....anyway, to wrap this up, the next day was gorgeous, which was kind of a bummer, and it seemed like the water was much calmer than it had been the previous six days. Up until the last day, we had seen nothing but red flags and wind on the beach. Still, we were very sad that we had to leave.
We packed up all of our stuff, evenly dividing everything and trying to make sure that neither of our suitcases were over 50 lbs. I didn't want to get busted at the luggage scale like I did last time and be on the hook for an extra fifty bucks. Even so, I put all my dirty underwear and socks in an outside pocket just in case I had to jettison some cargo at the US Airways counter. I wasn't convinced their scales weren't set a tad light just to make some extra cash from people who had flights to catch.
When we got to the airport it was incredibly crowded, as it probably always is. We tipped our driver and sent him on his way and prepared ourselves to stand in line. It took us nearly two hours to snake our way around the velvet ropes to check our bags. Our baggage was under the 50 pound limit, we had no issues going through security, and our plane was even on time, so things were going great. The only casualty was my belt. It went into the x-ray machine, but didn't come out. Since nobody but me seemed too concerned about finding it, I let it slide, and just assumed it was jammed in the machine or something. I bet the lady x-raying the suitcases is probably wondering why every bag has the same exact belt in it.
Our gate was near a drugstore kiosk, which I found fascinating. It was basically a room made of four glass walls, and the walls were lined entirely with prescription drugs of every type, leaning heavily toward antibiotics, boner pills and anti-depressants, none of which I currently need. It was good to know they've got my future covered, though.
On every flight up until this point, we were always last in line to get on the plane, and this one was no exception. I'm not sure what you have to do to get out of "Zone 5" but apparently printing your boarding passes on line 24 hours ahead of time isn't it. When we finally boarded, it looked like we were in luck, because after everyone boarded, there didn't appear to be anyone sitting in the third seat in our row. We figured we could stretch out a bit on our way back to Charlotte.
Just before they were ready to back the plane away from the gate and take off, the last guy got on board.
He looked like a dirtier version of Tommy Chong. As he got closer to us, I could feel my wife starting to tense up. He had stringy gray hair and a scraggly beard, and glasses that looked like they had been dipped in olive oil and then rolled around in a pot of dandruff. He had a bandana wrapped around his head and when he smiled, he revealed a distinct lack of teeth. He continued walking toward us. He stopped at our row, and looked down at the seat next to my wife, then up again at the seat number. She visibly recoiled as he slung his filthy backpack off his shoulder and put it down on the seat next to her so he could dig his grimy sweatshirt out of it. His originally white tee shirt was yellowish-brown with sweat and god knew what else, and you could see the creases on his neck, which were all the more noticeable because of the sheer amount of dirt and crud that had been packed into them.
He smelled like a burning bushel of cow shit that a group of people were trying to extinguish by pissing on. It was horrible. After he shrugged into his sweatshirt, he reached up and put his knapsack in the overhead. Then he sat down -- in the row directly in front of us. My wife stopped praying. Out loud, at least.
Still, the flight to Charlotte was very long. I started out breathing through my shirt but then I realized I could direct the overhead air jets away from me at full blast. That induced some sort of venturi effect and I no longer smelled his unwashed ass as acutely as I had before. I spent the first five minutes of the flight looking closely at the top of his head to make sure there was nothing jumping around up there, and I'm not even kidding.
I think there should be some sort of sign at the airlines like they have at the amusement park. Instead of saying "In order to ride this attraction, you must be this tall" it would say something like "In order to ride on this aircraft, you must not be a dirty, disgusting scumbag."
Seriously, if you can afford a plane ticket, you can afford to find a way to wash your filthy ass before you get on a plane with other people. It's just common courtesy. And just so you don't think I'm making this up, here's my admittedly poor but totally un-retouched cellphone photo of him:
OK, maybe I embellished the stink lines a little. But they were there, trust me.
The gods of travel had smiled upon us -- or if not smiled, at least grinned sarcastically -- presumably to pay us back for the hell that was our last trip out of Mexico. Even so, they had also given us a little something to keep us humble, and remind us of who was in charge. I was OK with that.
So that's basically it. We escaped unscathed, and my wife even managed to not get sick when we got home. I went to work the following day and by 3pm it was like I had never left. It's amazing how answering e-mail for six hours can immediately erase a week's worth of relaxation. It doesn't seem fair. At least we have our CD by local musician Victor Mayer, so that will help us keep the memories fresh until next time. He could be singing about wolverines having sex with canned beans for all I know, but I still like it.
Playa del Carmen, we hope to see you soon. Thanks for another fantastic trip!
*my wife, in this case.