A great pyramid scheme was responsible for the worst cruise of Sydney Harbour that I never knew was possible. Several years ago, I started using a particular brand of health products. I was hoping to do IVF again, and my natural health practitioner assured me that these wondrous goods would restore my fertility. Hell, if I had been urged to run naked around a willow tree at midnight, I wouldn’t have needed much coaxing. I ordered some products and thought nothing more of it until I was caught on the phone by a person insisting that I had to set up an auto-ship and have the goods delivered to my door each month. I was sitting by my daughter’s bedside in hospital; she was going in to have surgery within moments. Adequately distracted, I agreed, as I just wanted to get off the phone! My account was debited each month and outrageously expensive products were delivered to my door.
I was being pressured to “share” the products with others, and invite people to meetings, so they could learn about the company and receive free testing. The test involved putting your hand on a plate, and a machine that went ‘bing’ (laptop), would advise you as to the scores of products that would settle your tummy or haemorrhoids. A new business manager was hired, and when he wasn’t trying to crack onto me, he was applying thumb screws in an effort to draw more people in. We were even instructed as to how to broach the issue with friends. By then I saw it for what it was, a pyramid scheme and felt mighty angry that a natural health professional had made a fortune in pushing the products to people like me who wanted to fall pregnant.
I received an email, inviting me on a very cheap cruise around Sydney Harbor. It was a dinner cruise, and happened to fall on my birthday. “Why not?” I thought, and organized for my daughter to be minded so her father and I could go together. We lined up, ardent fans of the products sporting t-shirts and espousing the wonders that awaited us on board. A cranky little man with a clipboard walked up and down the line, ordering us about as he gruffly offered us show-bags. We were finally able to board, and we were ordered to find a seat. “Not there!” he snarled as I took a seat in the main room. Apparently, these seats were for the chosen ones, who had sold a substantial amount and recruited others. I morosely made my way to the top deck. There was no food, and only their antioxidant drink (which tasted like undiluted red cordial), to drink. They had slushie machines brimming with the stuff, and parched, I downed a few. This drink was over $30 a bottle, and I greedily wanted to have as much of it for free as I could. The only tea bags on offer were of an insipid slimming tea. I had a few of them too.
Funnily enough, we bumped into a couple who ran a local dancing academy. They had been invited to the cruise by mutual friends, and were just as bummed as us that there was no dinner. We decided to sit outside on the top deck. There was a large blow-up of the antioxidant drink flapping about in the wind, and the tinny speakers came to life as we set sail. A motivational speaker began his spiel and didn’t shut up for the several hours we were on board. Somebody from our gang managed to rescue the blasted blow-up before it flew into the harbor, and the little man with the clip-board kept coming out to see what we were up to. He was irritated that we weren’t inside, paying careful attention. The couple had been working on TV in their capacity as dancers, and were exhausted and cranky that they were enduring this rather than a night in.
As if on cue, thunder and lightning lit up the sky, and then my stomach rumbled. Dear God! I hadn’t been informed that the slushie should only be drank in a thimble, as it was so powerful. I had effectively provided myself with a delightful bowel cleanse. The only loo was inside the main room, and I would have to get past the motivational speaker and his audience. A woman wearing the company’s shirt grabbed my arm and tried to guide me to a spare seat. Blow that, I needed to go! I shrugged her off and darted to the loo, the room falling quiet as everybody watched. I made many trips to the toilet, in between imploring passing boats to help us, as we were being held captive!
We laughed at the silliness of it all, and were joined by another couple who had been misled about our dinner cruise. Sitting outside with major headaches from the speaker and wind, we were also freezing. One poor girl had chattering teeth, so fed-up, one of the guys climbed the flag pole and undid the flag so we could all huddle underneath it.
Starving, with the runs and a headache, we miraculously survived the cruise from hell, and as we alighted, we were asked if we had enjoyed ourselves. All I could do was laugh. We had created fun out of misery. We crawled to the nearest restaurant and ordered tall glasses of gin. Herein ends the solemn lesson regarding pyramid schemes. They are still out there! If the promises seem outlandish, they most certainly are. I didn’t get to do IVF again, but on the plus side, I did make the little man with the clip-board a little richer.
Footnote: we put the flag back up at the end of the voyage.