Thursday, February 15, 2007

So Sad

NOTE: This post has little to do with money or alpha, so if you have no interest in such topics, change channels now. And...this bitch is long.

So here I am, back in the house my parents have lived in for the last 18 years, in Maryland. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm supposed to be in Trinidad. The story of why I am here as opposed being in San Fernando, Trinidad is a long, winding and disappointing one. Somehow, I get the feeling that God didn't want me to go to Trinidad, and that saddens me. While I'm still evaluating options, to quote my high school friend Damon, "things look bleak for the home team".

I originally made these reservations in early December, and got a reasonably good deal considering how late in the cycle I did all this. (Thanks American Express Platinum Travel! I love you guys.) $638 round trip to Trinidad 1 week before Ash Wednesday and returning the last day of February. So everything was in order and then...

I remembered that my J.O.B. (Just Over Broke, for anyone not familiar with T. Harv Eker's writings, and boy is that accurate) only gives me 2 weeks of vacation. So I'm looking at burning up all of vacation time on 2 weeks in Trinidad. While I love Trinidad, I can't do what I did last year, when I was unemployed during my time in Trinidad. (Which is why the J.O.B. only gives me 2 weeks instead of the 3 I would have if they had re-instated my seniority when I returned from the failed consulting gig with Unisys. But I'm not bitter.)

I've been weighing this for the last few weeks. Do I go and burn up all the time, or do I stay and piecemeal it out over the course of the year? Fugg me! In mid - late January, I decided to cancel. So I e-mailed the friends I would be staying with and let them know. I justified this decision by saying that I should be here to get things in order with the business, continue pushing forward, all that kind of thing. And I do believe that. But I also promised myself to go to Trinidad Carnival every year from now until I die. This commitment weighed on my conscience; to fail at it so soon was unnerving.

In the last week, however, a few things happened which re-kindled both the hope and the possibility of going to Trini. First, I found out that my friends at Basement Knokers weren't going to throw an event this Saturday night Having been adopted by Trini friends that I went to college with, this was nothing short of sacrilege. No Saturday night fete!?!?!? I was livid. Being reduced to partying only on Friday night, even though I had planned to go with friends and bring Trinidad to DC, was still not "right". Then on Monday I text messaged one of my friends, a real Trini soldier, and asked him when he planned to leave. Friday morning was the answer. So we spoke and he cleared up some things for me. Please allow me to diverge, to provide some context.

Last year, I went to Trinidad very stressed. Stressed due to relationship issues. Stressed due to my job loss, which was the first time in my employed life - 9 years - that I was ever let go from a job when I had avoided it for longer than many other people in my line of work and industries. Stressed just because that's the kind of personality I have. I'm high strung. My original plan was to go for 12 days. Now, people who know me know I'm a nice guy. (People who don't know me seem to fear me, but that's a different story.) So, on the Sunday my girlfriend and I were scheduled to leave, I offered to give up our seats to some people who desperately wanted (needed?) to get back to the US. I mean, I was unemployed anyway. Staying in Trinidad wasn't going to hurt my earnings terribly, even though I had begun the process of returning to my old (and now current) J.O.B. So I gave up the seats, on a promise from Continental Airlines that I would be on *the* next flight that day. Well, airline promises aren't worth a damn, so that fell through. Long story short, I ended up buying first class tickets on BWIA back to DC for that Thursday. I have to admit that, after getting over my initial upset and anger, I enjoyed myself greatly for those remaining 4 days. Enough to determine that I needed to stay at least 2 weeks the next time I came down. That is what I planned for back in December 2006.

So, coming back to the present, after my conversation on Monday morning, it occurred to me that I had created this illusion of a "perfect" trip that had to be at least 2 weeks long. It was completely unrealistic under the circumstances, so I decided to quit instead. (As UGK once said - "ain't no need for me to finish if I ain't comin' out first".) However, the experience - of seeing my friends whom I haven't seen since last year, of going to all the fetes I missed last year (the Sunny Side Up Breakfast Fete and Insomnia being the critical ones), and of just getting away from all the bullschitt at my J.O.B. - was worth the trip, even if only for a week.

The linchpin to this story is that although I had already told people I wasn't going to Trinidad, I had not yet cancelled my tickets. Since my departing flight was scheduled for 9:20 AM EST on Wednesday, 14 February, I figured I would hold off until the 13th "just in case". I'm glad I did, because I was able to make an adjustment to the tickets and - voila! - a one week trip instead of two, with the original departure date intact.

Then nature struck.

(Whew! I told you this would be a long bloody post.)

Maybe I'm not supposed to go to Trinidad. I mean, a huge winter storm mucks up the works on the morning I am flying to Trinidad. I get a call at 4:25 AM from my shuttle company telling me that my 4:55 AM shuttle is canceled. (Damn!) So now that I know I'm not making the 9:20 flight, I go online to check the flight status. Canceled. (Brilliant!) Call American and they are able to get me on the 10:45 AM flight. (This could work after all!) I proceed to call the biggest cab company in my area, and they proceed to tell me that they can't get their cars on the road. Its sooo not happening. (Damn!) I have to drive. I wanted to avoid this because I didn't want to pay the exorbitant parking rates that every airport charges, but it appears unavoidable. Call it an expense, and I am happy to pay it after returning from Trinidad. So I get on the road around 8:30 AM, fighting off a Sickle Cell crisis induced by the overexertion of cleaning off the car compounding my chronically sleep deprived state. (Love Demerol! Don't medicate and drive, kids!) Once I reach National Airport (I'll be damned if I call it Reagan National), I find that every flight from every airline going to Miami (my connecting city) is canceled. (Perfect!) Once inside the terminal, I'm frantically trying to find out about getting my bag checked. I use the TSA approved locks, I'm not worried about that. But dammit, WTF don't the kiosks allow international travelers to check in!?!?!? WTF thought this was a good idea???? WTF!?!?!?

