Thursday, March 20, 2008

Welcome to Jamaica... Have a Long Day

Note: I didn't have Internet access in Jamaica, or to be precise wasn't willing to pay $10+ a day for the privilege when I was on vacation, but I did bring my laptop and kept a running "blog" in Word. I'll post one day at a time, so you can pretend along with me that I'm still there a bit longer, instead of back to work in less than 12 hours.



According to the hotel clock, it’s 8:44 p.m. According to my internal clock, it’s about midnight. Of tomorrow.

It’s been a very long day.

Any day in which you deliberately set the alarm for 4:00 a.m. is destined to be a long one, but one might expect a destination of Jamaica to cure a lot of the yawns and lethargy associated with the day. There comes a point, though, where enough hassle and ridiculousness balances out even the nicest carrot at the end of that string.

The angst started early. In theory, we were to have the alarm go off at 4:00, with a backup call from the front desk at 4:15, to allow us to hop up, get on our clothes, and climb into the shuttle to the airport. In reality, the alarm went off at 4:00, and some combination of my young and lovely sisters beat it into submission and promptly fell back asleep. I didn’t hear the alarm, but the resulting flurry must have registered on some level, because at 4:08 I sat up, grabbed my glasses, and squinted blearily at the clock. By 4:35 we were, indeed, all on the shuttle – a good thing, because the next shuttle didn’t leave until 5:30, which is cutting it a bit close for a 6:45 international flight. It required me scurrying down to the lobby ahead of the group, throwing my bag in the back and begging the driver to wait “just another minute.” He did.

We stood in long lines for security, as was expected, and made it to the gate with a comfortable margin. This turned out to be a rare and precious experience.

That first flight left about 25 minutes late. Since we were originally scheduled to have a 45-minute layover in Miami, the margin suddenly became too close for comfort. I paged a stewardess – sorry, airline customer service technician, or whatever the politically polite term is – who dragged herself to my side as though I had asked her to walk barefoot from Siberia, and asked what we should do, since our connection time was so tight and we were traveling with Mary, a young lady not known for her catlike speed and reflexes.

“Well, a lot of people have connections to make. Don’t worry about it,” was the helpful reply. When I explained that I was a lot more concerned about no one getting hurt in the process, she laughed at me. Literally, “Ha, ha, ha, ha,” and walked away. I was less than impressed.

Then they forgot to have a wheelchair waiting for us at the gate, so there was a delay waiting for that. We followed a helpful and very speedy man through the airport, fast enough that Mary got a slight case of windburn on her face, and made it to the gate just in time to watch them close and lock the door. Fabulous.

We were reassigned to another flight, and were told to hurry; it was now 10:55 and the flight took off at 11:30. In the five minutes it took to get new boarding passes, Mary and Sarah left to find a bathroom, and someone wandered off with the wheelchair. We couldn’t get another one – apparently they’re a hot commodity in Miami, I shudder to think of the black market – so I ended up carrying her on my back and running. You try running with someone on your back without jostling their head enough to bounce it down onto the ground and through the terminal. Especially down a moving escalator. Mary loved that part.

Midway to the new gate – which, of course, was back near the original gate, about a 10-minute walk from the second failed attempt – we managed to hitch a ride with a friendly neighborhood golf cart, and breathlessly made it to the gate by 11:15… only to be informed that, no, no, the flight doesn’t depart at 11:30, it merely starts boarding then.

I didn’t kill anyone today. I just want that stated for the record.

So we had a few minutes in Miami to sit and wait, which was probably a good thing. The flight to Kingston was uneventful, as long as you don’t consider my neighbor’s unbelievable foot odor to be an event, and if the day had ended there I’d be a much happier individual right now.

Instead, we still had yet one more plane to catch, because we’re spending the first three days of our vacation on the other side of the island, in Montego Bay. So the plan was to rush to baggage claim, grab our bags, hurry through customs and catch the next flight.

Instead, all we did was the first and last steps there. Because the airline – wait for it – Lost Our Luggage. Oh, I’m barely able to type it out, what with the wiggles of sheer delight.

Then we left through the wrong door, and had to go all the way back through the long security line again to get to the last plane.

I’m not sure at precisely which point my spirit broke, but it was sometime in there. I know this because once we were finally, frantically seated in the last plane of the day, we were asked to once again fill out immigration and customs forms. I was seated next to a pilot from the airline we’d been using all day – not to name names, but let’s just say that after this trip, I’ll never again offer money and time to anything rhyming with Schmamerican Schmairlines. He decided to helpfully pipe up and tell me how to fill out the form, not knowing it was my second time in the past few hours. First I snapped at him, and then I tried to recount the events of the day and I got all teary-eyed and choked up (very not me). I informed him, “I have had a truly terrible day, and you can’t help that. Please don’t try.” I have to give him credit for knowing when to shut up.

I can’t say the same for the three-year-old a few rows up. That child has lungs, and knows how to use them. Endlessly. At top volume. Those poor parents. There was a moment of hilarity after we got off the plane and were headed out: a young woman came sprinting past us toward Customs, just as the lung-intensive creature reached the large, high-ceilinged hallway perfectly designed to maximize volume and echoes. I expressed sympathy for both child and parents; Sarah thought that the woman who'd just run frantically past us was probably the mother. It's less funny in print, but in the moment it was a rare smile on a difficult day.

Finally, finally, we made it to Montego Bay, and the day stopped being so incredibly, inexcusably screwed up. We found our ride to the hotel, as promised, with minimal fuss, and were able to check in with one small blip, only noticeable because it was just one more thing in an already endless day, when they wanted to charge Mary adult rates but not let her wear the adult wristband for food and drink. My mother negotiated it, and we have a room.

It’s a small room, less ornate and well-appointed even than the one I shared with Willem and the kids in Florida, but it’s on the first floor, and if I open the sliding glass, I can be in the Caribbean Sea in 34 steps. There’s a massage tent just a few steps to the left. They have constantly-running slushie machines filled with pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris, and it turns out that I quite enjoy the taste of locally made Jamaican rum in said refreshments.

It will all be OK. In theory, they will get our luggage here on a subsequent flight and deliver it to the hotel. Even if that doesn’t happen, I found a wildly overpriced sun dress and flip-flops in the gift shop, and can wear clean clothes tomorrow. When I get a massage, and go wading, and just lie in the sun for a bit.

1 comment:

Patty said...

Ugh...

I hope the rest of your trip was less eventful and more relaxing!

And its a good thing that Mary is so adaptable (not sure that is the word I am looking for), and willing to be slung around monkey style to make a flight. ;)