Up, Up, and Breaking Away!

Posted on: Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Posted in: Travelog, In Transit, Latest Trip | Leave a comment

Time to get UP! That alarm sure sounds rude at 4:30. Especially when you were packing past midnight. Particularly when the slumbers weren’t golden anyhow. And most of all when the guy who is supposed to drive you to the airport doesn’t show up—making you wonder why am I up? Hate to say it, but…

Traveling Ain’t What It Used To Be

Oh sure, we’re schlepping 8 bags and 2 kids—and going away for 69 days to five faraway islands. Still, shouldn’t this be, like, exciting? Not just exhausting? Wishful thinking. But there’s too much beyond your control.

Hiring “A Driver” Ain’t What It Used To Be

Like our driver. Let’s call him Dean; he owns an airport service and has been slightly more dependable than the utterly erratic cabbies we’ve called in the past. Today, he sent “an associate.”  Who came late. In a too-small car. Amidst an icy snowstorm.

Once we realized that the Associate couldn’t possibly carry all of us and our baggage (physical and metaphorical), we called and ranted to Dean…who offered all kinds of lame excuses–but no adequate transportation to the airport.  

Now, Dean used to arrive in a big fat Town Car. Cool! Then he moved on to a Lincoln Navigator. Fine! Now? Who knows. Wouldn’t surprise me if he showed up next time in a K-Car, just for Kicks. We’ll never know. We’re done with Dean. And after the the requisite cell phone yellfest, I reckon he’s done with us too.

Anyway, Dean put on his problem-solving hat and did what we should have done in the first place:  He called a cab. So two of us went ahead to the airport with the Associate, already dangerously late, to check in the luggage and start schmoozing the airline. The children and I awaited the cabbie. This forced me to feign calm, since the kids were picking up on our peaky freakiness.

Cabbie did come and was charming, albeit even dangerously later. Thank goodness he liked to drive fast. And pass. Never mind the ice on the roads and the cars in the ditch.

Flying Ain’t What It Used To Be

Luck happens. So we made it through Security (even all the metal in my left leg), hijacked a ride on a too-small cart, and wheeled our way to the gate—where we were well past last call. They let us on anyway, on to a flight that was oversold and bursting at the seams with carry-on luggage.

Back in the day, traveling by airplane seemed exotic and exciting. It’s still exciting—but for all the wrong reasons. What happened? I mean, flight attendants don’t even referree arguments about whose seat is whose. Food is lousy and expensive or, worse, nonexistent. No breakfast for a 7 am flight? Come on!

We’ve learned to carry sacks of food for the kids. Fruit, nuts, granola bars, cheese sticks, whatever. They have a knack for being irrationally ravenous at innopportune times. Heck, everyone carts their own meals onto planes anymore. Somebody’s “meal” always smells better than mine.

Note to self:  Business Idea:  Bring on lots of excellent food with aroma-appeal and auction it off to famished flyers.


The plane was held together by duct tape.

The plane was held together by duct tape.

Lunch came, though, sort of. But they quickly ran out of the “entrees” they’d been describing ad nauseum. “Always our most popular lunch!” one steward beamed at me (for the only time). Paint was peeling. Carpets too. The 1970s TVs that hung from the ceiling not only didn’t work, but were held together with duct tape. See for yourself! 


Staffers did, though, aggressively sell $7 drinks, Skymag schwag, and their very own Mastercard. Who needs TV when the flight sounds like QVC?

Island Service Ain’t What It Used To Be

Still sane, we made it to St. Thomas, found our luggage (eventually), tipped the porter and were plopped into a crowded cab/van to rush to the ferry. Now, please understand that the routine to get into a cab at this airport typically includes much yelling by the porters, expediters, and cabbies, and others. In thick Island Patois.

It scares first-timers and children. It entertains veterans like ourselves.

They will send you back and forth while a van driver wants you, then says he has no room, then makes room and insists you return. But by then, another cabbie may have started loading you into his van, so they yell at you and even tussle over your suitcase. It can go on and on, while you wonder if you’ll make the ferry dock in time.  It’s hurry, then wait.  Welcome to island time.  

(One time, a driver told me to unload the luggage of a couple getting off at a resort, so he could take a pee. Which he did, about five feet in front of the vehicle. He then barked at me to fasten my seat belt, though he refused to wear his own. He told me how pumped he was that we were his last ride, “Gonna drink me some rum tonight!” Ya mon!  {My reply.}  We exchanged the island handshake.  Get the picture?)

No worries. As usual, we made the ferry. Dudes drive like NASCAR wanna-bes, and are colorblind when it comes to stoplights. Fortunately, locals know to get out of their way. Ours parked in the middle of a busy street, dumped our luggage, and overcharged us by at least $10. We couldn’t hand over that extortion fast enough.

Ferries, Jeeps, Left-Lane Driving, and Finally…“Home”

The ferry ride was uneventful, but only because we sat indoors instead of on the roof, where a serious sundown squall drenched everything. We + luggage barely fit into our Jeep, but after enough re-puzzling, we did. The drive across the dark island and its hairpin, mountainous roads was gut-wrenching. But soon, we were “home.” Sweet home.

By the way, you drive in the left lane on St. John. Ask a local “why?” and know what he’ll say?

Because everyone else does.

Home now is Coral Bay. “Where tired angels go to rest.” I’m no angel (to quote Bob Seeger). But we could all use some rest. After a burger and a beer at the closest joint, we all headed back up the hill. And straight to bed, where–despite the cacophony of chickens, frogs, donkeys, and goats–the slumber would last for 9.5 hours.

Can’t remember the last time that happened. May it be the start of a trend.

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