The following day I checked out of the hotel, again!
Told them I had had to leave a suitcase behind in the room because of the rigmarole at the airport. I said they could let the housekeeping girls take and sell it or keep it or whatever, it was no more use to me.
I got my receipt, again.
Left the hotel, again, in the same shuttle bus, again, with the same driver, again. We’re now good friends, we spent so much time together.
Arrived at Miami International again.
Got a trolley, again, don’t start me on that!
Went to the AA check-in desk, again.
Did the swipey bit at the stand alone screen, again, and joined the queue, again.
When it was my turn, this time it was a man, not the girl from yesterday. I handed over my flight details and passport and explained that I had been rescheduled from yesterday’s flight. He checked that and it was okay.
Then I off-loaded my bags from the $5 trolley and placed the first one on the scales to be weighed and tagged. It was okay for weight, just about and no more. (I had spent a good part of yesterday evening regulating my luggage, trying to put all the heavy gear into one and the lighter stuff into the other. No sense in paying an overweight surcharge for both when one would do.)
Then I set the other one on and sure enough it was well over, $100 worth in fact. He tagged it and sent it on its way, wherever it is that they go.
I was standing there waiting for him to hand me my boarding pass with the luggage tags, but instead he looked towards my trolley and said,
“Is that it?”
“Is that it??” I didn’t understand.
“IS THAT IT???”
What did he mean, “Is that it?”
I asked him.
“What do you mean, is that it?” I said.
“Is that all your cases, sir? Do you have any more or are you done?” he replied.
W T F???
“That’s all I could bring with me,” I told him. Then followed up quickly with, “There’s an embargo.”
Oh no! Crap and double crap!! Now I was doing it, instead of the AA girl!
“Is there?” he replied.
It’s a really good job they don’t let you bring guns into airports these days, because at that point I could have cheerfully shot somebody.
I started to explain about the embargo, but quickly caught myself on. “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter,” I told him. “Yes, that’s all my check-in luggage.”
Now, I still don’t know what had happened. Whether they had changed the regulations overnight, whether the embargo had been in effect only up to midnight on December 23rd, whether he just didn’t know about it, or whether they’d realized what a stupid bloody rule it was and scrapped it. All I know is that the day before it had caused me no end of problems, and expense, and today it was as if it had never existed.
I took my passport and papers and staggered away, just looking back briefly to make sure I had really been at the American Airlines desk. What had just happened to me was the equivalent of a mugging. It had left me with a lot less dollars in my wallet, but there were no black eyes or other wounds to show that it had happened. They’d messed with my head and there was nothing I could do.
Nothing except get the hell away from there as fast as I could. I headed for security and then the boarding gate.
I still don’t like those new scanner things, never will. I’m sure, despite what the experts say, that they’re not good for you. But if you want to travel these days, there is very little you can do but grit your teeth and bear it.
In fact, all you have to do is grit your teeth, you don’t have to bear it, the machine apparently does all that for you!
At least they know how to work them now. When I was in Miami airport the year before they were just getting the first of them installed and everybody was terribly new-fangled with them. As they tried to figure out what to do, I spied the two footprints on the floor and said, “I think I’ll stand here.”
They thought that was a good idea too, and they tried the machine.
“Have you any paper in your pockets?” the guy asked. “This thing doesn’t work if you have paper in your pockets.”
I shook my head incredulously. Here was the US government, and many other governments, spending $billions installing these machines at airports all over the world that could see through your clothes but not through a bit of paper! Wow!!!
In answer to his question, I told him “Yes, I have a lot of paper in my pockets.”
And so I had. I had a real drippy head cold and before I left the hotel I had raided the tissue box in the bathroom and stuffed them into my pockets. ALL my pockets!
“Bear with me,” I said to the security guy. “This is going to take a minute or two.”
And I proceeded to first of all take out my passport and boarding pass and then started pulling tissues out of everywhere like some demented magician. They came out of my left trouser pocket, my right trouser pocket, the pocket in the back of my trousers, the left breast pocket of my shirt, and the right one too, even a few from the pocket in the front of a teeshirt I was wearing under my shirt.
I looked over. The security guy was smiling. I think he half expected me to produce a rabbit, or at least a couple of white doves, and was getting ready to applaud. How embarrassing!
When I had finished I looked over at him and said, “Well, I did warn you.” He smiled a bit more, grinned in fact. Then they whizzed the machine around me and I gathered up all my gear, redistributed the paper hankies and was on my way to the departure gate.
Just like this time. Departure gate. Flight called. On the plane. Aisle seat. Nobody sitting beside me. Happiness and joy. My luck had changed. It had to eventually.
In less than two hours, (although it was three hours later – funny thing time??) I arrived at my island retreat in the Caribbean. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Richard Branson, when I say “my” island retreat, I don’t own the island, only a small house on it. I just call it mine because I live there for the most of the year, trips here and there permitting.
Got off the plane, went to immigration, which is a painless process, but I can never get to grips with the logic of it. There are forms, of course there are. Where aren’t there forms to fill out these days? But they are usually taken care of during the flight. At arrivals at the airport, first I join the inevitable queue. Then when it comes my turn, one fellow or girl takes $10 from me and gives me my tourist card. Then I walk about ten yards further and another bloke or girl takes my tourist card off me scans it and throws it into a bin. It’s always that way, but they do it quite efficiently and pleasantly. Then yet another bloke takes my passport, looks at it, hands it to yet another one who stamps it, and off I go in search of my luggage.
This time no problems, everything has arrived safely. Another trolley – they’re free here as they should be at all airports, and I head for Customs.
I have always so much gear with me on these trips at holiday times that I usually get at least one of my bags searched. They’re looking for drugs and I usually have quite a few in my bags. The legal kind, I hasten to add. So one customs guy hauls one of my bags off the trolley and the other opens it, pokes about a bit not recognizing half the stuff in there. He brings his hand out clutching a big jar of Calcium capsules, a prezzie for a lady acquaintance who is affected by osteoporosis. I do my best to explain that it is just vitamins and, although he doesn’t look at all convinced, he gives me the benefit of the doubt, and the other guy zips up the case, puts it back on the trolley and off we go out the door and into the sunshine.
That first blast of heat is always something of a shock to the system, even after you’ve been in Miami for a while, but nice all the same. As is the welcome. Lots of hugs and kisses and smiling faces.
The journey is over – for now.
It’s nice to be home for Christmas.
Have you had similar experiences? Send them along. Let the world know what is happening before it is too late.