On our first night in Mexico, I turned to my wife and said, "I want to get up really early one day this week and watch the sun come up down on the beach." My wife agreed. I think she had the same thought I did -- that it would be romantic to watch the sun come up together. Just the two of us, a gentle breeze, the waves crashing onto a deserted beach, watching the sun rise and thinking about how great it is to be alive. It sounded wonderful.
On our last night in Mexico, we still hadn't gotten around to it. I swore that nothing would prevent me from getting to see the sunrise the next morning. "We *have* to do it," I said, "How often do you get to see the sun come up over a beautiful white-sand beach in the tropics?"
Not often enough, that's for sure.
Not often enough, that's for sure.
When the birds woke me up, for once I was glad of it. It was 5:40 am and still mostly dark. In all my other attempts that week to get up before the sun, I had been spectacularly unsuccessful due to my lack of ambition and overall hatred of mornings in general.
Here is the reason for my hatred: During a normal work-week, I am at my desk by 6 am every day. This sad state of affairs necessitates that I actually get out of bed at precisely 4:17 am so that I can be barreling down a pothole-blasted highway shortly thereafter, surrounded by dangerously weaving 18-wheelers driven by meth-addled Canadian truckers who haven't slept in 48 hours. Most of the time, I can't remember how I got to work. I think it's safe to say I hate morning like Batman hates injustice, or like Jessica Simpson hates having clean teeth.
The upshot of this early morning hatred is that If I'm on vacation for any length of time, I tend to "drift" until I am consistently going to bed at 2:00 or 3:00 am and waking up around 11. So basically, every day of my existence that I am not on vacation is a fight against my normal circadian rhythms. To fight these rhythms while on vacation took an extreme force of will, however I was determined to get at least one sunrise picture for posterity.
I knew sunrise was at 6:05 am, so I stumbled out of bed and threw on my shorts and sandals. I leaned over and said to my wife, "I'm going down to the beach to watch the sunrise. Are you coming?" She answered me with with a low groan and a muffled string of words that I think may have been, "No....and kill those fucking birds." When she put the pillow over her head, I figured I was on my own.
I grabbed my camera and my room key and let myself out quietly, and walked toward the beach. Other than the birds and the occasional dropping coconut, I had the resort to myself.
The beach, however, was a different story. When I walked up and over the last dune, I saw something like that scene in "City of Angels" where all the angels come out to see the sunrise:
It turns out that watching a sunrise is a pretty popular thing to do.
I sat down on the edge of a chair, and got my camera ready. I scoped out some possible shots that I wanted to get, and figured I'd have to wait for the sun to come fully off the water, since there weren't many clouds in the sky.
I wasn't really paying attention to anything except the time and the sun and my camera equipment -- when suddenly, I had a very surreal moment.
There were probably 5 couples on the beach near me, and my sleep addled brain suddenly put the entire picture together. It finally dawned on me that every single one of them were male.
I mean, I don't care one way or another what someones sexual preference is, but right at that moment, I realized how very much I was not a gay couple. I felt a little awkward, like I didn't get the memo that Monday morning sunrises are the gay ones. Everyone around me was snuggling under beach towels or holding hands, and here I was, standing by myself with my camera. I felt like everyone was looking at me and thinking, "Camera-geek-with-sleepy-wife sunrises are on Thursday, you moron." I know that in reality they weren't giving me a second thought, but that's the way my brain works, even before coffee. Most everyone ignored me, except for one guy who had an awesome gray pompadour and about two-dozen different-sized blue circle tattoos all over his body. We had noticed him and his significant other a few times at breakfast, and wondered whether there was meaning behind his tattoos, or whether he just liked circles. We nodded recognition at each other as I walked toward the water to get my picture.
When I let myself back into the room, my wife was almost fully awake and packing our suitcases. "How was it?" she asked. "It was really pretty. And kinda gay," I said. "It was me and about a dozen gay guys." I told her the story and she laughed at me in disbelief. She wasn't laughing because she didn't believe my story. She was laughing because she didn't believe I could have been so completely oblivious all week. "You didn't notice that there are tons of gay guys staying here this week?" she asked. I honestly hadn't noticed, but it did sort of explain the inordinate number of neon-yellow banana hammocks I had seen. And here I thought they were all just French and in really good shape.
Unfortunately, our flight was leaving Cancun at a little after noon, and our shuttle was picking us up at 9, so we had about two and a half hours to finish packing, grab some breakfast and get our bags out to the lobby. We were sad to be leaving. We actually got the lobby early, and I dropped off a tip and a bottle of rum for the concierge, and thanked him for setting the dolphin thing up for us. I got more pesos and ran back to the room to leave the housekeeper a tip and met her as she was coming down the stairs. I thanked her for the cool towel animals and tipped her for all the crappy toilet paper she had to deal with during the week.
