The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Internet to gigantic cargo ship stuck sideways in the Suez Canal: You are a mood

Ever have one of those days? The Ever Given cargo ship, seen here Wednesday helplessly stuck in the middle of the Suez Canal, quickly became the Internet's favorite way to describe the current human condition. (Suez Canal Authority/AP)
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Admit it — we’re all lifelong rubberneckers. The bigger the pileup on the side of the interstate, the better. Schadenfreude might as well be marrow; it lives within our bones.

Sure, some only want to watch the world burn. But when it gets cold enough, everyone enjoys a little fire. And, boy, is the world cold right now. An ongoing pandemic. Crisis at the border. A spate of mass shootings. A White House dog that bites.

So, yeah, we could use a little warmth. And early Tuesday morning, someone (or someones) piloting a more than 1,300-foot-long ship, now known to the Internet as the “Suez Canal boat captain guy,” was kind enough to provide it, when he somehow managed to jam one of the world’s largest boats sideways in the Suez Canal — a jam he couldn’t manage to unjam.

It probably shouldn’t be comical. No other ships could get through, after all, stranding more than 100, costing untold millions in shipping delays. In the old days — and by, “the old days,” we mean most of human history — you’d just go around Africa. But these aren’t the old days. These are the new days, ones replete with phrases like “murder hornets.” Of course this caused a global crisis. It lasted for less than a day, but that’s long enough for it to become March’s version of That Very Sad Rockefeller Christmas Tree from November.

Let’s put it this way: When someone joked that we’re five minutes away from learning “all of our vaccines were being stored on the big ship stuck in the Suez Canal for some reason,” it took an uncomfortably long second to realize that’s fiction. The whole thing feels so absurd, so ridiculous, so perfectly on-brand for the state of the world that it crossed the bridge from “heinous” to “hilarious.”

Instead of wondering how on Earth does a boat get stuck in the canal that sees almost 20,000 ships a year, everyone just thought: Well, duh. There’s nothing the sadistic screenwriters of our current reality can throw at us to faze us anymore. Instead, we delight in the disaster. What else can we do?

The late Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis once opined that “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” What he failed to mention is a ship lodged in a canal like a particularly stubborn cork in a wine bottle would bring us together. As the cartoonist Jephs Jacques put it on Twitter, “Good news for today: whatever happens, at least you’re not the guy who got his boat stuck in the suez canal and broke maritime shipping.”

After all, who can’t relate to comedian Kath Barbadoro, when she tweeted, “As someone who is terrible at parallel parking I know exactly how the Suez Canal boat captain guy feels. He’s probably like ‘ah geez. Oh brother.’ ”

The Ever Given container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal in Egypt on March 24, blocking traffic in one of the world's key trade passages. (Video: Reuters)

But parking gaffes are the tip of this iceberg, not to mix our ship metaphors. Because we all have a memory, a mistake haunting us at night as the clock maddeningly ticks toward dawn. What shameful gaffe do you replay again and again and again, a broken film reel in your brains, when sleep proves elusive?

Whatever it is, you may be in luck. The Suez Canal guy might have just helped re-edit that reel, which podcaster Caspar Salmon seemed to realize when he decided to share his own humiliating misstep.

“This thing with the boat in the Suez canal is making me feel better about the time I was working at Waterstones and got asked to shut off all the lights at closing time and pulled a lever in the back of the shop which caused a humming sound that didn't stop for several months,” he tweeted.

Ahh, yes, the truth shall set us free. The healing power of light. The cliches are cliche for a reason, and all that. The floodgates opened. Those midnight memories became joyful proclamations of petty failures as others rushed to share their own stories with Salmon.

There’s the woman who curiously hit the panic button at a foreign currency exchange, accidentally summoning the police to rush in. The dental assistant who left the sink tap on overnight and flooded a three-story building. The postal carrier who delivered mail to the wrong street and had to knock on every door to retrieve it. A tremendous number of mistakenly summoned firefighters.

This mortifying gem, from editor Victoria Richards: “Once wrote a headline about a Very Famous Person but accidentally put ‘fattest’ instead of ‘richest’ and hit publish.”

A boat hasn’t been this unifying — or this cleansing — since Boaty McBoatface. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that the world may be going to hell, but at least it’s warm there.