Saturday morning, the alarm went off at 6:30am. That hurt a lot. We got up, showered, and packed our carry-on bags. I attempted to dry my still-wet sneakers with the blowdryer, with little success. I shoved them in the bottom of my bag with a pair of socks, because the only other footwear I had was flipflops. It was -10 degrees in Minneapolis.
We had our last breakfast (gruel and a croissant with cheese, my favorite) on the back deck. The ship was already docked in Fort Lauderdale. General disembarkation wasn’t til 8:45, so we went down to sit in the Napping Bar. We were all sprawled on chairs, trying not to doze off.
From the ship, we went to passport control. There was a long line, but the officer was just looking at photos and letting people through. We picked up our suitcases, reorganized, and then stood in line for customs. Even though I knew they never checked anything at the cruise ports, I was still nervous. I was over the limit for alcohol, didn’t have my duty-free receipt accessible, and had absinthe, which was only recently made legal in the US. The customs lady took my slip and said ‘thank you’. I was almost disappointed at not having done something really illegal.
We stood at the cab stand forever, because there was much cab-related drama. We finally got two cabs to the airport. I paged through the little advertising magazine, and found the address for Coyote Ugly downtown, plus coupons for free shots. SCORE.
We were expecting airport horror like we’d experienced last time, but it didn’t seem too bad. Cindi and Jumi had an earlier flight, so they went to check in. Matt and Wendy and I were in search of a place to store our bags; we were finally directed to the baggage service downstairs, where they’ll store it for $5 a bag. We then headed to the cab stand, because our flight wasn’t til 4:30.
On the way to the cabs, we had a thought: a cab cost about $50 round-trip to downtown. Couldn’t we rent a car for less than that? We decided to go to the rental car building to find out. Thrifty told us it’d be $50 plus tax; E-Z said it’d be $30. We were set.
We picked up Disposo, our Nissan Versa (we decided what we really needed was a disposable car that we could just set on fire when we were done with it), and were soon on our way to Fort Lauderdale. Disposo was SEXY. Also, while checking him for damage at the rental pickup, we noticed scratches on the hood. Clearly, someone had already slid across it in a getaway attempt. The rental guy didn’t think this was half as funny as I did.
We found Coyote Ugly pretty quickly, but then realized it didn’t open til noon. We set off in search of food. There were a ton of restaurants in the area, but none of them were open. Some didn’t even start serving til 5pm. We were getting desperate! Finally, we happened upon the Las Olas Riverfront, and there was a sign for the Metro Cafe, advertising brunch. We rushed there and got a table. They weren’t actually serving brunch, but we didn’t care.
I think I drank an entire gallon of Diet Coke. Costa doesn’t really have pop, except as a mixer. Also, we had pizzas, even though we’d just gotten off an Italian ship.
After lunch, we walked along the riverfront to see the water taxis and all the people waiting in line for boring cruises. Then we headed back toward Coyote Ugly, because it had just opened. There was only one other dude in there, already sitting at the bar.
I tried to order a mojito, not really knowing the deal with Coyote Ugly. The bartender said, “No, that’s gay.” Wendy ordered a vodka sour, and he wouldn’t give that to her, either. Apparently a vodka-cranberry is less gay, because he allowed her to have that. I got a Jack and diet. He gave us and the female bartender shit constantly. We loved him a lot.
We redeemed our taxi-cab shot coupons (we had no choice, he just poured us Sammy Hagar’s tequila), and he gave me one even though I told him I had to drive us back to the airport. When Wendy and Matt ordered another round, it became apparent that their drink pricing was totally random. We talked to the girl bartender for a long time, then asked her if they had souvenirs. She unlocked the other side of the bar, and we came away with a lot of stuff, including an awesome sticker for Cindi (whose idea it originally was to go there), and underpants that read MONEY MAKER on the ass. I was a fan.
We left there somewhat sadly, and hopped in Disposo to take the long route back to the airport, via the A1A. Have I mentioned that Wendy loves Vanilla Ice? She had to see it. And, surprisingly, it made me actually want to spend time in Fort Lauderdale. The beaches were nothing like in the Caribbean, but they were still pretty awesome.
We arrived back at E-Z Rental Car, blasting Big Pimpin’ by Jay-Z. We did not light Disposo on fire, but we should have. We picked up our bags, checked in (there was NO line at check-in; last time we were there, we stood there for 3 hours), rushed through security, and found Cindi and Jumi still sitting at the gate, looking very frustrated. We’d had lunch, seen the beach, and hung out at a bar, while they’d been sitting at the airport all morning, waiting for a tiny plane.
We sat on the floor playing Phase 10 and laughing uncontrollably, much to the consternation of the women sitting nearby. To deal with the issue of the -10 degree temperatures in Minneapolis, and the fact that I had flipflops and Wendy was wearing shorts, we brainstormed solutions.
WILL SMILE FOR PANTS
Besides pants-panhandling, we devised the pants exchange program. Say you’re flying to Florida from Minnesota in January, just as we did. The second you get to Florida, all you want to do is remove your pants and change to shorts. (I solved this problem by carrying flipflops and wearing convertible capris, but not everyone is so innovative.) On the other hand, if you’re returning to Minnesota from Florida, you hardly want to wear pants to the airport when it’s still 85 degrees, and yet you’re going to freeze your ass off when you land.
Solution: the PANTS EXCHANGE BOOTH. Leave your pants when you get there, and someone else can wear them home. This, we believe, is a fantastic business opportunity.
We’d found out at check-in that our flight was overbooked, and they were asking people to volunteer to be bumped to the next day. Had we found this out as soon as we’d gotten there that morning, we’d probably have taken the offer. As it was, we’d already rented and returned a car, and we were tired and wanted to go home. But we’d still probably have done it for a price, so we drafted a list of demands in case they should ask us again:
I think the best part of that list is that they’re all inside jokes we’d come up with over the past week (some of them that morning), and that nobody else in the world would understand. I’d write out the explanations so I’d remember, but you’d just think we were nuts.
They boarded the flight early, and we all passed out shortly after takeoff. This was remarkable, because I never sleep on planes. I kept waking up because of the turbulence and the fact that the captain wouldn’t shut up. We must’ve slept for at least an hour, though, because we got to Memphis really quickly. I started to notice, too, that every time I opened my bag, it smelled really bad. As in, jungle shoes bad.
We had about an hour and a half layover in Memphis, and our priorities were 1) pants and shoes, and 2) dinner. Wendy and I checked all the stores, and nobody had either of the former, though we did find pajama bottoms with flowers that she refused to buy. We checked all the restaurants, and I’d forgotten that the south doesn’t really know the word ‘vegetarian’. We finally settled on the fast food counter, and I had pizza. Again. I didn’t care. Also, my bag had begun smelling so bad from the shoes that I had to have people stand back when I opened it, and I’d hold my breath. There was no way I was going to be able to put those shoes on for the flight.
I called my mom from the gate, and told her of our shoes-and-pants predicament. When we landed in Minneapolis, she met us at the baggage claim with slip-on shoes for me, and pajama bottoms and a comforter for Wendy. Claudia rules.
And it was indeed -10 in Minneapolis that night. Ouch.