One thing I love about cruising is how all the employees come from exotic places. The bar server from Sri Lanka smiles and then remembers her heritage and stifles it. Our dining room waitress is Mila from the Ukraine. "But I'm really Russian," she tells us as though we surely understand the significance of this distinction. I love the Ruskies though because they are nothing if not blunt. We ordered a chocolate martini last night in the casino and Irina announced, "Is no good, I make you tiramisu martini instead. Is more money but you can afford." We waited for the giggle or smile at her little joke but instead she fired up the blender. At the barbeque yesterday, I was in line behind a lady while I studied the condiments available for the hot dogs and hamburgers. "I want a hamburger," she started in, " but not one of those overcooked ones on the left, give me one of those on the right there." I don't know how she did it, bit it was both an edict and a whine, and at the risk of appearing anti-semitic, I immediately hated her. The Indian guys tending the grill explained that they weren't allowed to serve half-cooked burgers but she wouldn't be swayed. "I don't understand why you can't give a customer what she wants." Not only whining now, but referring to herself in the third person. Suddenly I thought about how facebook status updates might be having a bad influence on us. Now if it had been me, I'd surely have let a bit of drool escape onto her burger but the nice Indan guy said, "I'll give you the less cooked one from the left side." Our room steward introduced himself as "Efran" even though his nametag clearly reads Erfan. I assume no one can ever get his name right so he just introduces himself this way. He is from a country in Asia, so of course he is quiet, polite and efficient. He remembers everyone's name. This morning as Maurice from Haiti bused our table, I said thank you, noticed his country of origin and said, "Ah, vous parlez français?" A stone couldn't have been more stoic as he replied, "Yes." Later I saw a crew member dart through a door marked "crew only" and I spied a sign with a big yellow smiley face. Under it in big letters was written "Give us a smile!" And this is when it struck me that maybe we are the weird ones. Smiling is more natural for us because we have been taught to put that face on, grin and bear it comes to mind. And of course this must make us all seem fake. I imagine too that it's pretty hard to feel smiley when you are working 7 days a week 12 hours a day. Still, many of them do manage a smile and I can only hope that this garners them more tips.