Arthur Black: Travel writer?
We didn’t get sick. I’m stressing that because nothing ruins a tropical holiday like a dose of Caribbean Quickstep or Tobago Trots. Nope, we didn’t get sick, but I sensed we were in trouble when I caught myself humming the theme music from Jaws.
Miami Airport can do that to you. Especially after your luggage arrives looking like it’s been mangled by wolverines and a guy in a motorized cart gives you hell in Spanish and English – after he has run over your foot. No matter, we’re snowbirds desperate to catch our connector flight to the Bahamas. We arrive at the gate perspiring and gasping three minutes before scheduled flight departure.
Key word: scheduled. A half-hour passes. I ask when Flight 112 will be leaving. “Soon as I can find a pilot,” the dispatcher drawls. Eons later, a pilot materializes, and we are herded onto the tarmac toward what looks like a kayak with wings. We mortals will board this craft and defy gravity in a flight over shark-infested water not terribly far from the Bermuda Triangle.
The passengers include your correspondent, his increasingly thin-lipped Lifetime Companion, a covey of squally, overheated pre-pubescentand one Piltdown-sized cigar-chomping bubba who looks like a hillbilly wrestler gone to seed.
The kids are stowed in the back “just so’s we can get off the ground,” the pilot explains guilelessly. The rest of us winnow our way into the fuselage; the wrestler squeezing into the seat beside the pilot. The seat usually reserved for the co-pilot.
But it’s a short flight, and the addition of a co-pilot would force one of us to make the trip lashed to a wheel strut. The plane waddles aloft and drones 150 miles due east, fetching up at a landing strip on one of the smaller Bahamian cays. We eventually get to our hotel, scarcely five hours late.
Smooth sailing? Don’t count on it
“At last,” I murmur to Lifetime Companion. “Let the pampering begin.” I stride to the check-in desk, explain grandly that I am here to do a story about their fabled isle and I am ready to claim the luxury villa reserved for me.
There is no reservation. They have never heard of me.
Perhaps it’s Christian charity or maybe it’s the Bank of Montreal MasterCard and three pieces of identification I produce – whatever, they give us a room. It’s not a swell room but it beats the winged kayak.
After three days of fruitless phoning, I reach someone in tourism who knows about my assignment and is devastated to learn that the trip thus far has been a disaster. They will make up for it when we fly to Nassau. There will be a lavish luncheon! We will be the guests of honour! We will have an escorted tour of the city! We will be put up in a splendid five-star villa! Reservations for dinner and a floor show have already been made!
The plane picking us up is three hours late. We watch as it lands and blows a tire. We learn there are no spare tires in stock. One will have to be flown in.
It is very hot in the un-air-conditioned terminal, and the cafeteria – by which I mean the Coke machine – is empty.
We arrive at our villa in Nassau hours too late for the luncheon and tour but in time, if we hurry, to honour our dinner reservations. Lifetime Companion softens, even hazards a grim smile. We might, I think to myself, pull this one out yet. She heads for the shower; I make for the villa office to find out what time they serve dinner.
The office looks deserted. I lean in the door, calling “Anybody home?”
“Come in!” screeches a fishwifey voice. Something that looks like a carpet slipper with teeth skitters toward me yapping and yipping.
“Ah, my name is Arthur Black…”
“Come in! Come in!”
“Ah, yes, ma’am, thank you. I, ah… your dog…”
“Come in! Come in!” screeches the voice. Why doesn’t she come out? The dog is shredding my pant cuff now. Dragging the dog along, I limp into the office and find…a parrot. For five minutes, I’ve been conversing with a blue-fronted Amazon.
I never find a human being or a restaurant, but we make do with two bags of peanuts and lukewarm club soda lurking in the otherwise ransacked mini-bar. We no longer care about food or floor shows or…anything, really. Except Getting the Hell Home.
Which we do, the next day. For weeks, we answer the obvious question from envious friends: “How was your trip?”
And we always say the same thing. We say, “Well, we didn’t get sick…”