I should have known the trip was going to be a train wreck when my washing machine broke and my manicure got cancelled the night before we left. You see, I am one of those weird people who can’t leave for a vacation unless all the laundry is washed, and the house is clean. And I NEVER like to leave with a bad mani/pedi! “It’s fine Katie. By the time you get back from vacation your washer will be fixed, and who cares about your nails?”, Pete hollers from the laundry room. I rush around in a frenzy of expectation and excitement, throwing every possible outfit option into my suitcase. I shout down the hall to my daughter, “You might want to throw a swimsuit in your carry on, just in case our luggage gets delayed.” “Nah, I’m working on packing lighter. I’m not bringing a carry on. Plus, you worry too much. It will be fine. Relax!” Being the ultimate worrier, I toss a bikini in my carry on along with my book, but opt not to pack an extra set of clothes. Paige is right, I think to myself. I just need to relax. I climb in to bed around 1AM, and set my alarm for 4:30. I’ve got a big day ahead of me. I’m going to the Caribbean!
The alarms screams at me a few hours later, I throw on my clothes, and we are on our way. We check in to the local American Airlines ticket counter, give them our luggage, and make our way to TSA. Things are going smoothly. I sit down at the gate next to my dad and daughter, and take a deep breath. This is our birthday trip. It’s time to begin savoring the moment. As I tilt my head back, determined to get a quick nap, I hear frustrated murmurs coming from the American Airlines counter. “They forgot to check the plane last night, and we had a bird strike. No one can come fix it until 9AM.” This has got to be some kind of joke, and if not, I’m sure they will reroute us. No need to be alarmed. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have encountered a minor delay, but we will have you guys on your way by 7:30 this morning. Give us just a few more minutes.” My dad pats my leg. “That still gives us plenty of time to make our connection. We’ll be fine.” Fifteen minutes later….”Ladies and gentlemen, your flight has been cancelled. I repeat, your flight has been cancelled.” I look over at my daughter. She’s not a morning person anyway, and this just might set her over the edge. I debate my options. Do I speak to her, and risk being murdered? Do I cower in a corner, and pray she doesn’t go postal, or do I throw my Dad to the lion cub? “Ummm Dad? I’m going to run to the bathroom. Why don’t you and Paige sort this out?” Then I make a mad dash out of that gate!
I come back to the gate to find smoke coming out of Paige’s ears, and Dad still calmly sitting where I left him. I look around. Every person at our gate is on the phone trying to reroute their travels. “Guys, I think we should go talk to somebody, and figure this out. Our connection window is shrinking by the minute.” We mosey on up to the AA counter, and keep saying Excuse Me in an effort to get someone to talk to us. Eventually a man pulls up our reservations, and we hear, “Uh oh. Shameka, we have to get these people out of here right now. They are trying to make an international flight.” “Well I don’t have any flights left on this plane right outside. Put them in a cab.” “Ma’am, we aren’t going to Kentucky. We’re going to Curacao. I don’t think a cab can take us there.” “No. No. I’m sending you to Richmond. It’s an hour from here. Then you will jump on a plane at noon, and the rest will go according to your original plan.” We are handed our suitcases, and thrown into a cab.
Now y’all, I have trust issues, and still scream stranger danger, so I’m not excited about this one little bit! But I’m tired, so I figure I will just sleep all the way to the airport. Ha! We got the one cab in all of Charlottesville that has a cabby that can’t shut up. He talks. And he talks. Oh does the man talk! “I’m going to take you the scenic route since we have a little time. There’s nothing like a little drive to take in the sights. We need to appreciate nature more.” Kill me now. Just do it and get it over with so we can quit chatting. We all silently look at each other and telepathically decide to pretend to be asleep so he will leave us alone. Once in Richmond, we pile out, and start the process all over again. We have plenty of time, so we are pretty calm.
