Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Puerto Rico - Day 1: Departure

My uncle lives not far from an express bus to the airport. The plan was that friends would pick up my uncle, sister, and me from my uncle's house, and another friend would drive my parents.

The bus left at 6:15 am, and the station is bout a ten-minute drive from my uncles, so I set my alarm for 5.

Everyone else was up at 4. Loudly.

The friend who was driving, "Dan," had to be reminded to slow down so as not to miss the turn, which he of course did, meaning we had to go to the next exit, where he got back on the highway and began speeding again.

I wanted to smack Dan. Wanting to smack someone before 6am is not a good way to start the day.

We all got to the airport. My uncle and parents had apparently never used anything but curbside check-in, so I had to show them the very complicated process of waiting in line to hand over your ID and be handed a boarding pass.

I'd had a bagel before I left the house, but everyone else wanted to grab a bite. All but my father and I were headed for the restrooms, so they told us what to get them.

The choice of eateries was: a Sbarro, a Japanese place, Burger King, and a burrito place.

They wanted coffee cake.

coffee cake?!?

"Where are we going to get them coffee cake?" asked my father.

"I have no idea," I replied.

My father began to get agitated. Have I mentioned that I have a neurotic family?

"Dad, we'll just let them decide what they want when they come back," I said. A headache was starting already.

When everyone arrived, they got blueberry muffins from the Sbarro. We went through Security fairly easily (one of the friends called my cell at this point to make sure we'd gotten there OK and safely (as opposed to what? The bus getting lost in the half-hour it took to get there? A Logan Express hostage situation?) and on the other side was a refreshment cart. With coffee and coffee cake.

The passengers at our gate were comprised of an alarming percentage of young couples with kids and babies.

Our plane had been diverted at the last minute when it arrived from an international flight, and they needed to clean it first. We finally got on the plane, which smelled like ripe cold cuts, and there was a delay because we had too much fuel, which meant too much weight. They resolved that, then they had to have the wings de-iced. I recalled that this procedure seems to be mentioned frequently in news recounts of pre-takeoff events when talking of planes that plummeted to earth.  I thought about The Day The Music Died. The constant irregular CLUNK-CLUNKCLUNK below me in the fuselage did not ease my mind. My headache was getting worse.

We took off, there were no babies behind me, and I managed to sleep a bit, which gave me a stiff neck and amplified the headache. My sister kept turning up the volume on the TV screen on the back of the seat in front of her and sticking her face close to it before I explained three times that you need a headset to hear it.  She finally got one, and relaxed.

At one point I used the restroom, and to give you an idea of how old this plane was, it had an ASHTRAY in the door.

At San Juan, we debarked, got our luggage, and caught a taxi at the stand. I don't recall the formal name of ours, so let's just call it Not The Cleanest Taxi taxi. It was driven by Not The Slowest Non-Heart-Attack-Inducing Driver.

I was in the back, and I had a speaker literally next to my arm, so during the entire 20-minute ride my headache was bathed in amplified merengue, followed by the rapid-fire Spanish of a demented raving DJ whom I quickly wanted to disembowel.

The hotel is lovely, as is the staff, and they give you rummy fruity drinks as you check in. My sister and I are in one room, and in a connected room next door are my parents and my uncle. Our room balcony overlooks the front, which is a main street and pretty noisy, but the glass doors are pretty sound proof.

We split up and my sister and I took a walk up the main drag, which is very touristy (thank goodness the Hard Rock Cafe planned across the street is not yet there) and oddly shabby. My headache was worse, so we stopped for food at a small indie burger joint that had a delicious black-bean burger. As we sat eating, I saw my uncle walk by. He had a smile on his face and was clearly happier than a pig in the most fragrant, creamiest of ordure. I ran out and surprised him. He was just out "checking things out," and I could tell he was so happy to be back here.  That look on his face, the one he had when he thought no one was watching, made me determined to enjoy this trip as much as I can, although frankly, beautiful weather and beaches aside, I can't see what the big deal is about. Chicago in summertime has hot weather, gorgeous beaches, and all the Spanish-speaking people you want. Although here they speak English, too. Unlike Chicago.

After eating, my sister and I walked about a mile to the bridge that leads to Old San Juan, and then came back. My head was hurting very badly so I took a couple of pills, a hot relaxing bath, and was in bed by 6:30. I slept pretty much to the next morning.

No comments: