The queue stretched in both directions as far as our eyes could see.
It was dark outside, but I knew our Mediterranean cruise liner was edging along the Spanish coastline.
We were all dressed to the nines as if we were attending a charity ball in Banchory or Brora.
But we were supposed to be enjoying a traditional fixture in the cruise calendar – “meet the captain night”, complete with obligatory photographs of the occasion and comprehensive sales service for prints and frames afterwards.
All but me, that is.
This was a “Hail Caesar” moment for us landlubbers to show adoration for our skipper – the man with our lives in his hands amid mountainous seas.
Actually it had been as placid as a park boating lake, but you get my drift.
Now I was feeling queasy. Not because of a slight swell which was picking up, but a growing feeling of pointlessness about this painfully-slow, claustrophobic process.
The real problem was all mine: I cannot bear waiting. Five minutes tops or I’m off.
My wife was also feeling the strain so we decided to mutiny and make a run to the nearest deck with a bar.
One of the ship’s entertainment crew, who was fussing around shepherding us, gave me an incredulous raised-eyebrows look.
I felt obliged to explain myself.
“I’ve lost the will to live,” I blurted out.
“Lost the will to live?” she echoed shrilly.
Disapproving heads swivelled in our direction from among the ranks of this slightly cultish get-together.
We disappeared rapidly, but I felt I had to go back to explain I didn’t mean it literally – just in case they dispatched the ship’s shrink to stop me jumping overboard.
“But the captain can visit us anytime he likes,” I suggested feebly.
Not surprisingly, he didn’t take me up on my offer.
Maybe cruising was not for me after all, although I enjoyed certain things. Its massive public popularity (pre-Covid 19, that is) speaks for itself.
But something about being pressured into “enjoying” something as part of a group dynamic bothers me.
Did you say, “killjoy”?
I am sure skipper was bathed in applause, but how many people felt the same about clapping for Nicola Sturgeon’s 50th birthday last night?
Especially in streets or neighbourhoods where there are distinctly mixed feelings about the first minister.
And where rifts over the independence referendum stretching back to its origins more than 10 years ago are still raw.
Would people who do not happen to be brimming with the same unconditional love for Ms Sturgeon feel intimidated by such a demonstration on their neighbours’ doorsteps?
Even if the original concept was rooted in an innocent spontaneous outpouring of appreciation nothing is above suspicion, given current sensitivities and paranoia in Scottish politics.
To many it will be as clear as a can of beans that this was an independence stunt, especially when organisers spoke of “sending a message to Westminster”.
If people want to show their admiration for Ms Sturgeon publicly that’s fine.
They could hire a football stadium, Aberdeen Beach Ballroom or a scout hut if they like and carry her aloft in a sedan chair with garlands.
It’s their right.
I just have a fear about this type of thing escalating and being manipulated at street level to engineer confrontation.
Clapping the NHS was totally different. We share a universal adoration for our beloved institution and every single one of us is bound from birth by it.
It was a great idea which had its moment, but went on for too long. Some people’s appetite for flogging a dead horse never wanes.
But what if clapping for Nicola morphed into a weekly event to further an indyref2 agenda?
What if “nos” piled in with their own version to show how much they disapproved of Ms Sturgeon’s chequered record? And so on.
There is a time and place for this, but not on our residential doorsteps.
Pitching neighbour against neighbour is an unpleasant by-product. People who would rather sit on their hands than clap might feel obliged to take part for fear that others will say, “if you are not with us, you are against us”.
Far-fetched, you might think?
But people found enough ways to fall out the last time over the referendum without thinking up new ones.
Am I making too much of a fuss about nothing? I don’t think so – even a public rally in support of Marmite could not be as potentially divisive.
Maybe the event is a one-hit wonder, but it scratches away at an open wound.
If people wish to “Hail Nicola” for her achievements that’s their prerogative, but even she would admit her job is nowhere near done.
If this adulation does not make Ms Sturgeon’s toes curl, it could make them slightly twitchy at least.
After all, look what happened to Julius Caesar at the hands of Marcus Brutus and co – and they say some of her own party rivals are sharpening their knives already, metaphorically of course.
I think I’ve had enough of doorstep clanging and clapping – if it keeps on happening, I’ll go to sea.