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Story Time!

I've been nudging our good friend 54b to recount for us his recent romp over in Germany for the World Cup. His response? "Been busy at work since I got back from vacation. I've been trying to write a World Cup recap when I have time. The problem is, it's not that funny. And my rule is, if it's hard to write, it's probably hard to read."

Fortunately, we adhere to no such rule here at BON, which would make this blog irrelevant at best, criminal at worst. Humor just isn't our strong suit.

But equally fortunate, 54b sent me something delightfully funny for us to gnaw on while he works on his Cup article. Remember those good old days when you got a nice mid-afternoon story, after which you got to curl up on your little mat and take a nap? Well, I can't promise you that your boss will let you take a siesta afterward, but I can promise you a great afternoon story to get you by. What follows below is Part 1 of 54b's ungodly mis-adventure in May 2003. The best part of it is that it's entirely true. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: truth is always funnier than fiction.

Enjoy, readers. And thanks, 54b!

PROLOGUE

Baby boomer Jimmy Buffet once opined that there was an obvious distinction between "vacationers and travelers." But to me - a twenty-something who grew up spending several agonizing family vacations riding gunner seat in the back of my parents' faux wood paneled station wagon trying to insert a "Happy Meal" toy into my little brother's ear - the two nomenclatures seemed irreconcilably synonymous....that is until 10:33 a.m. EST, Sunday May 25 anyway. A moment in time which will undoubtedly be forever emblazoned upon the minds of a group of vacationers who dared to laugh at the rain and spend the next seven days of their lives rediscovering the true meaning of the word "travelers"....

The following is a detailed account of the traveling exploits of four couples booked on a Caribbean Cruise the week of May 25, 2003:

YOU CRUISE, YOU LOSE

"I regret to inform you that the boiler room on the S/S Norway exploded this morning killing four people and your cruise has been canceled" said the Norwegian Cruise line rep in her best "oh yeah, this happens all the time" voice. UN-FREAKIN'-BELIEVABLE. In less than five seconds, hours of planning, days of deciding and months of eager anticipation all came to an screeching halt. Needless to say, if Herve Villechez (yeah, that midget from Fantasy Island) jumped out of my suitcase, yelled "get back on de plane" while punching me in the nuts, I don't think I could have been more surprised. To top it all off, my friends and I had just risked our lives to make a 6 a.m. Flight to Miami in the middle of a cataclysmic electrical storm that caused a power outage all over Dallas. I was working on about an hour of sleep, an expired cereal bar the airline tried to pass off as breakfast and the best the NCL representative could do was give me a business card with a customer relations 800 number that lead me to a recorded message that said "the office was closed on Sunday." What in the blue #$@ is going on around here, people? I desperately wanted to start cussing like a crack whore and breaking expensive objects at random. But seeing how I was still in an airport, Homeboy Tom Ridge was still waiving the orange flag and spending a week with the Feds getting interrogated by Dr. Jelly Finger didn't exactly constitute a relaxing Vacation, I just stood there, silently waiting for the world to end with the rest of my incredulous counterparts.

Normally this kind of catastrophic situation doesn't phase me. As an experienced Ad Exec, fixing problems is my forte. Shit happens all the time in my line of work and if you don't know how to fight fires, you won't be around long enough to get burned. But at this particular moment, I was pulling a serious Bill Paxton-when-the-"Aliens"-came-trick-or-treating and everything inside me desperately wanted to yell out "GAME OVER MAN." Especially after the rep from NCL explained to the group that most of the other cruises were sold out and the best they could do was try and help us find seats on airplanes headed back from where we came.

DRINKING WHILE WE'RE THINKING

Something tells me Jack Daniels knew there would be times like these and that probably explains why he named his to-go bottle "the traveler" instead of "the vacationer." And since most of us were packing at least a 5th of contraband whiskey camouflaged in water bottles, I'll be damned if it wasn't no cover, free well drinks in the middle of Terminal B for the next couple of hours. After throwing back a few stiff ones, the place looked eerily reminiscent of that scene from "Young Guns" when the group was lost and Chavez y Chavez whipped out the Peyote and sent everyone trippin' to find the chicken that would help them find a way. And though I can't claim we were in the "spirit world" for any length of time, we, or maybe I should say Whitney, did indeed find a way to get us out of our self-imposed purgatory. Ironically, she was the only one not drinking.

GET BUSY LIVING OR GET BUSY FLYING (HOME)

Looking back, it was probably appropriate that Whitney is pregnant because at this low point in our trip, more than anything, this group needed a mom. Moms always kick ass at times like these and boy did she deliver. And when I say deliver, we're talking World Series, bottom of the 9th, down by three, bases loaded (and so was I), two strikes and there was a corn-fed, hand-spanked Nebraska boy on the mound throwing nothing but high cheese...suffice it to say, she went "Robert Redford Wonderboy" on the situation and hit the ball "real hard."

Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Whitney had a travel brochure for St. John stashed away in her carry-on. Inside it was a list of phone numbers for villas that could be rented by the week. Long story short, she dials up the emergency line, gets the owner on the horn, reserves a four-bedroom villa for the week and just like that, the first domino fell. By this point I'm on my feet yelling "was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor" and if there was ever a time for one of those Hoosiers-Al Michaels-do-you-believe-in-miracles-ain't-no-mountain-high-enough-slow-clap-sequences ending with everyone involved screaming and working themselves into a frothy lather, this was it.

Not long afterwards, the rest of us - Mike the architect, Vicki the lawyer, Jon the lawyer (no relation), Kristie the financial advisor, Steve the commercial real-estate broker, Maura the PR exec and me, the Progressive Party Whip - started to see the light. Working together, we secured a flight to St. Thomas (where you have to catch a ferry to St. John) using Jon's miles and some very sad faces to secure the three week advanced rate on American. So we had that going for us, which is nice.

Then Mike and Vicki pulsed Panama's GNP out of the ATM because the proprietor of the villa only accepted cash. Maura finally got through to somebody at NCL and confirmed that we were getting our money back for the cruise. And finally, Steve reserved a car on St. John, we re-checked our bags, called anybody who might be concerned for our safety because there were images of a burning S/S Norway on CNN and grabbed some snacks from the food court followed by another round of victory drinks. And just when we and the viewing audience in Terminal B thought disaster had been averted, the princess rescued and the Death Star destroyed, our plane to St. Thomas pulled a mechanical and went on the DL.  I say again, "what in the blue $@# is going on around here people?" I'm not sure "Job" (dude from the Bible) had to put up with this much shit and unless Jeff Spicolli planned on showing up with his dad's "awesome set of tools," our plane to St. T's wasn't going anywhere and we were going to miss the ferry to St. John. Mother puss bucket. Turn out the lights, party's over....or was it?

--54b--

Check in soon for Part 2...