Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How was Florida? I'll tell you how Florida was.

They call them "escapes," or "getaways," but to me, vacations more frequently seem like something more along the lines of "ordeals."

No word could be a more true description of the last vacation my boyfriend and I almost took.

You see, he likes to travel frequently, and I, while I can't say uprooting my whole life, stuffing it into a 3-cubic foot suitcase, and tossing it all into the hands of fate is something I like, I generally accompany him reluctantly, complaining all the way. A few weeks ago, he was perusing his many travel alerts, and he called my attention to a really cheap round-trip flight to Fort Myers, FL. Usually when he spontaneously pops a travel idea to me (this happens about once a week on average), I instantly cite some eminently practical reason to decline, but this time, the trip was short, the flight was shorter, the destination was alluringly subtropical, and the price was unbeatable.

So before I had time to really consider the consequences of our actions, we found ourselves booking airfare to Florida. The first thing that happened was the ticket price, which had been so cheap the day before, rose by a good 20 dollars. The increase in cost alone would have been enough to deter me, but Al had the travel bug now, and he wasn't about to let some 40 dollars stand in his way!

The next thing that happened was I looked at my calendar. The 3rd to the 5th had sounded like a pretty good set of travel dates — right over a weekend — when I was looking at the January calendar by accident, but when I realized I needed to look at the February calendar and found them smack-dab in the middle of the week, my enthusiasm plummeted some more. I'd have to actually request 3 days' leave from work for this pointless little jaunt.

Next I started thinking of the added costs of traveling to Florida beyond the airfare. We'd need to book a room and rent a car. Or find bus routes and get taxis to take us everywhere we wanted to go. We would have to buy most of our meals at restaurants. I tried my hardest to think positive (seeing manatees! Getting to try out my new camera! Not having to be at work! Being able to wear short sleeves!) and not worry about the rising true cost of this supposedly cheap vacation, but it was hard when every day a new expense reared its ugly head.

On Monday, the day before we were supposed to leave, after I had already packed my carry-on, Al read the fine print on our reservation and informed me we'd have to pay 30 dollars for a carry-on or 20 dollars for a checked bag. Rather than do that, I pared down my list of essentials and packed everything for the 2-night trip into a backpack that I could claim as my personal item. Now, part of me was excited about the opportunity to prove that I really could travel light, but a bigger part of me was stressed out about all the things that I wouldn't have with me but would surely need.

That night, I really wanted to focus my attention on preparing for the trip, making sure I had everything I needed and nothing I didn't, and, you know, maybe coming up with a few fun things to do once we got there. But of course that was not to be. One of my freelance clients had chosen this week to launch a new online application system for their website, and my last few hours at home were spent frantically debugging and volleying irritable emails back and forth with my surely equally frazzled client.

Meanwhile, my boyfriend was sick. For the past 5 days, he'd been battling some terrible flu. By the night before our 6am departure, he still was feeling pretty awful. I had thus far miraculously avoided catching the illness myself, but the part of me that was not busy worrying about my reputation as a web developer and whether I'd packed appropriately was worried that as soon as I stepped on the plane, my throat would start hurting, and I'd arrive in Florida sick as a dog and without the benefit of my extensive home apothecary. But Al gave me some of his Tamiflu, and together we soldiered on.

We spent the night at his house because it's closer to the airport and his dad was going to give us a ride there. Of course, settling into a new place meant a later-than-normal bedtime—and this on a night when we planned to wake up at 4. I think I managed to get into bed by 11 and was expecting an almost-adequate 5 hours of sleep, but instead was startled awake at 2:30 by Al's dad. Apparently (and of course this was a surprise to both of us) we would have to leave for the airport early so Al's dad could deliver newspapers at 4am.

So off we trundled to the airport in the 20-some-degree dead of night. I had left my winter coat behind because I didn't want to be carrying it all around Florida with me, so that was probably the coldest car ride of my life. Upon arrival at the airport, I stood miserably at the self-check-in kiosk, addled with sleep deprivation and trying to get warm again while Al tried unsuccessfully to enter our reservation number.

An airline representative came over and informed us that our flight had been canceled due to a mechanical problem, and there were no more flights to Fort Myers that day. The usual Valerie would have taken that moment to begin crying, but by that time, I was so resigned to this progressively worsening situation that I was actually relieved to have it brought to an end.

On the way back home, Al asked me if I wanted to take an alternative flight from a different airport at 5 that evening. "Meh," I said, "If you want to." I thought I was beyond caring. But then he added, "There's a layover in Denver."

"What!? No!" I exclaimed. Apparently I still had some standards. And that was the end of that. We went home, went to bed for a few hours, and I went to work while Al nursed his flu at home for another day.

Some things are just not meant to be, and clearly our trip to Fort Myers was one of them. But at least one good thing came of it all. Had this veritable tragedy not occurred, our friend would never have been inspired to email us a graphic response to our woes, and I never would have been introduced to this, the most epic pun I have ever viewed!