Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
The alarm goes off at 6 a.m.
I think it’s my hearing-aid batteries making their warning sounds, but the cabin steward is at the door with four glasses of fresh orange juice (last orange juice of the cruise), bacon and eggs, which my friend Hilary and I choke down, knowing we’ll need it for fuel.
The afternoon before, Hilary had discovered that the Nieuw Amsterdam, our Holland America Caribbean cruise ship, wasn’t getting into port until 7:30 and our plane out of Fort Lauderdale was leaving at 8:25.
In shock, we sped down to the front desk on Deck 1, the place where you can get a thousand questions answered in a minute. Our young man looked dubiously at our reservation sheets and told us what we had to do.
He gave us “EXPEDITED” cards and luggage tags and said our only chance was to be at the disembarkation station at 7. With luck, we might get off the ship by 7:15. The (extra) bad news was that we would have to haul all of our luggage from the back of the boat to the middle, thence to an elevator down and off, and take a taxi to the airport.
The cruise lines have this disembarkation thing down to a science. Everyone gets colored baggage tags according to the time they’re getting off the boat to make connections. When green gets called, all the greens go down where they find their bags in the exit room, and after they go through customs, the blues get called. It is very orderly and efficient.
Dealing with our luggage was an unexpected complication that fell mainly to Hilary, who looked like a refugee dragging her two boxcar-sized suitcases and carrying a gigantic backpack filled with my spare oxygen concentrator, two heavy adapters, an extension cord and the overflow of her supplies, which are ample. Who would think of carrying a GPS and a big hunting knife on a cruise? But you never know …
I dragged my reasonably sized suitcase and the bigger oxygen concentrator and just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, swaying down the halls. Then we waited. The line got longer and longer behind us.
We were the third or fourth off the ship and went straight through customs without being questioned or searched – the time it would take to search through Hilary’s baggage would have killed us for sure.
Since we had arrived at the ship from a hotel, we had no idea how far the airport was from the dock. It seemed like a long way, but then we were there, and the airline baggage guy said there wasn’t time to get our bags on, but we could make it if we ran. So the hell with the bags – they always find their way home.
Hilary had gone online and printed out our boarding passes the day before, something I would never have been able to accomplish. (I hadn’t even been able to connect to my email.) She can even talk to India if she has to.
So anyway, we hoofed it, now with just the backpack (Hilary) and oxygen tank (me). This plane we were rushing to was going to Charlotte, N.C., and then another plane to Denver (first-class using miles, a real treat), and we were panting hard going down the umbilical cord to our seats just a couple of steps away.
And we had just sat down – just – when the door snicked shut behind us.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold amounts of suffering and disruption, and we’ll probably tell those stories for the rest of our lives.