attached to the top of the doorway, so if people hit their heads, it doesn’t kill them. In addition, there was a crewman standing there, repeating “watch your head” over and over again. Inevitably, people did not pay any attention, didn’t duck, and walked straight into the door-frame. There were basically three types of people who walked out the door. 1) Tall people who were used to ducking under things, who walked up the the door normally and ducked under it, 2) people who weren’t used to ducking under things, and very nervously crept up to the doorway bent over at the waist for ten feet or so, and 3) people who were oblivious to the low doorway until their forehead met with it accompanied by a bonking sound.

Sitting there and watching everyone get off the boat, I got pretty good at predicting whether a person would bonk their head or not. Still funnier was when the crewman would say “Watch your head” three times while a person was on the gangway, then “bonk.” It was cruel, but my wife and I sat there laughing quite heartily. I suppose it didn’t help that they had shown “Mexico’s funniest home videos” on a big TV at the front of the ferry the whole way. It was truly comical to see people hitting their heads. I’m giggling just remembering it…The best was when two or three people in a row would hit their heads.

For those of you keeping score, the bonk people were 95-98% women. Just in case you were wondering. There were several women who walked under the door-frame only through the good fortune of having the boat move up as they walked under the frame (when the boat rose, it became more level with the dock, which caused the angle of the gangway to become less, which gave just enough clearance that they didn’t brain themselves)

It was pretty entertaining anyway, and well worth the price of admission (well, not if you consider the whole tour price, but I’m sure the ferry ride wasn’t that expensive.) It probably wouldn’t have been as funny if people were actually hurting themselves, but the padding was good enough that all that was hurt was their pride.

Note - I originally wrote this up on my own site when it happened, so while some cutting and pasting was involved, I hope you enjoyed the story nonetheless.