I love to travel, but I have my requirements. I am not one of those people who throws everything in a bag and hires a guy in a pickup truck to drive me to the Mayan ruins two hours from town and thinks “I’ll find a ride back at sunset.” I arrange things. I plan. I had the transportation to-and-from the resort nailed down. I had the COVID test appointments. I investigated peak Cancun Airport wait times. I decided, in the end, that I could live with a 1 PM pickup for a 5 PM flight.
Does that seem too much? It was 45 minutes to the hotel in the rain. Assume it’s the same for other reasons. So that puts us in the airport at 2. Figure 45 minutes to check in, since there were two 300 passenger Delta flights crashing the check-in desk for 4 and 5 PM flights. Figure the same for security. Probably won’t be that bad, but if it is, that puts you past security at 3:30 for a 4:10 boarding, well within the margins of comfort.
Of course, I wanted to leave at noon. But no.
People who think like me are inevitably married to people who think that’s excessive. But given the time it took to get to the resort in the first place, and the general chaos of the shuttle area, I think Wife was inclined to go along. I got an extended checkout so she could play more tennis, then we went to have lunch. This consisted of being seated, and then I grabbed a piece of bread because I had to check out, arrange the bag transfer, and so on.
The shuttle arrived at 1 PM. Good! Immediate problem: we were behind two enormous trucks hauling gravel or construction material. They slowed to a stop at every pothole, so every car on the road slowed, and stopped. Eventually we found a better road, and mas rapido, muy bueno.
Cancun blurred past:
Upon approaching the airport, traffic stalled. Then traffic stopped. I saw a plane take off, so I knew we were close. We crept. The driver juked a bit and made some progress. A turn. Another turn, each new vista showing a line of vans. I saw people abandon their rides and walk, and figured, hah, there’s the sap who cut it close.
Ding! Notification from my travel app and the airline at the same time: flight delayed two hours. I relaxed. It meant we wouldn’t pick up Birch from the Giant Swede’s, but we wouldn’t miss the flight.
After half an hour in the congestion, we bailed.
The driver told us he could get out of the mess on his own. We joined a river of people dragging suitcases towards Terminal 3. I was cheerful: adventure! Never done this before.
And then we came to the long, long, long, line of people queued to get to the terminal, which shimmered in the distance.
What? That's the line to get in to the terminal?
We shuffled along in this line for a while until we saw some people breaking the line and heading for the terminal. I thought of Billy Zane in Titanic: it's starting to fall apart. We followed, and saw another line snaking around the other end of the terminal. Everything was concentrated on one entry point. All of a sudden it was every man for himself.
We found ourselves carried along with the throng. One short overworked man with an official jacket pointed us to the Delta area. It’s hard to describe, but imagine the usual snaking line formed by the ropes. Six lanes led to the check-out counter. But a dense, huge, surly mass of people were sorting themselves out to find the end of the line. We could only join the crowd and make our case with every step.
We were in the lanes for an hour and a half.
Again, I didn’t worry: I’d built in time, and the flight was delayed.
Ding! Notification from my travel app and the airline at the same time. Flight delayed. No longer leaving at 7 PM. It was now leaving at 8.
As in, 8 AM.
This, I should note, has always been my nightmare. What do you do? Where do you go? Where do you sleep?
My travel app has a feature that lets you scan for new flights. There weren’t any. The news rippled up and down the line - the earlier flight, which was supposed to leave at 4, was now leaving at 7 AM.
I broke the news to my wife as calmly as possible.
She was not happy.
What to do? Well, we were still in the line, let’s ride it to the end and see what the clerk can do for us. Bottom line: the clerk could not do anything for us, because everything was a nightmare, what with the shooting and the explosion.
Huh? The what?
(I have to remove this part because it’s a newspaper column subject. Suffice to say there was an incident, reorted as gunfire; mass panic; stampede; the entire terminal had emptied out, security was called, then everyone crashed back in, hence the mess and the delayed flights.)
He could offer no vouchers, because it was an act-of-God or act-of-Cartel situation. But what of our COVID certificates? New rules say the tests have to be taken within a day. Tomorrow at 8 AM was not within a day. He waved it off: no problem, don’t worry. We staggered out of the airport, still processing his tale of nightmares in Terminal 3, and I squatted down and fired up the app and looked for the closest hotel. It was literally within sight - the Hilton Garden Inn. I made a reservation right there as people streamed past with their luggage, heading in the hotel’s direction.
Confirmed! I have the MOST HIGH AND HOLY CONFIRMATION NUMBER. Now we may walk.
From what I heard later, most of the people who crashed the hotel were turned away. Making the res on the spot saved us from finding something somewhere else. Took another half hour to check in; up to the room. Very nice who cares. DINNER. I hadn’t had anything since the piece of bread at noon. I had a hamburger. It was possibly the best hamburger I have had in a year.
After dinner we went up to the pool level:
Found some Minnesotans in the same boat, but they had stories of the panic and disorder. They did not buy any of the official explanations. They had hid from gunfire in a Margaritaville kitchen, which was not the conclusion to the vacation they had expected.
Wife swam in the pool and I tried to upload the Bleat using my phone FTP app, and something didn’t work. Sorry. I tried. It looked as if everything was good. I don’t know why it wasn’t. But that was the situation and at 10:07 PM I called a lid on worrying about the Bleat, because it was time to worry about the COVID test.
Spent half an hour on the Delta chat to learn that we were good. If the flight was delayed for reasons beyond my control, a 24 hour extension would be granted. Whew. Set nine alarms and went to bed.
Dreamed all night about trying to make the flight. Intensely detailed dreams. In the last one I was three hours late, and living at our old house on Girard. I finally got everything in the suitcase, put it at the top of the stairs, straddled it, and said “Kick Daddy Goodbye,” whereupon baby Gnat pushed me down the stairs, and I flew out the door to the cab. Woke four minutes before the first alarm.
We walked through the dark to the terminal, and arrived at 5. There was a line. It wasn’t bad. After much shuffling of documents and implacable looks, our papers were pronounced to be in order. We were through security by 6:15, which allowed time for shopping and breakfast. Exhanged theories and anecdotes about The Incident with others at the adjacent table where we had a hideously overpriced airport breakfast - yes, Margaritaville, for all you Cancun hands. No one believe the offficial story.
Wheels up at the appointed time, and home four hours later.
I picked up Birch at the Giant Swede’s, and the dog was so happy to see me he knocked his bowling-ball-hard head against mine with such force my glasses flew off.
It’s done, we’re home, I’m tan, and it’s 29 degrees. Snow is expected tomorrow.
BEST VACATION EVER.