After grabbing an overpriced airport breakfast, we settle in at our gate. Two airports this morning, no planes. Yet somehow I feel like I’m been traveling all day. 11:30 rolls around. “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but your plane has not arrived yet. Don’t worry. We will get you on your flight just as soon as we can.” Now I’m not a big yoga fan, and don’t really buy into all that find your zen business, but I was just before striking a pose and chanting “oooommmmm”. But instead I reverted to high strung Katie. The one that says bad words my dad doesn’t like. The one my daughter glares at, and tells me is embarrassing and extra. “You have GOT to be frigging kidding me! How can one airline mess up one family’s flights TWICE before lunch?!” My dad, ever the peacemaker encourages me to stay calm. “We can still make it to the next flight. We will just have to run. All is not lost.” At 12:30 we board our first plane of the day. None of us are sitting together, but at least we are all on the plane. And then it happens….”Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.” No. First off, it is NOT a good afternoon, and I know what you are about to do. You’re about to make it worse. Just stop talking!” OK…Back to what the pilot is saying. “…blah blah blah. So happy to have you here, but we are going to sit on this runway for the next 45 minutes because someone in that tower over there thinks he saw lightening, and if I’m being honest, we at American Airlines really just like screwing up your vacation for shits and giggles. Now sit back, and just relax.” My phone begins to ping with text messages. The first from Mr. Don’t Worry. “Well girls, we’re screwed.” Next comes Paige’s text which I won’t repeat because my dad reads my blog, and he hates the bad words!
An eternity later we touch down in Charlotte. I turn on my phone, and see a photo from my daughter. It’s a screenshot of our new itinerary. American Airlines has just informed her that we won’t be leaving Charlotte until 2PM tomorrow. Oh, and we missed our connection to Miami. Have a great day! I can’t decide whether I want to cry or scream. We push our way off the plane, and head to American’s Customer Service desk. And I use that term loosely, because service isn’t really a big deal to them. Once at the desk we are told that we are stuck for the night. I’ve been quiet as long as I can. “No! You aren’t leaving me here. I got up this morning to go to Curacao. I should be there RIGHT NOW! You don’t know how to check your airplanes after flights. You put me on cab ride with Mr. Roger’s black twin. You squeezed me into a seat next to a smelly man, and you PROMISED me you would take me to the beach. I’ve had it! Fix it. I’m not staying in Charlotte! Take me to Miami. And feed me. I’m getting hungry, and when I get hungry I get mean.” “Ma’am first of all, we don’t do food vouchers. You are on your own. And this is NOT our fault. Don’t be so angry. You are only going to miss one day of your vacation.” I feel my dad grab my arm and push me back, much like you do a dog’s leash when you don’t want them to attack. “Katie, why don’t you work on filing a complaint, and I will get us to Miami.” Paige is saying, “And this is why I really believe I could be a violent person.” Needless to say we got on the flight to Miami, and we’re put on a standby for a noon flight to Curacao the next day.
We make it to Miami, and we are exhausted. As we get off the plane Paige says, “All I want is to take a shower and change clothes. We have a long day tomorrow.” We walk to American Airlines customer service desk number 2. “They told us in Charlotte to come see you about a hotel. I know you don’t do meal vouchers…” “Yes we do. We will feed you, but I’m not sure about getting you a hotel.” Excuse me?! You do mean vouchers? What the hell is happening with this company? No one says the same thing! After much “discussion” we are issued two hotel rooms. We race to get our luggage. There’s NO LUGGAGE. We go to Baggage Claim customer service. “We have crated your luggage. You aren’t supposed to have it here. You will get it at your final destination.” “But we were promised we would have our luggage tonight because it was your fault we didn’t make it to our destination. Do you know where our luggage is?” “Yes, but you can’t have it. I mean…If your REALLY want it, you can stand on that square for anywhere between two and eight hours. We might bring it to you, but no promises. You aren’t supposed to have it here, and you aren’t a priority. Now take this complimentary toiletries bag, and have a nice night.” I broke loose of my leash. “I’M NOT A PRIORITY?! WHY AM I NOT A PRIORITY?! Are you going to wear your underwear inside out tomorrow because you don’t have a clean pair?! And are YOU going to wear your contact lenses for two days straight?! When you start wearing your panties two days in a row, then I’ll start wearing mine two days in a row!” By now my dad and daughter have found my collar and leash, and they are pulling me off the counter, and moving me along. My dad shouts over his shoulder, “Delta is my airline!” And Paige shouts something along the lines of, “Later assholes.”
