Our Harrowing Drive to Raleigh, Being Chased by a Dragon

This week’s Spin Cycle is our favorite posts. Mine was actually one of a series, called The Ordeal of a Lifetime. I really enjoyed writing about the cruise we took for my 50th birthday. Getting there was definitely NOT half of the fun. But, it’s makes a pretty darn funny story when I retell it, y’all.

I chose this third part installment, because it was one of the most looked at blogs, according to my blog stats. Sadly, my most popular blog of all time is Red Toes for Ruby Tuesday, which is basically a picture of my feet, and can’t in any way be attributed to my writing skills.

Another thing I have to add about this series: the whole thing was originally written for different Spin Cycles. My hat has to go off to Sprite’s Keeper, Jen, for coming up with such challenging and inspiring topics every week.

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

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 Three of the  story. It is true, y’all.  Every single detail of it.

Now, I had managed to live 50 years, without ever going on a cruise. Kinda like I think I might be the last living native Wilmingtonian, I think I might have been the last living woman, born before 1960, that had never been on a cruise. My mom, for example, has been on so many cruises that she’s on first name basis with the cabin attendants on Norwegian’s  Cruise Line.

100_0171The weird thing about all the cruises my mom has been on, is; she has no pictures. None. I’m not kidding. She and her husband, Bob (lovingly referred to as old fart stepdad number three) only bring back the solemn looking, 8 by 10  “pose”on Formal Night, that the ship’s photographers try to force on you complimentary shoot when you’re all dressed up for dinner.

I asked them about this. I said, “Mom, why don’t y’all take a camera and get some pictures of your trip?”

To which she replied, “Oh, Sweeeeeeetie. We don’t have time for all that mess! We’re too busy “doin’ stuff”  to fool with takin’ pictures!”

Well. I figure I must have a quirk about this. Let’s call it a camera addiction. I have to take pictures at birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, when the flowers bloom, when frinds come over, when the dog looks cute, when the cat looks annoyed, after Jeff cuts the grass and whenever we put our “dressy” clothes on, y’all. I wasn’t about to go on my first ever cruise and not take hundreds of pictures! How was I going to bore entertain all my internet friends ad nauseum for many enjoyable years to come, without a pictorial diary of each and every day’s activity?

Unlike my mom,  I’m too busy takin’ pictures to enjoy what I’m “doin’”, I guess. Needless to say, our camera was the most crucial part of our trip. Without it, well, we might as well have just stayed home.

After we survived the longest cab ride in the history of the world with that Dragon character, and woke Klinton up, surprising him with the news that he was going with us to Raleigh, I hurried into the kitchen to make a sandwich and a glass of diet coke. My stomach was growlin’, and I was feelin’ weakish, y’ all. After all, it was almost noon. By this time, I had planned to be relaxin’ on the deck of our cruise ship, enjoyin’ a nice buffet and comparin’ toe nail polish with my new internet friends.

Suddenly, I heard screaming from the living room. My very Yankee husband was screaming a very Yankee expletive that proper, southern-born gals from North Carolina also frequently say after they’ve been married to a Yankee for a while would never dream of typing, much less sayin’:

F**K!”

I dropped the bread and rushed into the living room.

“What’s wrong now?” I cried.

F**K… F**K… F**K!!!” was his answer.

I LEFT THE GOD DAMNED CAMERA BAG IN THE GOD DAMNED F**KING CAB!!” he screamed.

Poor Klinton came running out of his room, half dressed. “What’s going on?” he wanted to know.

“Jeff left our camera in the cab,” I explained, trying to remain calm. Going on this trip without our camera? Not an option.

Jeff already had the phone book out. “I’m calling the cab company!” he said.

The cab company’s receptionist was organized and efficient. She said she knew right where Dragon was, and promised to page him and have him call us back immediately.

“Here,” Jeff said, handing the phone to me. “When Dragon calls, tell him to turn around and bring our camera back! To save time, I’ll take the car and get it filled up with gas!”

Five minutes later, the phone rang. It was Dragon.

“Yes, yes, Ma’am. I have camera!” he said, triumphantly. “I bring back to you! As soon as I get back from driving another paying fare to Raleigh! I bring camera later today!”

At this point, I think my head almost exploded.

