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News » Deep End

Crappy Trip

CNN wrings tragedy out of cruise debacle



“You can smell the ship,” said Errin Something or Other, the CNN news hostess, wrinkling her longish nose in disgust. The smelly Carnival Triumph cruise ship had just docked in Mobile, Ala., five days after an engine fire had knocked out all power on the behemoth luxury liner, resulting in toilets gurgling over with human excreta. According to CNN, who goosed the story of the smelly ship for all it was worth, crap (or “raw sewage,” as CNN so decorously described it) had taken over the ship, spilling down stairways, flowing over floors and seeping from ceilings.

The stench from the stinking ship was so strong I could smell it coming through the TV.

Ms. Errin (Burbilge? Barnose?) was not the only CNN newsperson bringing to the sewage-besotted TV audience minute-by-minute updates on the very smelly ship. The very frightening Ashley Banfurd? Barnwell?, whose spectacles looked like WMDs, came on the air to interview via cell phone two 10-year-old girls, browbeating them at great length into speaking candidly about the extraordinary agony of having to poop into a plastic bag.

The poor girls! They might have been able to survive being locked up in a makeshift, coffin-like subterranean cell for months by a madman, but asking them to crap in a sack surely exceeded the bounds of human endurance. The wonderful Ms. Banterd was able to get the distraught mothers of the distraught 10-year-olds on the phone for a heart-warming conversation.

“What do you want to say to your daughters? That you can’t wait to see them? That you just want to give them a big hug?” Yes, indeedy, replied the emotional moms.

“And what do you want to say to your moms? That you miss them? That you love them very much?” Yeah, we really love you, mummy. (And bring along some toilet paper, please.)

Getting the moms and their little girls on the phone together was a triumph for the bespectacled Ms. Barnwell. Not only that, she was able to get shots from the CNN helicopter of the unfortunate girls, and after more browbeating, was able to get them to wave to cameras in the sky and their moms on shore.

No matter that the two girls were traveling with their dads, who were captured on camera standing around like a couple of clueless chuckleheads. The girls hadn’t seen their moms for five whole days. No matter that they hadn’t planned to see their moms for five whole days, anyway.

There’s no one like Ms. Bashwell for getting a story, especially when there is no story to be found.

But Ms. Bunworm was nearly upstaged by a reporter named Martin Something or Other (Seawidge? Scavenger?). When the stinky ship was pushed like a recalcitrant turd into port, Mr. Sewage faced the cameras like a reporter bringing us the latest disaster from the end of the world. He rummaged around in his announcer drawer and pulled out his old-timey 1930s newsreel voice to give us an eyewitness account of this extremely nose-worthy event.

“This ordeal has captured a nation,” intoned Mr. Sewage. “For the passengers on this ship, you’re talking about something life-changing.”

You betcha! We’re talking about something not just pants-changing, we’re talking life-changing! Mr. Seawad was well into catastrophe mode when he collared a departing male passenger and started haranguing him about his ordeal.

“The ordeal you experienced must have been as isolating as the horrific Katrina catastrophe,” said Mr. Scabbage stentoriously.

“There’s no frigging way this was like Katrina,” said the bemused but good- humored passenger. “Me and my buddies played cards. It wasn’t bad at all.”

Mr. Seabarge couldn’t get the card-playing passenger off camera fast enough. More passengers came on camera, and it became clear they weren’t following the script, no matter how insistently the CNN script-readers tried to feed them their lines. Instead of the apocalypse, several passengers, all healthy, grinning and giddy, spoke of the experience as a minor test sent from the Lord on high. These passengers praised the staff for disposing of their excrement-filled red plastic biohazard bags. They said they conquered the ubiquitous stink by holding Bible study every night at 6 p.m.

What was CNN thinking with its wall-to-wall coverage of the stinking ship? Did someone at headquarters have a serious obsession with human excrement? Was the network just making a desperate attempt to wipe away their crappy ratings?

Whatever the case, we are left with the mortally intolerable truth: Crap happens.

D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.


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