We get to our hotel, grab dinner, and then rally for the next day. Paige peeks her head in from her ajoining room. “I should have listened to you, and packed extra clothes.” “Yeah well, I only packed a swimsuit. I guess I’ll wear it for underwear tomorrow.” We then open our toiletries kit. I pull out what American Airlines claims is deodorant. Guys, it skipped and slipped as I tried to apply it. It was more like a mini glue stick that deodorant, but desperate times call for desperate measures! Next my dad digs out the free toothbrush. It looks like a prison shank! It is about the size of my hand, and is rather sharp on the ends. Again, we work with what we have, and pray for a better day tomorrow. After a restless night of sleep we drag ourselves back to the airport. “Girls I know you’re tired, but I want to get there early to make sure we are on the standby list. Now who has the meal vouchers?” It is probably important that I tell you that Paige was born to travel. She is fearless, calm under pressure, and can navigate any airport. For the most part we have let her lead the way, and often handed her paperwork. My dad is carrying a giant backpack with multiple pockets, and he seriously keeps losing stuff because he can’t remember what pocket he put it in. So what I said next was COMPLETELY justified. “I don’t have the vouchers. Do you have them Paige?” “Nope. I’m in charge of boarding passes. That’s all you guys wanted to give me when I offered to hold everything.” Insert deep sigh…”It’s ok Dad. You’ve never been that organized. Don’t beat yourself up for losing them.” “I’m sorry girls. Let me buy breakfast. This is totally my fault. I must be losing it in my old age.” We lovingly pat his back, and tell him it’s ok. We grab breakfast, and head to the gate. I stick my hand in the front purse pocket, and feel something that feels like a boarding pass. “That’s weird. Paige, I thought you had all the boarding passes?” “I do. Here’s yours right here.” “Well then what’s this?” The old man grabs it. “I guess I’m not the one who is disorganized. Katie, this is our food voucher.” Oops….
Once again we are sitting in an American Airlines gate, this timing praying we will get on the noon flight we are standby for. (The next one doesn’t leave until 5PM.) Folks, the people in the Miami airport are not nice people. They are annoyed that we are standby, and pretty much go out of their way to keep us off the noon flight. They finally offer us two seats. My dad politely says that we have decided to all travel together, so it’s three seats, or not at all. They say, “Ok, we will put you on the 5PM flight. We are waiting for one other couple to board the plane, and then we are taking off.” We watch as they page these two passengers airport wide. They then call the passengers on the phone, and tell them they are holding the plane for them. A guy who is waiting to close the plane asks why the plane is being held for these passengers. “It’s an international flight. I’d hate for them to miss it. They’d have to wait until 5PM for the next one. Nobody wants to do that.” I pop out of my seat. I feel like I’m on a Broadway show. I open my arms wide. “I’m here. We’re all here! We want to be on that plane, and we don’t want to wait until 5. Take us! Leave them!” Am I singing, or am I imagining the tune in my head?! Mohammed and Princess Marinara come waltzing up. If this had been a Broadway show, I would have pushed them off the stage at this moment. “Hurry. We are holding the plane for you, and these people want your seats!” The door guy once again speaks to the ladies at the desk. Did you clear out that other passenger? “Oh yeah. I forgot about her.” “Well clear her out, and put these people on the plane. We are ready to go!” We march on to the plane, whacking people with our bags as we look for our seats. I’m wedged into a seat with two VERY large men. I tell myself it will be fine. It’s only three hours. The largest of the two men falls asleep, and as his body relaxes, his body spills more into my seat. Every time I need to turn a page in my book I lean forward in order to not wake the sleeping giant. I’ve got to cough. Lean forward. I need to sneeze. Lean forward. Get me off this plane!!!!