NOOOOO!!!!” I screamed into the phone said firmly.”Listen to me! WE have to go to Raleigh!! We have to leave NOW! We CAN’T WAIT!! WE NEED our camera!! You HAVE to bring it to us!!”

“OK, no problem,” he said. “I meet you at airport in Raleigh and give you camera.”

“NO! NO!” I was panicked. “We can’t meet you in Raleigh! We’ll be on too tight of a schedule! You need to bring our camera NOW!”

“I bring camera to Raleigh.” Then, unbelievably, he hung up on me.

I stared at the phone in my hand, as the call ended. I was thinking that I was going to make it my life’s work to have this Dragon fired. At that moment, Klinton, bless his heart, came out of his room and sensed that I was about to snap.

dscf4055“Mom,” he said, soothingly, taking the phone from me. “Calm down. Just  get ready to go. Let me handle this.  I’ll talk to the cab driver. You have his cell number in your cell phone now. His name’s Dragon, right? We’re all going to Raleigh. I’ll have him meet us on the road, somewhere between here and there.”

Mutely, I handed the phone to him. As I made myself a glass of diet coke on ice, I overheard Klinton talking to Dragon.

“Hello? This is Ginger’s son, Klinton. Yeah. We’re driving to Raleigh, too. Can we meet up somewhere and pick up our camera? Where are you right now? Which mile marker? OK. Call me back.”

dscf3896Soon, Jeff had returned and we were on the road. Klinton, in the back seat, was enjoying his role of mediator, in constant contact with Dragon. Jeff , in race car driver mode, was staring at the road, steely-eyed, while he gripped the wheel and drove down I-40 at 85 miles per hour. I was sipping my diet coke and chewing my nails,  hoping that we didn’t get pulled over for speeding, hoping were going to make it to the airport in time, hoping this was all just a bad dream.

Dragon claimed to be only a few miles behind us. Klinton made arrangements with him to meet up at a large rest area on I-40. We pulled into the rest area and waited. And waited. And waited.

We had about 40 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.

We waited for so long that we each had time to make a dash to the restrooms, one at a time. As we waited, Jeff kept threatening to leave, and Klinton kept promising that Dragon was almost there.

Then, Jeff said, “I think I see him!”

Sure enough, it was the taxi driven by Dragon, turning into the rest area. His window was rolled down and dangling out of his hand, looking for all the world like Michael Jackson’s baby, was our precious camera bag!

“He’s not gonna stop!” I cried. Jeff got out of our car, and stood alongside, waiting. Dragon drove by, barely slowing down, and tossed the camera bag at Jeff.  In his front seat, I could see a very flabbergasted and harried looking female passenger.

As Jeff jumped back into the car and we raced out of the parking lot, Klinton, always the optimist, said, “Well, at least now you have your camera back.”

But…..would we make it to Raleigh in time to catch out flight? Would we survive the stress? Would we ever get a bite of food? Would we be further harrassed by the airport security?

To be continued….

Part Four: Can a Can of Pringles and a Bloody Mary Be Classified As a Gourmet Meal?

Part Five: Another Cab Cab Driver Takes Us For a Wild Ride

Part Six: Did We Break The Sound Barrier?

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I Heart Romantic Places

This week’s photo challenge on I heart Faces is My Story in Photos: Places I Love. They are lifting the requirement to see faces this week – they want us to post photos of the most romantic places we’ve been!

I Heart Faces is a photography sharing forum that focuses on the art of capturing faces and their various emotions. Each week, people from across the world enter their favorite face photos.

Click on the picture for a better view and click the button to check out lots of other faces, or to enter a photo of your own!

If you are one of the large group of my enthusiastic fans five people who occasionally read my blog, then you must already know that my husband took me on my first cruise for my 50th birthday. We barely made it onto the ship, and you can read all about that ordeal here. But it was worth every minute of aggravation we went through to get there, as these photos will attest.

We cruised out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea. It was a five day cruise to the Western Caribbean. The first port of call was Key West, a romantic place I had always wanted to visit!

Key West has a laid, back, quirky, off beat appeal. The homes are quaint, colorful, packed with personality and have some of the most gorgeous, tropical flowers and trees around them that I’ve ever seen.

This “market” is unlike anything you will find anywhere else. This photo is quintessentially Key West!

