The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part Five

spincyclesmallPlease read The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part One, Part Two, Part Three,  and Part Four before reading Part Five. This is for this week’s Spin Cycle topic, Manners.

When my husband took me on a cruise, to celebrate my 50th birthday, I ignored the advice of  every professional travel planner on the planet,  did things my own way, and in the process, managed to survive The Ordeal of a Lifetime. This is Part Five of the  story. It is true, y’all.  Every single detail of it.

In Part Four of this saga, we had miraculously caught our flight to Miami, in the nick of time, and landed. But there was a hellishly long fifteen minute delay in letting the passengers off the plane, for some ungodly reason. And we still had a cruise ship to catch, at the Port of  Ft. Lauderdale, in exactly fifty five minutes.

As we stood there in the aisle of the plane, being mashed on all sides by the mass of humanity that was the other passengers, all of whom had their own agendas to keep and similar looks of desperation in their eyes, I was starting to feel decidedly unsouthern, y’all. Not only could I feel drops of  sweat rolling down my underarms, along with the awareness of my horrible absence of lipstick, but I was developing a real unladylike case of aggravation.

img_1286Now, southern women, like me, are born with this gene that makes us instinctively know how to catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar. In normal situations, this inbred sense of good manners makes us all charming and sweet, whenever we are faced with adversity. I’m sure my mother, who’s had years of practice at batting her eyelashes and flashing her beauty queen grin, would have been able to murmur, “Oh excuse me, shugar, but can I ask you to quit standin’ on my foot, if you please,” but I was just about ready to throw my years of good southern manners out the window and STOMP somebody to death, right there in public.

FINALLY, right before I threw a right proper hissy fit, the door opened. Apparently, there were no other real southerners on that plane, because everyone started pushing and shoving like a pack of wild dogs tryin’ to get after a lame squirrel. We were caught up in the hysterical flow and deposited at the entrance of the Miami International Airport.

miami-636Now MIA covers an area of 3,300 acres and contains four runways. It is a major gateway between the United States and Latin America, and the twenty-ninth largest airport in the world, in terms of passenger traffic. It is home to 29 restaurants and 33 shops. You can get your hair cut, your nails done, buy a new wardrobe, get a massage, get a new cell phone, play the lottery, rent a movie, fill your prescriptions, get your shoes shined, buy a whole new set of leather suitcases, stock up on booze and get married, all while you are waiting on your flight to take off. I’m pretty sure it’s much larger than Burgaw,  which is a whole town in North Carolina.

In other words, we were completely lost and had absolutely no idea which way to go  to reclaim our luggage, y’all.

I knew my husband would stand there trying to figure out the lay of the land all by himself, until we had no earthly chance of making it to Ft. Lauderdale in time, because, well, duh, he’s a man and that’s what they all do. So I headed straight to The Tourist Information Center and got in line. There was a man ahead of me, who was talking to the customer service representative at great length. In Spanish.

So I stood there, and as patiently as I could, I waited. And waited. And, sigh, waited.

The two of them appeared to be friends. They were having a very animated Spanish conversation, punctuated by much laughter and postulatin’. All the while, I was nervously watching the clock and trying not to scream in frustration, because, well, that would have been, not only rude, but decidedly unsouthern.

Thinkin’ that I must be invisible, I cleared my throat. “Um, excuse me, please,” I said, in my best Southern accent. “I just need to ask y’all a quick question.” I also batted my eyelashes, for effect.

The man behind the counter  looked unfazed. “Be right with you, lady, in just a momento.” Leaning casually against the counter, he resumed his conversation, in Spanish, with the man in front of me.

“Oh FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!” I thought. I saw another customer representative standing on the other side of the counter, talking on the phone. I rushed over to him. “Excuse me!” I said breathlessly. Unbelievably, he held up his hand in a dismissive gesture. “I’ll be right with you,” he said.

So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. When he finally hung up, I told him which flight number we had been on and asked where we could pick up our baggage.

He smiled brightly.  “Oh, that’s easy,” he said. And then he said something that might have been, “You need to go to baggage claim area number 352, which is very easy to get to. Just go past Burger King right up this corridor, turn right, go down a little until you see Dunkin DoNuts, then take  the next left, the go down past the third waiting area and turn right near the restrooms and you should see 352 right there on the left!”

Only, I’m not real sure, because he spoke way too fast, and with much more of a Spanish inflection than my little ole southern ears could translate….especially as stressed as I was.

As I blinked in confusion and disbelief, he was already beginning to speak Spanish to another person who had come up behind me. I turned around to look for my husband. All I could remember was something about number 352 and it was somewhere beyond  Burger King.

“Did you find out where we’re going?” Jeff asked me.

“Yep,” I lied. “It’s right up here past Burger King.” I could see the sign, and it was a bit of a walk, so we needed to hurry.

00245-restaurants-parent_14We rushed down the corridor towards the sign. Ahead of us, I noticed another couple that were about our age, that I remembered seeing on the plane with us. They were striding purposely down the corridor towards the Burger King sign, so I decided to follow them. All the way to a baggage carousel, which was carrying everyone’s bags around and around.

There were about three hundred other passengers standing there, two and three deep, watching for their luggage. Jeff and I also stood there, holding our camera bag, laptop case, a carry on, my pocket book and my precious itinerary, helplessly waiting for our other four  suitcases and incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps to appear.

Then, we spotted one of our suitcases! But there seemed to be  no opening in the line of passengers to get over to it. They crowded around the carousel greedily, refusing to move.  I looked at my watch. It was 4:24 pm. We had to be in Ft. Lauderdale, on the cruise ship, before it set sail, in exactly thirty six minutes.

Well, it’s like this, y’all. I was hot. I was tired. I was hungry. My hair was messed up, my make up had long since disappeared and my clothes were rumpled beyond description. Not only that, I was on the verge of tears. There was no way we were going to miss that ship! We had gone through too much and come too far to let a measley three hundred people stand in our way!

Now y’all please don’t tell my Momma, but I’m afraid I got a little carried away and may have come across like a raving lunatic as being a tich rude.

I snapped.

I lunged for the suitcase. I pushed, I growled, I elbowed, I grabbed and may the Good Lord in Heaven help me, I may have even exchanged a few bad words with a woman in a hideous flowery dress. But by the time all of our luggage rode around and passed near me, allowing me to snatch it triumphantly and throw it to Jeff, people were eying me warily and scootching away to give me plenty of room.

We used the last item, our incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, as a sort of battering ram to clear a wide pathway back through the crowded room and out through the front door.

f_taxiAs soon as I was out on the street in front of the airport, I dropped everything I was carrying in a heap on the ground, and raced towards the row of cabs. As I banged on the window of the nearest taxi, the cab driver looked at me as if I was crazy.

“CAN YOU GET US TO THE PORT IN FORT LAUDERDALE IN THIRTY MINUTES?” I screamed.

The door of the cab opened. The driver slowly climbed out. He stood up. I found myself looking up into a pair of large, black eyes in the face of a very muscular black man. He stared quizzically at me for a moment. Then, in a distinctly Jamaican accent, and a calm, deep voice, he said:

“I do my best, Ma’am.”

To be continued…..

Part Six: Did We Break the Sound Barrier?

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The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part Four

spincyclesmallPlease read The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part One, Part Two and Part Three,  before reading Part Four. This is for this week’s  Spin Cycle topic, Time.

When my husband took me on a cruise, to celebrate my 50th birthday, I ignored the advice of  every professional travel planner on the planet,  did things my own way, and in the process, managed to survive The Ordeal of a Lifetime. This is Part Four of the  story. It is true, y’all.  Every single detail of it.

Well y’all, in Part Three of this saga, we had finally gotten our camera bag back, which was tossed to us, a la Michael Jackson’s dangling baby, through the open window of a moving cab. As the cab driver, “Dragon”, sped off in the direction of Raleigh, we were right on his heels.

images71We were seriously running out of time. Tick tock, tick tock; with each passing minute our stress levels were ratcheting up a notch. Now we had only 25 short minutes to complete our drive into Raleigh, find a place to park at the airport, get our five suitcases, camera bag, laptop case, pocketbook, incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, and my itinerary into the airport, through security, and somehow onto the plane.

I was formulating a plan.

“OK, when we get to the airport, let’s not bother with parking the car. Let’s just pull up right in front, have Klinton drop us off and head right on into check in.”

img_0395To which The Devil’s Advocate, who looked amazingly like my husband, but with deep worry lines etched into his face, and a whole crop of new white hair around his hairline said, “And what if we miss the plane?”

Tick tock. Tick Tock.

I shuddered, thinking of another cab ride. “Well, we can call Klinton and tell him to come back and pick us up!”

To which The Devil’s Sidekick, who looked amazingly like my son in the back seat replied, “I didn’t bring my cell phone.”

“And why ON EARTH not?” I asked him.

“Because the battery was low, and it is on the charger,” he said calmly. ” That’s why I didn’t answer when you were trying to call from the Wilmington airport.”

“We’ll give him OUR cell phone!” Jeff announced. “We won’t be able to use it on the ship anyway, and at this point, it won’t matter anyway, because we’re probably not going to make it there on time.”

As I was gloomily muddling over the prospect of missing my first EVER cruise,  not to mention all the months of careful planning and days of methodical packing that would be going down the drain, we pulled into the Raleigh airport, with ten minutes to spare.

We stopped right in front of the main entrance. Jeff threw the car into park and jumped out. He hastily began pulling our five suitcases, camera bag, laptop case, pocketbook, incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, and my itinerary onto the curb. Klinton ran around to the driver’s side and climbed in.

After quickly giving  Klinton a  hug goodbye and instructions to keep our phone turned on, we looked around for some help.

fourguysWhere was a sky cap when you really needed one? Apparently, we were on our own, so Jeff took the heavy golf club bag and two suitcases and I grabbed three suitcases (one on wheels, Thank God!) the precious camera bag, my laptop and pocketbook and we staggered into the airport.

First, we had to have our tickets verified. That took several agonizing minutes of waiting in line. The we had to check our bags in. Thank God we had already solved the weight snafu in the Wilmington airport. Then we had to pass security.

The security guard took our tickets. Looked at them for a long minute.

“I’m going to have to ask y’all to step over to the side,” he said, in a most authoritative manner. “We’re going to have to wait for extra security to have y’all checked out.”

Not again! My skin felt like it was going to crawl off my body, y’all. As the clock ticked and our precious moments passed, we stood there, and we waited. And waited.

Jeff turned to the security guard who was continuing to process other passengers, and in his most casual, conversational tone asked, “So, is this because we changed our flight schedule at the last minute?”

The security guard peered at Jeff over his glasses. “Sir, you not only changed your flights at the last minute, but I see here where you’ve already done it twice today!”

As I started to bristle up with all of my fifty years of pent-up, southern indignation fixin’ to come out, Jeff placed a warning hand on my arm. “OK!” he said, brightly. “No problem, man! We’re just in a bit of a hurry to catch our plane, but we’ll wait!”

F-I-N-A-L-L-Y, with the time down to three minutes left to board, we were cleared through security. We literally ran to the boarding area. The waiting area was empty and there was a lone employee waiting impatiently by the door. As soon as she saw us headed towards her, she motioned for us to hurry, and we ran down the hallway and onto the plane.

As we took the last two seats, on a the very crowded airliner, my stomach made a protesting growl. I still had not had a mouthful of food all day.

“Will y’all be serving lunch today?” I asked a passing stewardess, hopefully.

She rolled her eyes. “We have snacks, Ma’am. We’ll be coming back with the snack cart later.”

I looked at my watch. At least we were leaving on time. We had made it, miraculously, onto the flight. But we still had another hurdle. This plane was landing in Miami at 2:45 pm and we had to be on the ship in Ft. Lauderdale by 4:00 pm. That had seemed like enough time, when we accepted the tickets, but we were desperate, and desperate people make bad decisions. Now I wasn’t so sure. It was all making my head hurt.

I settled into my seat as the plane took off, and tried to ignore my growling stomach and my pounding head. Fear and stress had me in their grips and it was impossible to relax. I watched the flight attendant making her way down the aisle towards us, with a snack cart. She was dispensing pretzels, chips, crackers, peanuts, sodas, juice and tiny bottles of liquor!

I turned to Jeff, excitedly, “She has liquor! If she has tomato juice, I can have a Bloody Mary!”

img_4756-copyPraise God and the baby Jesus, she had tomato juice, y’all! And a tiny bottle of decent vodka. That, along with a small can of Pringle’s potato chips, was the best meal I had ever had in my entire lifetime, up until that minute. After the day I had had so far, it was more than gourmet, it was stupendous.

By the time we landed in Miami, I was feeling a teeny bit better. When the plane rolled to a stop, I glanced at my watch. It was 2:50 pm. We had one hour and ten minutes to get off the plane, collect our luggage, find a cab, drive to Ft. Lauderdale, and board our ship.

Was this even possible? My stomach started to knot up in fear.

Everyone on the plane stood up. And then we all tried to wiggle out into the aisle. But, for some reason, the door was not opening. We all stood there. We waited. We all started to sweat. We waited some more. Ten minutes later, we were still waiting for the door of the plane to be opened.

And I wondered, “What fresh hell now? Do we have a snowman’s chance in Dixie to make it to the cruise ship in time?”

To be continued……

Part Five: Another Cab Driver Takes us for a Wild Ride