I’ve suffered more than Ishmael
I’ve just started Moby Dick. I really hope the whale lives, I weep like a wasp-stung toddler when dogs die in films. If the whale croaks I’ll need a day off work.
So, Ishmael decides to go to sea, and at the harbour, finds an Inn to spend the night. Alas, there are no beds free, but the landlord offers to let him share with a South Sea Islander called Queequeg (he’s not finding a keyring with that on, that’s for sure), a harpooneer, who is currently out in the town trying to sell a human head (as you do). Ishmael doesn’t like this idea, but after attempting to sleep on a hard bench, which the landlord planes in an attempt to make more comfortable, goes to the room to await his bed fellow.
Queequeg comes back, and is watched in the candlelight by a freaked-out Ishmael, as he undresses, revealing tattoos and prays to a wooden idol, and then jumps into bed with a tomahawk. He jumps out just as quickly as he didn’t know the terrified Ishmael was there, and with some mediating from the landlord, they pass a pleasant night (even though he says the mattress feels like it’s been stuffed with corncobs or broken crockery) and Ishmael remarks ‘For all his tattooing he was on the whole, a clean, comely looking cannibal.’ Like at the end of Planes, Trains and Automobiles when Steve Martin invites John Candy for Thanksgiving even though he did spill beer on the bed and leave his socks in the sink.
I have absolutely no sympathy for Ishmael at all, as I have got the sleeper Megabus from Aberdeen the London. No seats, all bunks. At 9pm a harassed man herds you into a coffin-sized bunk or hammock, and there you stay for 12 hours or so. Some of the lower bunks are double, and it’s fine if you are travelling with someone you know, but if not, they could put you in with a stranger. I’ve heard men fighting. Swearing at the driver. I’m not getting in there with him. Whoever is closest to the wall cannot get out without the other also getting out. No one wants to wake an angry man at 2am as they need a pee, making him wait for them to go and come back again before he can lay down again. And what if he’s had a few to drink and can’t be woken? Megabus give passengers a blanket and bottle of water, so a man could drink the water and under the blanket, pee in there, but what would a girl do??
I shared a double with my daughter. She has a cast-iron bladder and slept by the wall. I couldn’t turn over without my shoulders hitting the bottom of the hammock above me. A hammock, which contained a man whose farts came though the mesh of the nylon hammock at me all night.
When all’s said an done, give me an Inn, in approximately the 1840s, and a bed with a cannibal, rather than a Megabus.
Ishmael, I think you’ll find I had it worse.
I’m pretty sure the more I get into this novel the less I’ll be able to say that, although I have been sailing with my dad, and that was always cold, shouty and hellish, so you never know.