I got back to the lobby just in time for the fight. There was a crazy southern lady with big, hard blonde hair screaming at the concierge and a taxi driver, because she wanted to go to 5th avenue and the cabbie was telling her it was 50 pesos. "IT'S NOT 50 PESOS!" she screamed. "IT'S 35 PESOS! YOU'RE A CROOK! YOU'RE TRYING TO RIP ME OFF! She then turned toward everyone else in the lobby, as if for moral support. "HE'S A CROOK, EVERYONE! HE'S TRYING TO OVERCHARGE ME! Her poor husband was just looking at the ground, and her teenage children were walking down the street just to get away from her as she went into a full blown tirade. "THAT'S WHAT THEY DO DOWN HERE! THAT'S WHAT THEY ALLLLLL DO! THEY STEAL FROM YOU! THEY OVERCHARGE YOU FOR EVERYTHING!" The cabbie was trying to talk her down, but she was already in the street waving down another cab. She stuck her head inside the window of the new cab for a second, and then triumphantly screamed, "HE'S ONLY CHARGING 35 PESOS! HE'S NOT TRYING TO RIP ME OFF LIKE YOU! KIDS? KIDS! GET OVER HERE. GET IN THIS CAB THIS INSTANT!" I hate to think of the thousands of dollars of therapy her kids are going to need later in their lives.
She finally left, and I just looked at the concierge and shook my head. "Wow," I said. He laughed and said, "Nice way to start a relaxing vacation, right?" It takes all kinds, I guess. I wish there were more of some kinds and less of others, but there's not much I can do as just one guy.
I still don't get what her big issue was. She was willing to look like a total ass in front of half a dozen people, all over approximately 2 bucks. I figure that if you know it's 35 pesos and the cabbie is over-charging you and telling you it's 50, you take the ride, and just give him his 50. If he charges you 35, you're going to tip him and most likely give him 50 pesos anyway, so what's the big deal? Either way, you're out the same amount of cash, you get a nice ride in a spotless, air-conditioned car, and you don't have to walk to your destination or look like a crazy douchenozzle. Totally worth it.
Our shuttle ride to the airport was uneventful, however when we got there, the lines were out of control. If we thought flying into Cancun was bad, it was nothing compared to flying out. We stood ourselves in the USAir line, and after about 30 minutes we had moved about ten feet. People in line were were talking to newly arrived folks and other people were making cellphone calls trying to figure out what might be going on. Eventually, it was determined that there might be a "slight problem" with our flight out of Cancun. After checking around, we discovered that the plane we were supposed to be boarding in an hour was still sitting in Philly, because it was - to use an aeronautical engineering term - fucked up somehow. They weren't really sure what was wrong with it, however they assured us that they would have a plane there soon. On the screen, our flight went from DELAYED to CLOSED. Nobody seemed to know what "CLOSED" meant. We knew it wasn't the same as "CANCELED" and it certainly wasn't the same as "DELAYED" or even "FUCKED UP" and we didn't know how to interpret it. "Great," I thought. "I hope we don't miss our connecting flight." We finally got to the front of the line, and by then all hell had broken loose. We were soon to find out why.
"There are not flights," the nice lady said, looking at our boarding passes.
"Excuse me?" I replied. "What do you mean? Are you saying we're stuck here forever?"
"No, there ees no planes here to where you are going," she said. "There are not flights."
"Can't you get us on a different flight? A different airline, maybe? Fly us into a different hub? Something?"
"No. There ees no planes from Feely to Albeeny. No planes in Bostone, no planes in Boofeelo. First flight is at 10 am tomorrow morning from Feely." She paused, then said, "Do you want to go to Boofeelo?"
"No," I said. "Buffalo is over 5 hours from Albany. So is Philly. Either way, I'd have to rent a car and basically drive until morning."
"The flight to Feely leaves in 3 hours, you want?"
I said yes.
She wasn't done. She had more good news.
"Your bag ees 6 pounds overweight. That weel be fifty-two dollars U.S., please. Which credit card weel you be using?"
By this time, my sense of humor was almost gone. "Let me get this straight," I said. "You're telling me that you can't get me home until Tuesday afternoon, I have to take an extra day off from work, and you're going to charge me fifty two bucks for the privilege of this screwing?"
"Yes. Or you can take some tings out of your bags." And it was exactly at this moment that I overheard the guy working the next counter say to the gentleman at the front of his line, "Your bag is five pounds overweight, but don't worry about it" as he tossed it on the conveyor behind him.
