For months preceding my husband’s 70th birthday I begged, pleaded and implored him to allow friends and family to celebrate this milestone occasion. Proposed options included: (a) a catered dinner for family and friends; (b) a pilgrimage to his native Atlanta, kind of a “best of Jim Kitchens” tour; (c) a family golf tournament at Calloway Gardens, complete with brunch and cocktail party—a suggestion from his son; or (d) an island paradise retreat at Captiva/Sanibel for kids and grandchildren—as suggested by my son. Bloated credit cards and family fights, however, did not sound like paradise to Jim.
“Well, what do you want?” I finally asked. “I want to go someplace beautiful with you, some place where we’ve never been, some place where I can unplug and be wasted for five days.” That’s when I realized how saddled this impending 70 year old had been with too many obligations and responsibilities. Southern California beckoned as a good short-term destination site with the added bonus of legal marijuana edibles. “That will certainly help you unplug”, I offered.
Our twosome travel had become increasingly rare. Our “away time” more often devoted to kids and grandchildren living in other cities. We savored the anticipation of our romantic getaway just as we did in our younger years.
Which brings me to 4:00am on our departure date. Our 6:30am flight meant getting up excruciatingly early, the upside being we arrived in California at 8:30am with an entire day of 68 degree sunny weather beckoning. Our early-to-bed strategy, however, precluded us from seeing the midnight message from Southwest Airlines advising us our flight had been cancelled. Of course we only saw the text following our coffee injections and showers.
“Oh my goodness”, said the insincere Customer Service lady unlucky enough to be answering calls at 4:45 in the morning. “Nope, that was the only non stop flight today. The only other flight we can get you on leaves at 6:00 pm going through Kansas City and getting in to San Diego at 10pm. Oh, and your seat positions will be C 40 and 41. But don’t you worry, your early bird fees for your previously booked flights will be refunded back to your credit card.”
Crushed, we went back to bed and pulled the covers over our head.
Four hours of nightmare infused sleep over, we set about contacting Hertz, the Hotel Del, and Southwest for more begging and pleading. Once again we were reminded the only room at the inn was C 40 and 41 assuring us we would be in middle seats by the back bathrooms. “That is unless you are eligible for pre-boarding”, she added seemingly as an afterthought. “Ding ding ding! Pre-boarding? “How do you do that?” I queried picturing the line of wheelchair inhabited disabled passengers allowed early admission to the plane.
Now really and truly my knee hurts terribly and my limping is for real. I’m actually having knee replacement surgery on June 5th. I decided to fudge the date a bit. A borrowed knee brace and one cane later and I was ready for my disability début.
Since we had the “gift” of this found time and I tend to be an incessant productivity-a-holic, I wanted to make arrangements for medical equipment for my post surgery stint (see, I really was injured). With efficiency in mind we identified a medical supply business in route to the airport. “I can also buy the cane there”, I thought adding pageantry to our airport presentation. “We don’t take your insurance” we were advised (crushing our anticipated efficiency plans). “But no worries! We will call”. A flurry phone calls ensued all in a language I did not understand and voila! problem solved. “Your hospital bed and 3-1 commode will be delivered prior to your surgery”. As we were leaving with our breast cancer ribbon bedecked cane I whispered, “I having a feeling Medicare just got defrauded” and we did not even know what was said. #canyousaykickback? But they were so nice…”.
So onward we drive to the airport for our evening flight. All things considered The OIA is a great airport. Lots of restaurants and shops, any Disney World, Universal, and SeaWorld paraphernalia you could ever want is awaiting you for mere hundreds of dollars. They also have extensive parking, especially their terminal top garage flanking terminals A & B. Barreling into and intending to go upward in the winding garage we and others before us were stopped by a slight neon attired garage attendant declaring to frustrated drivers the garages were totally full and we would have to find parking elsewhere. One by one the cars exited per instruction. All except one. Ours. “We were planning to valet park at the Hyatt. Can we still do that?” “Sure no problem” he said moving the barricade aside. Full confession: We had no intention of valet parking for four days. We just wanted to check parking availability and, of course counted at least ten self-parking places just on the first floor alone. Our chicanery was paying off. Do real con artists experience this kind of adrenaline rush?
Southwest was more than happy to share their inventory of wheel chairs with gimpy me, at which point we cued up in a line of ten awaiting porters to usher us through to the gate.
And we waited and waited. “Can my husband take me?” I tentatively asked. “Sure!” she said happy to be relieved of one of her burdens. Away we sailed to the security line, dragging our rolling bags along like we were pet walkers, trying to avoid careening into innocent bystanders with our girth. “You are so slow!” I admonish my husband/driver. “It won’t go, there is too much stuff on here (me being a big part of the stuff). Oh wait, the brake was on. Now, that is better.” People took pity on us, even offering to help in lieu of being harpooned by my cane.
“Even though Southwest said there were no upgrades available, I’m going to check with the gate agent” Jim said. I hung back piled high with backpacks, sandwiches, and luggage. Moments later my husband appears disco dancing down the corridor waving new boarding passes. For $50 C40 and 41 had transformed into A7 and 8. I actually had mixed feelings about aborting our pre-boarding plan, but the faking it thing was getting old.
My wise psychologist son talked me through my early morning fog of disappointment. “I spend a lot of my practice counseling people on managing disappointments.” That counsel stayed with me helping us transform an inconvenience into an adventure. It was also fun to be a little bit of a rule breaker at 66 and 70. #ifnotnowwhen?