(This is why I fly JetBlue to California! I hate the major airlines with a passion. Of course, I didn't sit on the tarmac in NYC for 8 hours either.)

Now I'm waiting in a line that LITERALLY did not move for 45 minutes. I'm standing in the self-service line on the off chance that I can get someone's attention long enough to plead my case to check my bag. I'm doing anything I can think of short of throwing shit. (They still shoot Black people in DC, and enjoy it.) I finally get some modicum of a response from this one agent, obviously overworked and harried, around 10:15 AM. (Reminder the flight time. Scroll back if you need a refresher.) After about 10 - 15 minutes of silence, she says she's going on her break. HELLO? WTF about me? You did say you would see what you could do to help me? How does taking a break help me? Can you at least hand me off to someone else? Fugg me! Another agent, this time a guy, starts working with me but when the exercise ends in defeat, he gives me the obligatory phone number to call to make the impossible changes to my itinerary.

At this point, the memories kind of fade into a blur. I'm sure you're all happy, because this is a long ass post and I need to wrap it up soon. Hell, I'm getting tired of typing. Once I finally get back into the line, it speeds up, taking only 30+ minutes to an agent instead of 45+. So I start telling my story, keeping in mind that I have listened in on or overheard every DC -> Miami cancellation story American has to offer. (Why the hell did they fly the 10:45 but not the 12:20? Huh?) So I'm asking for a flight - any flight, on any airline - to Miami. Nothing. While standing in line, I call the phone number the previous agent gave me and start trying to find something. No go. I call Platinum Travel and they scrounge something together through the Bahamas leaving at 2 something PM. (Should have written that flight number down, because the Bahamian woman in front of me in line was starting the Milton routine. Boy was she unhappy.) For various reasons, I found none of the options too appealing so I wrote them all off except one, which I put on hold. American gives me a voucher made from the remains of my ticket. (Do NOT loose not a single hair off the heads of all 4 tickets, otherwise the whole deal is null and void. Great! That's the same reason I didn't get through Intro to Programming back in 2005.) The woman behind me, heading to a second honeymoon in the Keys with her husband, starts breaking down - badly. Its just ugly.

After getting out of the line, walking through the terminal, I call Platinum Travel and put on hold a flight through the Bahamas on Thursday. (That would be today for everyone who hasn't kept up). Schweet! Now I just need a co-signer in the form of my partner who is opening his house to me. Call him up, and although he sounds upset about it, he signs on. Nice. Progress is being made. I call Platinum Travel back and confirm. We're on! So I make my way back to my parent's house in PG County, so I can be *that* much closer to the airport. After a nap and more crisis pain, I call AmEx back with the intention of locking in the new itinerary. At this point, the agent reads it back, and its missing a leg. Huh? What happened to my flight to Nassau. Oh, it was canceled. Fugg me! Ok, lets put a new one together. After however long, she comes up with a flight through Nassau on Friday. All the same details as the previous itinerary, except the ONLY seat on the plane is first class. Now, I love first class, so its not like she's got to sell me on that bit. Just get me onto the bloody island and I'm happy. But what's the cost? $2064, including the return flight on Delta which carried over from the failed itinerary.

He're's where the trouble starts. See, I don't mind paying the money. That 2K gets me to Trinidad in time for some nice fetes. I've done it before, I'll do it again. If I have a choice of burning time or money, money will win almost every time. But how much is it really worth? I start calling my partner from Monday back, and once I finally get him on the phone, it gets clearer. The 2K buys me 2 nights of parties, but since I'm not in a band for Monday and Tuesday, I end up being a spectator. Fair enough. There's always Jouvert, right? But if I go with the available flight on Sunday, I miss all the hot parties and only have access to the jump up, which I'm only going to watch anyway. But I save 2K. Hmmm. Ain't this a bitch? After some consultation, and another sad story of a failed connection to Miami by another Trini solider who was unfortunate enough to buy ALL his tickets in advance, I decide against the Friday flight.

So here I am. Its 3:13 AM on Thursday, 15 February. I'm at my parents house in Maryland, not San Fernando. Its cold in this bitch. There's black ice outside. The power went out for an hour earlier. Every so often, you hear the ice-laden branches being whipped up (down) by the winds gusting to 40 miles per hour. I wouldn't have to turn the heat up to 80 degrees F if I were in Trinidad right now.


But on the upside, I received e-mail from one of my favorite bloggers tonight. How cool! Already replied. He asked about "the business". We'll see how things go.

And now I think I'm ready for bed. It's been real.

Until next time...stay warm...think Trinidad..."Jumbie" for Road March!

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