A walk down Duval Street lived up to it’s reputation of oddities, variety and a 24 hour party atmosphere. We met some characters, that’s for sure!

Yes, there really are chickens running all over the place in Key West!

Our next port of call was Cozumel. We played golf at the Cozumel Country Club. It was overrun with all kinds of critters. We saw snakes, iguanas, alligators and this large crab was determined to keep me from hitting my ball!

The next stop was Playa Del Carmen. We took a cab to a eco-water park called Xel Ha. It was all inclusive food and drinks, as much as you wanted, all day. This lagoon was full of tropical fish and they offered snorkeling gear, kayaks and rafts for use.

There were chairs and hammocks set up all over the park, walking trails, several wonderful restaurants and bars and even a place to swim with dolphins (for an extra fee.)

We floated down this authentic lazy river on a double raft. It would have been very romantic, but we were having to paddle the whole time against the waves to keep from crashing into the rocks along the shores.

Part of the park had access to the beach and the ocean. This was my favorite photo from the whole cruise. It was  paradise.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the color of this water.

Even the rocks were unbelievably beautiful.

As you can see, it was a great place to loll around in a hammock.

At the time, I had no idea this would become my header photo for a blog!

Our last stop on this cruise was Belize. We had to take a tender from the ship into the small port.

We went into the tropical forest in Belize to visit the majestic mayan ruins of Laminai, which means “submerged crocodile” in the Maya language. It’s also the third largest  and possibly most interesting, archeological site in Belize.

Our tender boat, and the Jewel shared the water with these Belizean fishermen.

Since this post is for I Heart Faces, here are our smiling faces, just before going to a romantic dinner onboard our ship.

We loved getting away on this romantic cruise and I can’t wait to take another one!

Six Words Saturday

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I’m So Ready For Another Cruise

There’s a new forum I’m interested in posting in called Six Words Saturday. You post something about yourself or your life, or whatever is on your mind using only six words. Not only is this an interesting little concept, but it works out well for me, because I only have time to type about six words.

I’m So Ready For Another Cruise

Plus I’ve recently come to the conclusion that the shorter a blog post is, the more likely folks are to read it and comment.

Yes, comment. I’m that shallow, y’all.

So here are my incredibly well thought-out six words. Are y’all ready?

I’m So Ready For Another Cruise

I am. Really.

And yes, I know it is Sunday right now. That’s because I’m working night shift and my Saturday started really late and before I could get it together it was Sunday already.

See? I’m So Ready For Another Cruise

The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part Six

spincyclesmallPlease read The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part One, Part Two, Part ThreePart Four, and Part Five before reading Part Six. Part Five was part of the Spin Cycle’s Topic of the Week: Minding Your Manners. I’ve missed a few weeks since then. It’s amazing how time gets all away from you, when you work shift work.

This week’s Spin Cycle topic was Pets. I managed to re-post a blog story to take care of that one. Last week, Spirteskeeper, the keeper of the Spin Cycle, came up with an impossibly hard topic: Prom.

In thinking about it, maybe that’s why this cruise was so important to me. See, I never went to a prom. And I’m not going to lie to y’all and say it was because I way too mature for that sort of nonsense, or tell you that I was boycotting it because it was outrageously expensive, or claim to be dedicated to a vegetarian lifestyle, and therefore unable to be in the same room with a tray of ham sandwiches. Nah.

The cold stark truth of the matter is this: No one asked me. And back in the dark ages my high school days it wasn’t  socially acceptable for girls to ask boys out. Besides, I was dating a man who was much too old for me, what the hell was my mother thinking? a cool college guy. And he was too old to go to a high school prom with a baby, like me.

cruise 07 020 - CopyBut the cruise….ahhhh! would include a “Formal Night.” That was, I learned during my extensive research, a fancy dinner and lots of dancing! It would be like the prom I never got to go to. I figured it was the perfect excuse to shop for a sexy dress, strappy high heeled shoes and matching jewelry. I found the perfect outfit, in slimming classy black, and had it all packed away weeks in advance.

And I wasn’t about to let a little ol’ detail like missin’ a couple of flights keep me from wearing it!

The week before last, which I also missed, the Spin Cycle topic was Making Mountains out of Molehills.

