The Queen Elizabeth 2, largest and fastest of passenger liners, a city at sea that prides herself on stores of plenty, ran out of something last month on her final transatlantic crossing before a dry-dock spell.
Not salmon, nor champagne nor caviar, of which she claims to be the world's foremost purchaser.
The mighty QE2 ran out of vanilla ice cream.
It was the last lunch of the last day before a $130-million refitting and refurbishing from which she will emerge in April. I'd had my fill of rich desserts, each of which I viewed as research to satisfy the appetites of hungry readers.
Only a State of Mind
I had nibbled my last petit four and downed my last tart. I had sworn off birthday cakes, whether or not I knew the honoree. From now on, baked Alaska would be only a state of mind.
After a light last lunch I ordered one scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The young British waiter returned and whispered: "I'm sorry but we seem to be out of vanilla. Would you mind having mocha fudge?"
My taste buds quivered. My sense of right and justice soared. I accepted two scoops of what happens to be my favorite flavor, and savored every chocolate swirl.
Other memories surface from this voyage from New York to Southampton:
I spent an hour at an IBM computer school, a shipboard attraction that has proved so popular that its space will be expanded during the luxurious revamping in dry dock. At the end of the session my computer printed: "Congratulations, Judith, for a job well done."
No bingo game or samba class ever gave me such encouragement.
Many wondrous changes are planned for the Queen before she returns to the sea, yet the item that tugs most at my mind has to do with men and formal attire. The new QE2 will offer a tuxedo rental and sales shop, complete with tailors. Several tux styles will be offered, in, perhaps, 20 sizes.
This, explained the genial head of Cunard Line of which the QE2 is flagship, is to make travel more convenient for men who don't want to pack a tux but do want to be properly attired for formal nights at sea.
What About Women?
Well, bully. What about women who must fuss over long gowns or short or hems in-between? What about the packing of evening shoes and evening bags and a wrap that's more elegant than a trench coat?
A tailoring service cannot alter the fact that life is unfair when a man can wear the same tuxedo every night--and look terrific--and a woman is expected to unfurl some change of dress.
And, while I'm in a minor snit, I'll shake a fist at progress: During her stay in West German shipyards the QE2 will be re-engineered for diesel electric propulsion.
"You are witness to the end of an era," they told me, but I was not consoled.
On this historic crossing, the Queen also ran out of steam.