Welcome to the SS Belmont. We will momentarily be boarding the grandest ship ever to plow the ocean waters, a $200-million, state-of-the-art vessel years in the planning and now at last a reality.
I'm here dockside on behalf of the Los Angeles Unified Ship District to spend a few minutes reminding you of the Belmont's amenities. As a vessel for young people, it's equipped with rooms able to withstand music played at decibels equal to a thousand leaf-blowers, pizza parlors on each deck, a riot room to simulate post-game celebrations and beer bars that will open as soon as we clear the 12-mile limit.
The Belmont was designed by the firm of Ruben & Zacharias and is without a doubt the world's safest ship. Unlike the Titanic [laughter] there are plenty of lifeboats, each decorated in designer tones, and life jackets equipped with individual cell phones for our talkie teens! The ship's Southwest pink facade and faux brick interiors make it the loveliest ... I'm sorry, I have a message coming in from the bridge. [Listening on headset, then:]
Ladies and gentlemen, Capt. Roy Romer has asked me to announce that teensy-weensy leaks in the fuel tanks will delay the start of our voyage somewhat. Meanwhile, you are all asked to enjoy the free beer and pizza as I continue telling you about this wonderful, high-tech ... I'm sorry, I have another.... [Listening.]
That was Capt. Romer again, asking me to pass on the good news that the leaks have been plugged with a new quick-set substance composed of bubble gum and French fries. [Laughter.] What will our scientists come up with next?! And, oh, the captain has also asked me to explain that the slight list to starboard is perfectly normal and no cause for concern. It seems the builders misunderstood that fake bricks were to be used in the health spa, causing more weight on the starboard side than anticipated. Nothing to fret about, gang!
Well, folks, another slight delay here. The cap.... What was the question? The young lady at the edge of the crowd? Yes, it does seem to be listing a little more, but it's my understanding that the mortar in the brick is just, er, compacting, which causes a little more weight as it dries. [Chuckling] If it ain't one thing it's another!
Anyhoo, it seems those newfangled bubblefry plugs aren't totally stopping the leaks, and itsy-bitsy wisps of stinky old oil-based gases are seeping into some of the compartments. For you parents out there, not to worry. Those sections are being sealed off and fans are being installed in the remaining rooms to blow away any wandering fumes.
To answer the lady's question over there, absolutely nothing will explode, catch fire or prevent the crew from working in the engine room. And I repeat once more, the ship is not sinking! It is, as the captain reported, settling. New ships with bricks aboard often have a tendency to settle or, as they say, to list. Eventually the other side will also settle and it will all be evenly low and comfortable in the water.
However, for those worrywarts in the audience, we are going to reduce the crew by 75% to lighten the load and prevent this wonderful state-of-the-art ship from sink- ... I mean settling any further. No, that will not interfere with the service or the safety of the Belmont. That I can promise!
[Listening, then sighing.]
As you know, we're always checking this and checking that, and last-minute testing has revealed certain, well, unintended openings in some of the ceilings, notably over the main sleeping quarters, the dining areas, the recreation areas and the medical services room.
But, hey, not to worry! You remember those cool yellow slickers in "The Perfect Storm"? Each of you will be issued one without any additional charge! So go for it, guys! [Laughter.] Pray for rain! You'll all be swaggering about in those slickers looking like fishermen bringing in ...
Well, folks, Capt. Romer has just been informed by the builders that the Belmont, one of the prettiest ships afloat, is, well [chuckling], unable to stand the pounding of certain waves. [Pause.] Actually, all waves. It seems the designers erroneously believed the Belmont was intended to be a restaurant or maybe a school complex, not a ship. Waves might actually, you know, punch little holes in it and let in water? You with me? So as a safety precaution ... [Listening.]
Ladies and gentlemen, it seems the ship is, er, settling to an unacceptable degree and Capt. Romer has abandoned the bridge and you are all advised to RUN BEFORE IT TAKES THE WHOLE DOCK WITH IT! But don't let this discourage you from taking future trips. The L.A. Unified Ship District is standing by!
Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He's at email@example.com.