Cruising with Teens
Wells arrived home from a successful ‘gig’ with his band a little after midnight.
“Where is your birth certificate?”
“Look at my blisters,” he responded while proudly showing me his fingertips. “We really played hard.”
“Very nice – we need the birth certificate.”
“The YMCA took in more than $600 because of us. They paid us $200!”
Wells beat a hasty retreat to his room. I could hear him rummaging for a while before he popped back into my office.
“My fingers really hurt.”
“So do mine. Where is it?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll find it.”
“Well if you don’t, you’ll be staying home while we have a nice vacation with Danny.”
Half an hour later, he delivered the document. “Told you not to worry.”
“It’s my job,” I replied before asking for the rest of the story about the band’s performance and the blisters.
We were due to be picked up by the airport van at 4:30 am. By 2:30 am, the suitcases were packed and waiting by the door. Kris retired for some sleep a couple of hours earlier. Dan dropped his duffle bag off around midnight and disappeared into the night, destination unknown. It was snowing lightly.
I decided to get into bed for a blissful hour of sleep before the alarm went off. It was a mistake. The voices were unrelenting…
“What if it snows so much the van can’t get here?”
“It can’t snow that much in 2 hours.”
“Where’s Dan? He could have fallen asleep at a friend’s house and we won’t be able to find him.”
“He’ll be here. Go to sleep.”
“What if the snow delays the plane in Boston? We’ll miss the connection in Atlanta.”
“If we miss the connection, who do we call? How will we get to Miami?”
“It’ll work out fine.”
“But even if everything goes like clockwork, we won’t be on the ship before 3:15. That’s cutting it too close. Something’s going to screw it up.”
Kris must have been having similar thoughts, as she was tossing and turning. The voices were just quieting down when her elbow hit me square in the nose. After 27 years of this, my nose leans noticeably to the right.
“What did we forget?”
“Nothing. You have enough for a 14-day trip.”
The alarm went off at 3:30. Time to begin the trip.
Showered and refreshed, I went to wake the boys a few minutes later. Dan and Wells were asleep in front of the TV, and were very slow to respond. When they finally appeared in the kitchen, I lined them up for a last minute grilling.
“Did you pack underwear and socks? No knives, nail clippers or other weapons in your carry-on? No illicit substances on your person or in you baggage?”
They nodded and shook their heads appropriately in response to each question.
“Good. Now hand over your picture ID’s.” I wasn’t taking any chances. I stowed the driver’s licenses in the portfolio with all the other critical documents.
Miraculously, we were all ready to go at 4:30. With our winter coats on, the four of us lined the picture window overlooking the driveway. The van had not yet arrived.
I decided to go down to the street and see if any of the Sunday papers had arrived. Exiting the garage door on to the driveway, I performed a graceful pirouette on the glaze of ice that coated the surface.
“Told you! No wonder the van isn’t here.”
It was quite slippery. As I slid down to the mailbox where the papers are left, it began to snow again. The trip back to the house involved a slight uphill climb. The papers hadn’t been delivered, so I was able flail both arms around to keep myself upright.
“It’s really slippery out there,” I told Kris.
“Should I call the van service?”
Before I could make up my mind on how to answer the question, the phone rang. Kris answered, and I listened to one side of the conversation.
“Hello. Yes. Fine, thank you. I see. OK. Yes. Oh. Right. No problem. Thanks for calling.”
“The van is running late, and it will be here in 20 minutes.”
We waited impatiently. Half an hour later, at 5:15, the van arrived.
The driver has chipper as he hoisted our luggage into the back of the van. Wells’s carry-on was full of tonic water and Coca-Cola. It sloshed audibly and weighed a ton.
Inside the van, another family with two young children was waiting. We filled the remaining space.
The driver put the van in reverse. A piercingly loud backup warning horn sounded.
“They just installed it this week,” said the driver. “I don’t know why they put it inside the van. If you put your hand over the speaker, it won’t be so bad.”
“I already have my hand on it,” came the reply from the father of the other family.
On the icy surface, the backward trip down the dark 250’ driveway seemed to take forever. It was a blessed relief to finally reach the street and get out of reverse. The neighbors probably thought so to.
Our street was slippery, and I looked nervously at my watch. At the present rate of travel, we might make the airport in Boston by the time the Millennium sailed.
“You won’t be able to catch up with the ship until San Juan. The boys don’t have passports to fly into the Dominican Republic, and you don’t speak Spanish anyways.”
“Relax, will ya?”
They other family was going on one of the big Royal Caribbean ships that would be stopping at Grand Cayman. We talked about the Stingray adventure.
Once we hit the main highway, conditions improved markedly. The driver was able to make normal headway, and traffic was very light. I began to relax.
We made it to the airport by 6:30, which allowed us just enough time to check in and grab a cup of coffee. The boys were dragging to the point that they weren’t even interested in the Dunkin’ Donuts by the security gate.
We got in line for the final security check. I handed out the boarding passes and picture ID’s while we waited behind a couple of dozen fellow travelers. To our right was a roped off passage leading toward another security gate, and a guard stood watch to prevent anyone from using it. Just as I wondered why the airport personnel didn’t open the second line, I saw Wells and Dan pass by in the restricted passage.
“Hey guys, you can’t go…”
I stopped when I saw the guard following them down the line and around the corner. By the time we reached the point where we could see them again, Wells and Dan were emptying their pockets into red baskets at an x-ray machine. There were surrounded by 3 guards who were watching every move.