Back when I was 49, I started thinking about going on a cruise. Everyone I knew, it seems, had already done it. And so I approached my husband with the idea, and he didn’t exactly say no was thrilled, so for a full year before my 50th birthday, I was in full scale pre-planning mode. I read everything I could get my hands on about cruising. I joined a discussion forum. I ordered travel books and was up-to-date on all the major cruise line’s ships and itineraries.

One thing I kept reading, over and over again, was something subtle like this:

51JT9rjKlqL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_The first piece of advice: Get there early. A day early. Plan ahead, particularly if you’re flying during winter seasons (or even summer thunderstorm seasons). If you must fly to the port on the day of embarkation, try to catch the earliest possible flight. At the very least, leave a minimum of a four-hour window between arrival and cruise take-off time.”

And as I read all that, I was thinking, “Yeah, right. Overkill, that’s what that is. They are really making a mountain out of a molehill!”

See, I was convinced that the cruise advice forums and the travel books were all in ca-hoots with the hotels, y’all. It was a big ole plot to get people to spend some more money. I thought it was real clever of them, how they used fear to get folks to book extra nights, in hotels in strange cities.

But Iwasn’t fallin’ for it. No siree. I was smarter than the average cookie. I just knew that nothing would go wrong. We would fly on down to the port, board the ship in plenty of time, and sail away into the sunset. Smooth as silk. With extra cash in our pockets, unlike all the gullible fools that had gotten suckered into spending an extra night.

Little did I know. In reality, the molehill was not just a mountain. It was a nightmare.

First, our early flight, that would have gotten us to the port in the minimum four hour window, got canceled. Then, in spite of inadvertently becoming security risks, we managed to get ourselves booked onto another flight. Then, THAT flight got canceled and it became a free-for-all in the Wilmington airport for a ticket. Our next problem was getting to Raleigh in time to catch still another flight, that would barely get us into the wrong port in time to catch a cab to the right port, all in time to catch the cruise ship, which we had been dangerously close to missing all day.

But then, if y’all read Parts One, Two, Three, Four and Five, you already know all this.

But I’m southern, so bear with me.

The Spin Cycle topic the week before the Molehills topic, was “Mistakes.” Boy-howdy, did I ever mess up by not finishing this story that week. Because….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 Six of the  story. It is true, y’all.  Every single detail of it.

So where were we? Oh, yeah.

300px-MiamiInternationalAirportFront.JPGIn Part Five of this saga, I had managed to stave off a hissy-fit in the Miami airport, only to begin screaming at pleading with an innocent Jamaicancab driver, who calmly agreed to “do his best” to get us to the Port of Ft. Lauderdale. In 35 minutes.

If there was ever a ride to rival “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”, this was it. That cab driver was not fooling around, y’all. He was intent on keeping his promise. He drove like a man on a mission.

A “give your poor passengers in the backseat a nervous breakdown” kind of mission.

As the taxi wove in and out of traffic, passing everything else on the road like the first Cape Canaveral rocket launch, I managed to sneak a peek at the speedometer. It said 97 miles per hour. I clutched my purse and my laptop and closed my eyes. And I silently prayed.

“Dear Jesus, please just let us get there alive. I swear I don’t care anymore if we make it to the cruise. I really don’t care (much) about wearing that new dress (or the cute little black sandals with the darling rhinestone accents). You know what’s best for us, Dear Jesus, and I trust you. Must be, there’s a real good reason why we’ve had so much trouble on this trip, so just please don’t let us perish in this here cab. Amen.”

My husband and I were holding hands. My knuckles were white from squeezing his fingers so hard. The two of us exchanged a look. We knew we were going to die.

But miracles still happen, I reckon, because we pulled into the Port of Ft.Lauderdale at 3:55 PM. My heart was about to stop, and I had the weak trembles. But we had made it.

cruise 07 005The cab driver drove us right up to the ship. Only it was the wrong one. The big letters painted on the side of it plainly read “CARNIVAL.”  And we were booked on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

He turned and flashed a brilliant smile at us, as if driving 97 mile an hour was an everyday occurrence. “Port of Fort Lauderdale, in thirty minutes, Ma’am,” he announced.

“No, no, no!” I barely managed to get out, as if I was talking in slow motion.

My husband set him straight. “We are going to need to find The Jewel of the Seas. It’s a Royal Caribbean ship.”