Three hours later we land in gorgeous Curacao. We are giddy. We are finally here! We clear through immigration. And we race towards baggage, ready to begin what is left of our vacation. We watch as the baggage carousel loops round and round. Where are our bags? Don’t panic. It’s fine. They are probably on the next flight. We decide to go to the American Airlines desk to follow up. But guess what?! There is no American Airlines desk!
Finally after we go through several people who clearly don’t care, we talk to someone who promises to help us locate our bags. And he finishes with, “Don’t forget to come see me at the fire show on Friday.” Ok Buddy. We will be there, in our clothes we’ve had on since Sunday!
We hail a cab, and travel to the hotel. We feel defeated, but at least we are here. We decide that since we don’t know when we will have luggage, we should plan an excursion that doesn’t require swimsuits. We book a dune buggy tour, and then hit the gift shop to find clothes for tomorrow. Paige finds a pair of shorts that have Dushi written across the rear and a touristy tshirt. “Mom, I’m going to look like a hoe tomorrow, but options were limited. Please don’t be embarrassed.” Dad and I go look next. He grabs a pair of swim trunks, and calls it good. I also opt for a pair of mens swim trunks thinking that I will at least be able to give them to my boys when I’m home. I also grab a hideous pair lime green water shoes, and decide I’ll borrow a tshirt from my dad. Paige looks at my loot and says, “Well if anyone asks why I look like a stripper I’ll just point to you and explain that when you came out as a lesbian I was traumatized and started selling my body.” It really was a bad look for me, and no, there are no pictures to document this look!
The dune buggy tour was pretty awesome. We had a tour guide named Shannon who took us to some amazing sites off the beaten path. We stopped several times and got out to look at things. On one of these occasions we jumped back in the buggy, took off and my dad looked at me. “I forgot to buckle up. Will you do it so I don’t lose the rest of the group?” I partially unbuckle, and lean over to buckle Dad. It must have been in that moment that my cell phone slipped out of my pocket. We get to the next stop, and I jump out to take a picture. “Where’s my phone? Oh my gosh. Where is my phone? This trip is cursed. I hate it here.” I feel hot tears stinging my eyes, but I refuse to cry in front of all these strangers. Shannon takes the seats out of the buggy. He looks under the buggy. He walks AROUND the buggy. “Stay here Miss. I will go look for it.” I feel sick, void of any hope, but I agree to let him go look. I stare out at the ocean. Shannon has warned us not to stand too close to the rocks because if we fall in it is certain death. If I tell Pete I lost my phone it might be certain death! A few minutes later Shannon rounds the corner waving a cell phone in the air. I make some kind of animal type noise and start running. Now this man is about 6’4, and every bit of 250 pounds. He barely has time to park his buggy before I throw myself on him, and thank him profusely. Maybe there is hope for this trip after all. We may have to wear the same clothes to dinner all week, but Shannon had redeemed my hope in a happy vacation. We drop the dune buggies off, and decide to walk to the nearest shopping center. It’s about two miles away, but we have all the time in the world. So here I am in my water shoes and swim suit that matches my dad’s, Paige in her booty shorts, and Dad in his Panama Jack hat, walking down the side of the road. We really looked like the beginning of a bad joke. “A hooker, a lesbian, and a grandpa walk into a bar…” And Lord have mercy do we stink! WE NEED CLEAN CLOTHES!!!!! We arrive at the shopping center full of fancy smancy boutiques that overlook what appears to be Curacao’s party beach. (Mambo Beach) We are on a mission: Find Paigie a swim suit, and find contact solution. After stepping into several little shops boasting three hundred dollar bikinis we find the baby a suit, and we find some much needed contact solution. Everybody pays $19 for contact solution, right?! It’s time to trek back to the hotel and check on our bags. We stop at the front desk to ask about their arrival. “No sir. They haven’t arrived yet. Sorry!” “Ok, thanks. We will call the airport and get an update.” “Friends, wait! I thought you knew. You can’t dial out at our resort. The phones are broken. Maybe you can find another way?” Of course you can’t dial out! That would make sense, and what about this trip has made ANY sense?! We climb the stairs to our room, hating life, and generally thinking we are cursed. I look at my dad and Paige. “Look, we have to eat. I can bathe over and over, but this shirt….well it smells like a homeless person. We better eat outside and hope no one gets too close to us. I’m just going to do one thing. I’m going to FaceTime Jackson.” My Dad chimes in. “If our hope is tied to a seventeen year old boy, we are hopeless. Don’t hold your breath!” I FaceTime my beautiful boy much like a stranded refugee on a deserted island. “Jackson, we have no clothes. We are in Hell, and we smell like garbage. If your sister doesn’t get her conditioner soon, we are going to have to put her hair in dreads. You really are our only hope. We need you to call American Airlines, and tell them whatever you have to in order for us to get luggage. Tell them my medicine is in those bags. Tell them anything. Just please boy…GET US OUR BAGS!” “I’m on it Mom. I’m going to call them and tell them that if you don’t get your bags tomorrow you will die, and then they will have your dead body to fly home. Don’t you worry. I’ll get your bags.” I sign off, and we take off for dinner. Tomorrow is a new day, and we have fun plans to see the famous Klein Beach. Things can only look up. It’s time to close our eyes, and get a little shut eye. ( I actually have a photo of my dad sleeping that night. He slept with his head in his hands like he was in distress. It’s like he was even being tortured by American Airlines in his sleep! I wanted to add it to the story, but I’m pretty sure he would kill me!)
On to Klein Beach! We board a boat at 7AM, and hit the sea. I slept the whole way because my dad had given me motion sickness meds that kicked my butt. I’m told the ride consisted of listening to people hurl over the side of the boat the whole way. The Europeans are rolling their own cigarettes, and blowing smoke rings in our direction as we get closer to the beach, and I feel like I’m in the Twilight zone. Today is all about Paige. We have been promised we will see sea turtles, and that is all my baby girl wants to do. It is important to note that every time my daughter has tried to snorkel she has completely freaked out, and sworn it off. But today is the day she has decided to conquer her fear. We jump out of the boat, and walk toward the cabanas. There are by far more people than there are cabanas. No worries. What’s a little sun?! We drag lounge chairs down to the sea, and plant our butts in them. Dad and I immediately pass out. I’m clearly still drugged from the motion sickness medicine. It could have been minutes later. It’s could have been hours, but I feel Paige tapping my shoulder. “You wanna go out to the water?” “Sure! Let’s go.” I run at that water full speed. I LOVE the ocean, and soaking in it’s salty bath is one of my favorite things to do. So imagine the woman running at the water with complete abandon, much like a child. Now imagine that woman coming to a complete halt when the icy water hits her legs. Wait….What?! Why in the Sam Hill is this water so cold?! I still haven’t figured that one out, but it was like going for a polar bear swim! I gingerly eased myself into the ice bath up to my waist, and then hustled back to shore. Time for another nap! Paige wasn’t as convinced. She was there to see a turtle, no matter how cold. She grabs my snorkel and heads back to the water. My child is 21 years old, and doesn’t need to be babysat, but I’m her mama. I saw her venturing deeper, remembered her snorkeling fear, and decided to stand in the water up to my knees just in case she needed help with her mask. All of the sudden I see her waving at me. I smile and wave back. She waves bigger. So I wave bigger. This is so nice! We’re having a moment! How tender. A few minutes later she comes sputtering up to me, “Mom, I was drowning, and you were waving at me like an idiot!” “Huh? Really? It’s looked to me like you were swimming, and the water IS super cold.” “Mom, I was swimming with one arm because my top had come off, and I was trying to hold it on. I nearly died!” I should feel awful, but the water was SO COLD! And seriously…She’s fine! Needless to say, she didn’t attempt any more snorkeling. The heat raged on, and Dad and I decided to seek shade. Trouble is…the cabanas all have people under them. I suggest to my dad that we should sit on the back side of a cabana while this other family sits on the front side. Paige looks at me like I’m crazy, and wonders off to find another individual solution. Dad and I park ourselves, begin to whisper and make signals with our hands, fearing we will tick these people off. Eventually the smoke ring blowers notice us, begin clicking their tongues in a language we don’t understand and sneaking looks our way. Clearly we aren’t welcome. Please Lord, send the boat back! Once again I fall asleep, and wake with a start when my phone alarm starts going off. I wake to see 5 sets of angry eyes staring back at me. But wait….I HEAR my phone, but WHERE is it?! I was ready to die! I silence my alarm, grab my chair, and slink off into hiding. Gratefully the boat arrived shortly after, and we were able to escape.