By the time Kris and I passed through the metal detector, the boys were shoeless and seated at a table. My tonic water and Coca-Cola was lined up along with all the other contents of the boy’s carry-on baggage, and an inspector was turning the bags inside out looking for hidden compartments. We paused to watch, but were sternly told to move out of the security area.
We found a vantage point in the neutral zone where we could catch glimpses of the boys. Their coats and belts were removed and searched separately. They were frisked head-to–toe and scanned repeatedly with hand-held detectors.
Altogether, the process seemed to take about 10 minutes. Finally Wells and Dan were permitted to get dressed and repack the carry-on bags before re-joining us. They seemed pretty calm despite the ordeal, and I certainly felt better knowing that they wouldn’t be a threat during our air travel.
We sat at the gate and Kris told the story of a trip she took last year to Madison, Wisconsin for a teacher’s conference. She arrived at the airport only to find that her driver’s license was missing. Somehow, she talked her way aboard two flights on the way to the conference. On the way back, after the first of two more flights, she reached into the pocket of her winter coat and discovered in horror that it contained several 3 ½” aluminum spike nails. She had taken them to school one day for a science experiment and completely forgotten about them. They had gone totally undetected through three security checks. Before boarding the fourth flight, she discreetly threw them away.
I made a point to keep an eye on Kris during the trip.
The flights were uneventful. At least I think they were. Xanax has a way of smoothing out the bumps. There was just enough time between planes in Atlanta for Dan to get something to eat. He joined us by the gate with a sandwich wrapped in cellophane.
“Anybody want some?”
He took a bite and made a face that expressed disgust. “This is terrible.” He rewrapped the sandwich. “Sure you don’t want some?”
One by one, we repeated our refusals. Dan dumped the sandwich in a trash bin. “I can’t believe it. That cost me ten bucks.”
This would not be the last lesson in travel economics for my friend Dan.
We arrived in Miami on schedule. Kris was in something of a panic about finding the Celebrity desk and the bus to the port, and I did my best to calm her.
“Just go with the flow.”
We retrieved our luggage quickly and went with traffic through the airport. It wasn’t long before we ran into a person holding a Celebrity sign. She asked us what ship we were on.
“Millennium,” I replied.
“Wait right here.”
Within a few minutes, we were marched outside to a waiting bus, loaded up, and hit the road for the 45-minute ride to Ft. Lauderdale.
“See. No sweat,” I told Kris. In fact, though, we were sweating in the 85 degree heat. I hadn’t felt that kind of warmth at home in 6 months.
As we cruised the highways, I heard Dan exclaim from the seat behind us, “Is that guy dead?”
“Out there, in the pickup truck.”
I looked out the window and down at a little red pickup truck traveling beside the bus. In the rear bed a large man laid peacefully on his back, eyes closed and arms folded neatly across his chest. He did not move.
“Probably,” I said. Kris nudged me.
“Oh he is not,” she assured.
I watched the truck for a long time. Every vehicle in Florida has dark tinted windows, so you can’t see who is inside. Whoever was driving the truck probably had a gun and a shovel.
Kris leaned over. “Gee, do you think he’s ok?”
I shrugged. “Nothing would surprise me.”
The bus came to a sudden halt and the pickup disappeared from view. We crawled along in bumper-to-bumper traffic for a long time before coming upon an accident that blocked half the highway. It looked like everyone was fine, and I hoped they weren’t on their way to the port. If they were, they needed to start repacking their bags, which looked to have absorbed much of the impact.
Free of the jam, we finally made it to the pier. It was almost 3:20, and boarding ended at 4:00.
“See. We made it fine.”
“Too close for comfort.”
Inside the terminal, about a dozen check-in desks were manned by Celebrity agents, and none of them had a client. Several waved to us. In an attempt to feel pampered, I looked for the suite/Captain’s Club line but didn’t spot it. We marched straight ahead to the closest agent, who welcomed us enthusiastically.
I propped my portfolio on the desk and methodically removed all of the required documents.
“My, aren’t you organized?” said the agent.
“Engineer,” said Kris. It explained everyting.
We signed the special ‘beer and wine waiver’ for the boys and received our cards. I had the temporary guardianship papers for Dan ready and waiting, but no one asked to see them.
“OK. The cruise begins,” I said as we made our way through a security check and onto the gangway. We moved along at a good clip. Onto the ship, pictures were taken and champagne was in hand in about a minute. An escort took us to the central elevators, and we enjoyed the view through the glass walls as we ascended to deck 8. Around the corner was the entrance to 8106. A sprig of fresh orchids stuck out of a little vase attached to the door. Classy. Just like the new Volkswagen Beetle.
We sent the boys off with the escort to find their room, 8119. I told them to drop their stuff and come right back.
“Because we have about 10 minutes to get something to eat.” They were off in a flash.
Inside the door awaited a truly stunning space. I’d looked at every Celebrity Suite picture I could find, but none did the space justice.
Exhausted, I dropped into a chair and closed my eyes. Relaxation came immediately.
The doorbell rang.
“Doorbell??? Ships don’t have doorbells!
“Oh no. You’re just dreaming. You’re still at home, and Danny is at the door ready to go. WAKE UP!”
The doorbell rang again, but it didn’t sound quite right…