We looked around. There were four ships at the dock. A Carnival, a Norwegian, a Princess and a Disney.

It was almost four o’clock; the time after which, we had been told by several people, the ship would not allow us to board. We were so close. Had we come so far, only to miss it?

For a moment, the cab driver looked confused. His brow furrowed. Suddenly, he whipped the cab around and we were headed back to the main gate. “We will go back and ask directions to this ship,” he said calmly.

There was a little road, that we had missed, that took us to another dock. And there, in all her splendor, sat the lovely Jewel of the Seas.

cruise 07 246

I had tears in my eyes. I wanted to hug the cab driver. But there was no time for me to get sentimental. The baggage handlers were swarming all over us the minute we stopped.

“Are you sailing on the Jewel?” one of them asked.

No sooner had we said yes, then seven or eight men and women in Royal Caribbean uniforms were grabbing our camera bag, laptop case, a carry on,   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 and throwing it all onto a baggage transport cart.

All the while they were frantically waving toward the check in area. “Hurry, hurry, hurry!” they told us. “You need to hurry! Have your tickets and passports ready!”

I had my pocket book and my precious itinerary, which contained our tickets and passports. We took off, running. As we entered the huge check-in room, which was completely devoid of people, there was a lone woman standing behind one of many booths. We rushed over to her, panicked that we were a few minutes late. I immediately started spouting gibberish about canceled flights and wild cab rides, while waving my tickets feverishly in her face.

She looked amused. Then smiled. A beautiful smile. “Relax!” she said. “You made it!”

cruise 07 008

About an hour later, we were standing on the deck of the ship, having that much anticipated “froo froo” drink, during what is known as “the Sailaway”. Sailaway is a party that the cruise line throws, as the ship sails out of the port, to get you all liquored up and in the mood to spend some more money start the cruise on a festive note.

Well, after the ordeal we  survived to get there, it took more than a few drinks and a couple of days before we even started to relax.  I would love go on another cruise, y’all. But, next time,  I think we’ll plan on spending a week in Fort Lauderdale before the cruise….just in case.

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

The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part Three

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

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 Three of the  story. It is true, y’all.  Every single detail of it.

Now, I had managed to live 50 years, without ever going on a cruise. Kinda like I think I might be the last living native Wilmingtonian, I think I might have been the last living woman, born before 1960, that had never been on a cruise. My mom, for example, has been on so many cruises that she’s on first name basis with the cabin attendants on Norwegian’s  Cruise Line.

100_0171The weird thing about all the cruises my mom has been on, is; she has no pictures. None. I’m not kidding. She and her husband, Bob (lovingly referred to as old fart stepdad number three) only bring back the solemn looking, 8 by 10  “pose”on Formal Night, that the ship’s photographers try to force on you complimentary shoot when you’re all dressed up for dinner.

I asked them about this. I said, “Mom, why don’t y’all take a camera and get some pictures of your trip?”

To which she replied, “Oh, Sweeeeeeetie. We don’t have time for all that mess! We’re too busy “doin’ stuff”  to fool with takin’ pictures!”

Well. I figure I must have a quirk about this. Let’s call it a camera addiction. I have to take pictures at birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, when the flowers bloom, when frinds come over, when the dog looks cute, when the cat looks annoyed, after Jeff cuts the grass and whenever we put our “dressy” clothes on, y’all. I wasn’t about to go on my first ever cruise and not take hundreds of pictures! How was I going to bore entertain all my internet friends ad nauseum for many enjoyable years to come, without a pictorial diary of each and every day’s activity?

Unlike my mom,  I’m too busy takin’ pictures to enjoy what I’m “doin'”, I guess. Needless to say, our camera was the most crucial part of our trip. Without it, well, we might as well have just stayed home.

After we survived the longest cab ride in the history of the world with that Dragon character, and woke Klinton up, surprising him with the news that he was going with us to Raleigh, I hurried into the kitchen to make a sandwich and a glass of diet coke. My stomach was growlin’, and I was feelin’ weakish, y’ all. After all, it was almost noon. By this time, I had planned to be relaxin’ on the deck of our cruise ship, enjoyin’ a nice buffet and comparin’ toe nail polish with my new internet friends.

Suddenly, I heard screaming from the living room. My very Yankee husband was screaming a very Yankee expletive that proper, southern-born gals from North Carolina also frequently say after they’ve been married to a Yankee for a while would never dream of typing, much less sayin’:

F**K!”

I dropped the bread and rushed into the living room.

“What’s wrong now?” I cried.

F**K… F**K… F**K!!!” was his answer.

I LEFT THE GOD DAMNED CAMERA BAG IN THE GOD DAMNED F**KING CAB!!” he screamed.

Poor Klinton came running out of his room, half dressed. “What’s going on?” he wanted to know.

“Jeff left our camera in the cab,” I explained, trying to remain calm. Going on this trip without our camera? Not an option.

Jeff already had the phone book out. “I’m calling the cab company!” he said.

The cab company’s receptionist was organized and efficient. She said she knew right where Dragon was, and promised to page him and have him call us back immediately.

“Here,” Jeff said, handing the phone to me. “When Dragon calls, tell him to turn around and bring our camera back! To save time, I’ll take the car and get it filled up with gas!”

Five minutes later, the phone rang. It was Dragon.

“Yes, yes, Ma’am. I have camera!” he said, triumphantly. “I bring back to you! As soon as I get back from driving another paying fare to Raleigh! I bring camera later today!”

At this point, I think my head almost exploded.

NOOOOO!!!!” I screamed into the phone said firmly.”Listen to me! WE have to go to Raleigh!! We have to leave NOW! We CAN’T WAIT!! WE NEED our camera!! You HAVE to bring it to us!!”

“OK, no problem,” he said. “I meet you at airport in Raleigh and give you camera.”

“NO! NO!” I was panicked. “We can’t meet you in Raleigh! We’ll be on too tight of a schedule! You need to bring our camera NOW!”

“I bring camera to Raleigh.” Then, unbelievably, he hung up on me.

I stared at the phone in my hand, as the call ended. I was thinking that I was going to make it my life’s work to have this Dragon fired. At that moment, Klinton, bless his heart, came out of his room and sensed that I was about to snap.

dscf4055“Mom,” he said, soothingly, taking the phone from me. “Calm down. Just  get ready to go. Let me handle this.  I’ll talk to the cab driver. You have his cell number in your cell phone now. His name’s Dragon, right? We’re all going to Raleigh. I’ll have him meet us on the road, somewhere between here and there.”

Mutely, I handed the phone to him. As I made myself a glass of diet coke on ice, I overheard Klinton talking to Dragon.

“Hello? This is Ginger’s son, Klinton. Yeah. We’re driving to Raleigh, too. Can we meet up somewhere and pick up our camera? Where are you right now? Which mile marker? OK. Call me back.”

dscf3896Soon, Jeff had returned and we were on the road. Klinton, in the back seat, was enjoying his role of mediator, in constant contact with Dragon. Jeff , in race car driver mode, was staring at the road, steely-eyed, while he gripped the wheel and drove down I-40 at 85 miles per hour. I was sipping my diet coke and chewing my nails,  hoping that we didn’t get pulled over for speeding, hoping were going to make it to the airport in time, hoping this was all just a bad dream.

Dragon claimed to be only a few miles behind us. Klinton made arrangements with him to meet up at a large rest area on I-40. We pulled into the rest area and waited. And waited. And waited.

We had about 40 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.

We waited for so long that we each had time to make a dash to the restrooms, one at a time. As we waited, Jeff kept threatening to leave, and Klinton kept promising that Dragon was almost there.

Then, Jeff said, “I think I see him!”

Sure enough, it was the taxi driven by Dragon, turning into the rest area. His window was rolled down and dangling out of his hand, looking for all the world like Michael Jackson’s baby, was our precious camera bag!

“He’s not gonna stop!” I cried. Jeff got out of our car, and stood alongside, waiting. Dragon drove by, barely slowing down, and tossed the camera bag at Jeff.  In his front seat, I could see a very flabbergasted and harried looking female passenger.

As Jeff jumped back into the car and we raced out of the parking lot, Klinton, always the optimist, said, “Well, at least now you have your camera back.”

But…..would we make it to Raleigh in time to catch out flight? Would we survive the stress? Would we ever get a bite of food? Would we be further harrassed by the airport security?

To be continued….

Part Four: Can a Can of Pringles and a Bloody Mary Be Classified As a Gourmet Meal?