“The alarm didn’t go off! We’re going to miss our flight!” After a few profanities, these were the first words I heard on Saturday morning. After four nights in beautiful Tortola and a night in the more consumer-oriented island of St. Thomas (see above...), we were headed to H’s home in Grand Cayman.
“Stuff everything in a bag! No time! No time! We’ll never make the flight!”
“You go ahead,” I responded as I scanned the room for items we might have missed. Running to the elevator, one shoe strap flapping with every step, I followed H into the dark morning to find the cab we had reserved for an hour earlier!
H disappeared into the rain as I continued to squeeze things into my suitcase. The cabbie soon arrived and, with his soft, calm, laid-back island style, casually put our bags into the back of his van. He seemed to take little notice of our frenetic energy. Whipping past cars we raced toward the airport. I could feel H mentally subtracting the red lights from our countdown time. The cabbie chatted on his phone, his tranquil manner at once calming and anxiety provoking. Even half asleep, I could easily see the contrast between the everyday angst of my own ‘regular life’ and the unruffled manner associated with island living. I wondered, could I ever live that way? Could I adopt such a relaxed, in the moment, one step at a time, ‘don’t worry, be happy’ attitude? Perhaps it was food for thought – but later.
At the airport, we dragged our suitcases to the counter where we were told it was too late to check them. Apparently the machines are timed to shut down when the deadline is reached. And we had not met that deadline. Maybe it was the look of desperation in our eyes, the kind that comes with having had to reschedule every leg of our trip thus far, that inspired an impromptu conference among the few employees still left in that part of the terminal.
Whatever the cause, it was suggested that they might be able, perhaps, maybe (but-don’t-get-your-hopes-up), to issue our luggage tags manually. A protracted discussion on the pros and cons and probability of success of such an action ensued as we watched the clock on the wall tick away minutes that felt like hours. Finally, consensus was reached and a green light was given for the manual process to be implemented. However, since this was an unusual (archaic even) request, it would be necessary to find someone who could actually do such a thing! More conversation among more employees produced the name of a possible candidate and someone was dispatched to find him.
Soon, a man with a broad smile sauntered to the counter, commenting on the lateness of our arrival. A silent “Yes, we know we are late, that’s why we need you to hurry…” passed between H and I as we watched him coax our luggage documents from the machine. Thanking him profusely, we ran our freshly tagged bags to the next obstacle in our board-your-plane relay. We relinquished control of our bags to two friendly women who hoisted them onto a conveyor belt, laughing when they saw the manually produced tags.
“You’re running late,” one commented.
“Yes,” we smiled.
“You might make it,” the other added, as if to lift our spirits.
We then sprinted towards security, and, looking back, H remarked in a matter-of-fact tone, “You know we’ll never see them again" (our bags). I agreed, looking back to see my royal blue suitcase with its proud Canada strap disappear though a rubber-curtained wall.
Fortunately, our first class tickets facilitated a quick security check and landed us at the head of a line already in the process of boarding the plane. Once on board, seatbelts fastened snugly around our waists, we clicked glasses of freshly-squeezed orange juice, congratulating ourselves! H reminded me, a hint of pride in his voice, that only one hour ago we were sound asleep at our hotel!
Our flight took less than three hours. The skies were clear and the Caribbean Sea was at its most sparkling emerald in the morning light. The patterns produced by currents and would-be islands were dazzling from this angle and I quickly used up the memory on my iphone camera (note to self: next phone needs more memory!).