***this is a long one, rambling and mostly accurate. please remember to refresh, as I’ll add pictures soon!
ignoring the title, I will now briefly say that I have just visited (for take-away) my favorite local Taqueria, muy rapido… Taqueria Fast! It was impossible to explain to the People in Mexico that We have very good Mexican Food in my own home town in the USA. At dinner with the Family, one night, for the youngest niño’s 10th Birthday, Tacos were served and the eldest son (22 years old, so not a niño), Alex, asked me if it was my first time having tacos? I laughed and said no! I explained that We have many, many people from Mexico where I live and there is plenty of authentic Mexican Food… He laughed and said, “what have You got, Taco Bell?” neither of Us had much of the other’s native language. I just laughed also and said “gracias” for the Tacos, which were not my first but they were top notch and homemade. What I should have explained was that I hadn’t had Tacos with a Mexican Family in Mexico before, as their guest… I wish that I did have better Spanish, even not so good but more would be great.
it is easy to complain about travel or to make fun of my own Country, whose faults I see, so easily, after being away for just a short while… I have done plenty of both of these and don’t want to carry on with it but I would like to tell about my day of travel and how I finally did return, to Asheville, NC, by 11:45pm on the same day I left Isla Mujeres. Some aspects of this travel day were about as good as they could possibly be, while other were not at all. I left Casa Rolando at approximately 10:30am, after bicycling to the Beach and getting a jugo de naranja, of course, at the Mercado (I told the little Juice Lady, who I visited everyday, “no mas manaña!” She smiled and said Gracias and Adiós!) and I swam in the Sea, from one end of the wide-shallow sea pool at Playa Mia, as I did almost every day (the first two days, I swam at the Playa Norte which is much less dynamic and has all the Boats parked just off shore), to the other and back plus it was my goal achieved, at last, of swimming 31 days in a row, all in the month of January, an excellent personal stArt to this year. I got back to Rolando’s finished cleaning, packaging and showered off then got dressed to travel. I said my goodbyes, which began by me just standing on the ground floor of the compound and saying Adiós! a little more loudly than normal and the People came out from every doorway. They all gathered around smiling and wishing me well. I thanked them profusely and rollered off down the alleyway, Andador 5 for the last time. I immediately hailed a Cab (there is at least one cab per person on Isla Mujeres). As I took a last look down the alley, I saw Mary, ROlando’s Wife, waving and blowing kisses! She said, “We will wait for Your return!” I, for one, am glad they will be waiting… I’ll be waiting, also!
the Taxi driver got me to the Ferry Docks with about 20 minutes before loading for the 11:00am crossing and the helpful Folks who work there, directed me, with care to the right line for the Puerto Juarez docks, where I would meet my Shuttle Bus driver, Juan Carlos, at 12:30pm (I highly recommend Happy Shuttle, if You ever make this trip, they are wonderful and it is reasonably priced for round trip travel from the Cancun Aeropuerto to Isla Mujeres). Upon arrival in Puerto Juarez, I wrote this note to myself: “I made it to the Ferry Docks and now I’m having a lunch… I didn’t plan to have lunch but here I am. I made it on the 11:00am Ferry from Isla Mujeres to Puerto Juarez and I am here by before 11:30am. I love that you can get a Cappuccino and an Arrachera Burrito at the same spot. Now I’ve got to haul all this dang luggage around with me, though… I’d love to send that ahead with the Porters…” after lunch, I wrote, “I am grateful to the gentle breeze, as I sit, way ahead of schedule but otherwise it would’ve been such a rush. I am actually quite relaxed now and once a pass the next stage of this process, once I am able to board the plane, then I can really sigh but I will sigh the most, once back in AVL!” and this one, after Juan Carlo had picked me up: “I haven’t been in Air-conditioning this whole month, not since I got out of the Happy Shuttle at the Ferry Docks on New Year’s Day… now, back in the AC Shuttle on the way to the Aeropuerto and it is a transition between worlds, You see. My Driver, Juan Carlos is quite nice and has left me to write this bit here while He steers the van. He said somesthing about American… I hope that was the airlines, that’s my one! Let me on board, please, for Fortress McMerica! Let me slip through uno mas tiempo!“
I took one long last breath of the warm Mexican air, mixed with diesel fumes (which always make me think of travel) and went in to the sea of human chaos… I queued up for the American Airlines ticket counter to get my boarding passes and was turned away by the Lady guarding it, to go to the touch-screen thingys, which NEVER work, they just don’t… I tried maybe four and finally asked guy standing there for help, he handed the paper piece that I need to fill out saying that I had taken the Covid Test prior to now and that I had a negative result, which I did. Then the Lady let me right through, who had refused me previously. So I stood into the stupid serpentine line, the first of about 40 for the day, and finally got to the desk, where I turned over my passport and paper piece and showed the Lady behind the counter my certified test result from the Centro Quiminco Laboratorio (You only need a digital copy, not paper copies). I got my passes, checked my roller bag and headed for the Mexican security line. Here yet more chaos as a completely un-indicated next step was necessary, filling out a tiny paper piece basically saying what the boarding passes did and no one ever looked at again after the first Lady, who I think is the same security Lady that is at every point, somehow. I got through that with minor difficulty, I had to go through the metal detector twice because I didn’t take out my laptop, thinking it wasn’t necessary any more (they told me not to take it out in Asheville on my way down to Mexico, and as by now I should be aware, the Asheville Airport is an unique set-up and should