Our girl heard him too, but she wasn't backing down. In retrospect I should have just taken all my dirty underwear and socks out of the suitcase and dumped them on the counter, and even though it wouldn't have been even close to seven pounds, it would have made me feel better. But I remembered where I was, and I'm too pretty for Mexican prison, so I pulled out the plastic and took my corn cob reaming like a man.
Next came security. I sailed right through, but my wife's purse got snagged for some extra lovin'. A sour looking, 5 foot tall Mexican gentleman grabbed it and dumped it all over the counter and proceeded to paw through the contents. He opened lipsticks and creams, felt up tampons and finally, in triumph, as if he had found a 9mm Glock sewed into a secret compartment, held up her deadly crochet hook. He confiscated it, then looked at her and yelled "FIRE!" She had no idea why he was yelling "Fire" at her, and he continued to get more agitated when she didn't understand. "FIRE! FIRE!" he yelled. Then, to make sure his point was well understood, he yelled "FIRE!," once more. Then he started rubbing one latex-gloved index finger furiously over the other. My wife was getting flustered, because she still had no idea what he wanted her to do. Should she start a fire? She didn't know. Finally, it dawned on me. "He wants to know if you have a lighter or matches on you." I said. "Or maybe two sticks that you plan to rub together," I added.
She told him no, she didn't have a lighter, and he picked up her stuff and jammed it all back into her purse. He pushed it down the line and dismissively waved her away. He was not a man who enjoyed his job.
Finally, we reached our gate. While we were waiting for our flight, we were treated to a constant barrage of F-bombs from a corn-rowed, bleach-blonde, white trash chick. Maybe it's not PC for me to say so, but in my experience, if you see bleached cornrows and Lee press-on nails on a white chick, 9 times out of ten you know what to expect. She would not shut up with her bitching, and all she could talk about was how she wanted to get home to her "fucking kid." Then she had a phone conversation with someone I can only presume to be either the father of her child, or more likely, her current boyfriend whereupon she called him a "fucking asshole" no less than 20 times. I weep for her child. I really do.
After sitting there through two more delays, we were finally loaded onto a ginormous plane around 7 pm. With the daylight savings time change thrown in, we'd hit Philly around 11pm. It turns out that the reason the plane was so large was because it was hijacked from another flight that was supposed to go to St. Maarten, but was subsequently canceled. I have no idea why. Probably to avoid the impending riot of pissed off Philly residents.
Luckily for us, F-Bomb Cornrow sat right behind us on the plane, because the gods of aviation like to screw with me whenever they can. Since she wasn't with anyone else, she thankfully didn't say much, although she really should learn how to cough and sneeze with her mouth covered.
We landed in Philly at 11pm. By chance, I happened to notice someone sitting at a card table in the hallway, a bunch of what looked like boarding passes spread out in front of her. This was the voucher lady, although there were no signs to indicate that. I walked up to the table, and she asked me my name. I gave it to her and she handed us two food vouchers good for ten dollars, and the phone number of the shuttle that picks up every 30 minutes and brings you to the shitty airport motel. We had just missed it. We waited in another line to try to get some sweaty faced, pedophile-looking mole man to approve an extra ten dollars for food because we were not planning on eating out of the vending machine. There were 3 people in front of us in line, and the group he was dealing with when we first got there was trying to get upgraded to the Hilton. It was taking forever, not only because the airline didn't want to upgrade him, but also because he typed with one finger. Not one finger on each hand, but one fucking finger. I wanted to kill everyone. At that moment, I fully understood the mindset of the guy who flew his airplane into the side of the IRS building.
Finally, after waiting another 45 minutes for the shuttle, we were in our hotel. We checked in, and asked the guy at the front desk about using the food vouchers. "We don't have a restaurant or room service at this hotel," he said. I laughed. Apparently, our only option was to walk across the parking lot in the rain, and eat at the bar in the other hotel before it closed in 15 minutes. So we did. We sat down and immediately ordered two grey goose dirty martinis, and a couple of chicken burgers. When we got the bill, we found out that the martinis were $19 dollars each, and we didn't even care. Oh, and it turns out that you can't use vouchers for alcohol.
We slept. We got bit by tiny things. We woke. We scratched. We flew to Albany.
When we got off the plane at the Albany Airport, my wife immediately ran to the bathroom because her bladder was about to burst.
Unfortunately, the bathroom she ran to was the men's bathroom, and she was inadvertently treated to some early morning Albany penis.
And with that, my friends, our vacation was officially over. Thanks for hanging in there with me.