On alpha males and tired guides

Blane belonged to the warrior class operating in the hazy world of army intelligence. Over lunch, I overheard my father politely asking where his unit was based. Blane’s stentorian response was incongruous for a luxury cruise: ‘Sector G, Zone 3!’ It may have been Europe, it may have been Central America, it may have been Timbuctoo, but he didn’t use our names for these places.

He reminded me of a character in the film Animal House whom – according to the end credits – is killed by his own platoon in Vietnam. His small-talk sounded like it was learnt by rote from a How to Lose Friends and Alienate People CD.

Towards the end of the trip, Blane congratulated one of the more volubly slick guides on his professional performance. ‘I like your style, Gilberto! Very informative! Very enthusiastic!’ he yelled with all the soothing affection of a drill sergeant waking a recruit. Gilberto, a young man with a future in multi-lingual PR, merely wiped the spittle from a face that had by now simply run out of smiles.

‘If you’re ever in Miami, we should meet up for a drink!’ Blane hammered on aggressively. Gilberto mumbled something about his unpredictable schedule. Like a spent mobile phone without its charger, he simply had nothing more to give. Even for tips.