probably be looked at more closely by other Airports, for its ease of motion)… so I got through that an into the Super Mall section where You can purchase totally unnecessary (No es necesario) items in the most glaring capitalism display available. I was well ahead of schedule, so I had some time to sit and take a breath (masked, of course). I found my gate, which was on the inside, seemingly and had no windows to see an Airplane out there waiting… I thought this was unusual. We went through the line and a Guy came by to ask me a series of questions that I felt like had been asked of me about 10 times already… “Hello Sir, how are You doing, where did You go, did You pet farm animals, et cetera, are You carrying raw meat or bacteria samples?” no, emphatically! We got out into a large exterior area, back into the warm air and all onto one Bus, everybody from the plane that we were gonna be getting on, crammed, not a social distance to be found. The bus drove way out on the runway, to a waiting jet liner, which looked enormous, next to the bus. I was seated in the back, so I got to go in the back door, which I’ve never done before and it was really fun. Once, on the plane, I asked the Steward if we would load out that way in Charlotte, it sure would be a lot more efficient than waiting for everybody to go out the front door… “It’s just something we do in the Caribbean, ” he told me with a smile. I was in a middle seat on the starboard side and after a while it became clear that no one else was gonna sit in my row, so I spread out and even got to draw in my journal book, which is too large to work in with anyone sitting next to me, that was a treat! The flight went quickly and arrived almost forty minutes ahead of schedule but that meant we had to wait for a place to deplane because Our gate was occupied. So we sat out on the tarmac with a lone, loud-ass Baby, yelling “buckle Up!” over and over…
finally we got off the plane and went down through the endless serpentine of the US Customs (I always write Costumes, first), where You take Your filled-out immigration form from the plane that no one ever looks at again. Finally You go to a touch-screen kiosk area and all of these do work, the airlines need to take a note from old Uncle Sam… You scan You passport after finding the proper place to do that, into one of many similar looking receptacles and answer the travel questions again, take Your photo and get a receipt that no one wants to see, either until a man finally takes it at the end of a long hallway, after You’ve been stamped and waved through the first Customs Area. Then You must find Your checked luggage and take it to another conveyor belt where some helpful fellows put it on and then You are free to go to the next whole security check-point, just in case You’d gotten some explosives in between the last several security check points… queue up, queue up… and then all the way to the very back of the Charlotte Airport, Gate W 1325… where I waited, starving, until it was finally time to go home, I felt like Odysseus, there on the boat, with Ithaca in sight… then came the notice that the flight would be delayed… if We had just gone at this time, or it had been canceled then, We could’ve have all gotten on with our lives but they made us wait a half-an-hour, which turned into 50 minutes and then canceled the flight, but in between, a bunch of hapless employees of american airline attempted to do something at the computer terminal that no one could figure out how to operate, with ALL eyes upon them. Then finally a man who had been there before the delay came back and made it work, only to discover that Our flight was canceled… You are welcome to sleep in baggage claim they told us… I was next in line to find out what flight I would be on the next morning, when that area had to close down, so I went to another location and was 17 people back from a desk of airline workers, who one by one left their computers and went home. When I finally got to a Lady there, she asked “how may I help You?”, “well”, I said… “as You may be aware, they have canceled our flight and I need to be re-booked…”. I was finally re-booked but decided to see if I could rent a car and went through yet another serpentine route past the now completely abandoned mall-like airport at 9:00pm on a Sunday night. I went to see about getting my dang bag back and a guy in that area, who was whispering behind a plastic shield told me (I think) it would be 45 minutes to find my bag and I had to fill out some more forms in triplicate, so I asked what happens if I rent a car and get on home, he said the bag would continue on to Asheville, so I left that place and went out in the cold, across the street to the rental car place… I went to the first counter, “May I rent a car to Asheville?”, “Nope, We are totally booked.”, so on to the next guy, same thing… and finally at the very end, there’s a guy at a tiny desk in this huge airplane hanger room with blue artful lighting 50 feet overhead… He says all we’ve got are one-ways to Asheville!! A miracle at the end of this whole process… He asked me who I was with, Hertz, Alamo? No, You’re not with anybody?” “Only me, solo yo…” I used another touch screen because I didn’t have the App and agreed to a bunch of stuff that I have no idea what it was… the Guy was very nice and finally I got my papers and went up the stairs into the garage and found my car waiting for me. I got into and drove around the super-serpentine parking garage area, after not driving for a whole month and finally rolled out onto a highway that lead me eventually back to home… it felt a whole lot like a go-cart ride…
if You have read this far… thank You… this will be all for now! ¡Buenos Dias! ***what I was able to learn is that I will book directly from the airlines in the future (not on priceline or travelocity, et cetera) and I will probably not fly on american airlines again, simply because of their leave-You-high-and-dry and not seem to care about it, which is the modus operandi of all airlines employees. I also realize that the touch-screens for the airlines are a way to diffuse the lines a bit, an extra herding process, put in place through corporate policy. If You didn’t know, I’m not pro-corporate anything… it’s a bland, sterile format.