Once we are back to the hotel we reach out to Jackson again. Jackson makes a few calls, and then alerts us that my bag has arrived in Curacao, but that the others are still in Miami. A wave of guilt washes over me. My poor family. I will be wearing fresh underwear, and they will still be in 3 day old underwear. I feel awful, and offer to share anything that I can. Jackson promises to call back, and make sure that the other two bags make it on the last flight of the day. My dad says, “At this point I just want my luggage here in time for me to take it home!” We clean up, and prepare to go to dinner. As we are walking out the phone rings. “Is Jackson Perry there? We have his bags.” “Wait…Did you say bags?” “Yes, we have three bags down here with Mr. Perry’s name on them. Can you come pick them up?” Heck yeah we can! We race to the front of the resort. There they sit. The most welcome site a traveler could hope for. Three suitcases, all with my son’s name plastered on them, and clean clothes tucked inside. I guess telling them your mom is going to die actually works! We rush back to our room, switch into clean clothes, and strut down to dinner. We seriously feel like we’ve been revived from the dead. It’s amazing what clean underwear will do for your spirits! We order the catch of the day, and stare out at the sunset as we wait for our dinner. Paige excuses herself to run wash her hands, my dad orders a celebratory drink, and when Paige comes back to the table, her dinner is staring back at her. Y’all, the fish still had eyeballs! My child is about to enter nursing school, but I don’t think she was prepared to dissect her dinner. I, on the other hand, am fascinated by the creature looking back at me, and ask Paige if she will try and pop his eyeballs out. So we rolled eyeballs across her plate until she had finally had enough of our nonsense, and tells me to eat my dinner like a grown up.
That same night my dad got tipsy, and told Paige she was the Devil, and told us that what he wears is none of our business, and to stop being so nosey with his clothing choices. And we told him that he needed to stop talking to strangers, that we don’t like making friends. Good times!
It’s time for our last excursion of the week. We have opted to go on a city tour. Curacao is known for it’s charming colorful little buildings, and it’s adorable downtown area. We wait quietly for our tour bus to arrive, and Paige and I overhear my dad saying, “My family hates it when I make friends with strangers, so I’m going to stand over here and talk to you away from them. I LIKE making friends with random people!” And that’s how we met Sharon and Kiki. Hah! Rudy, the Dominican dancer and jokester climbs out of the bus. He jumps up and down, leads us to the bus, and starts the party. He tells us stories about Curacao mixed in with his jokes. He plays lively music, and explains that Dominicans move with their hips as he sways back and forth. He then learns that Paige just turned 21, and decides to give her a lap dance. It was wild, crazy, and totally the stuff that vacations are made of. Except for the part where her Poppy was in the backseat watching the whole thing! Needless to say my daughter was blushing and embarrassed. (She just walked in, saw his picture, and said, “I love Rudy.”) Seriously guys, this guy turned our trip around. This was such a fun tour full of shenanigans and laughs. By far the best part of our vacation.
Well the story is winding down. Once we received our luggage it was just about time to go home. We spent our final day relaxing at the pool, and soaking in the hot summer sun. We assured our Poppy that despite all the American Airlines drama, we had a great time, and wouldn’t trade this adventure with him for anything. Then we pray that we will get home tomorrow, not get stuck in a distant city, and that our luggage will come home with us. Now it’s time to board a plane, and I kid you not, this is what we hear…”Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for flying with American Airlines, there’s going to be a short delay. We need to change the oil in the plane…”