I stood toe to toe with death and spit in it’s eye. Defied the laws of physics and gravity, and airport food, to return to the rock and begin life anew.
Actually, it was a reasonably pleasant trip, considering I had to leave the island and go to a land beyond time that I would rather forget about. But, I do still have family up there and we don’t see each other that often, so I make the sacrifice.
As I figgered, the days were spent eating, fixing computers, eating, fixing iPads, and more eating. Great and lavish were the meals bestowed upon me whilst I visited the nether regions. And as much as I love the island cuisine, a good ole’ home cooked meal is hard to beat. One aunt even made me a Key Lime Pie. She did a right fair effort complete with graham cracker crust, but…she made one horrendous mistake. She followed the recipe she had which was not accurate, and added in green food coloring. Everyone knows that Key Lime Pie is suppose to be yellow, not green. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law. I forgave her this once, as I was chowing down on a second slice. It was good.
Some things happened on this trip that haven’t happened in a long time.
For the first time in a year, I drove a car. The traffic, the congestion, the red light cameras, all reminded me of why I don’t drive anymore.
For the first time in a year, I had to wear long pants. The first day up there was cold, down in the 50’s. It did warm up, but I still managed to catch enough of a chill that by the time I was ready to leave I had a full on head cold. That made the flights back so much fun, but more on that in a bit.
After eating, and fixin’ computers, there ain’t a whole lot to do up there so for the first time in some 8 years I watched a lot of television. Movies mostly, but damn, it was bad. So glad I don’t do that anymore.
We did some minor running around and in our travels I caught up with an old friend whom I haven’t seen but once in the last 40 years since I left. It was good to catch up again, brief as it was and I hope this time we can stay in touch. We had some good times many years ago. This person would fit right in with the island lifestyle. Perhaps some day.
Generous and many were the gifts bestowed upon my person whilst visiting. I scored a couple new shirts, two pair of shorts, and two new pair of boat shoes, one of which I left up there for future use. I can rotate out some older clothes now that are at the end of their economical usefulness. I also got a gift card from Home Depot so I could get my ac unit, which I did, and am writing this in the cool, comforts of my boat now. What can I say, they spoil me.
There was some sad times as well. We stopped off at the family cemetery and put some flowers on some graves. When this family was in it’s prime our reunions would draw as many of 80 or 90 people. Cousins, aunts and uncles, most all are gone now, or moved away. When we sat down to our traditional Memorial Day picnic, there were 7 of us. And I was the only one under 80 years of age. As much as I dislike the area, I still hold my family in high regard and when I leave, it’s with the sobering knowledge that chances increase every year that I will not see some of them again.
So how about the flights? Everyone wants to hear a good horror story about flying don’t they?
This particular schedule that I took is one I prefer, despite the 11 hours from start to finish. Delta handles this one which goes from Key West to Atlanta to Detroit, and then onto my final destination. Being a holiday weekend every flight was completely full. Not an empty seat anywhere. In fact, if you are looking for any missing persons, they are at Atlanta airport. That place was a zoo.
The airlines are getting somewhat smarter now with a couple of things. People are told they can carry one carry on and one personal item like a computer bag with them into the cabin. Many abuse the privilege and with the flights being so full, there is not enough room in the overheads for everything. So, before boarding, the counter worker bee asks for anyone to voluntarily check their carry on through, for free. Few do so, so those who get on last, are not given a choice. When the overheads are full, they have to check their bags. No option.
The other thing Delta does which is kinda cute, is on the larger planes which have video screens on the seat in front of you, play the infamous safety video. You know, how to buckle a seat belt, how to kiss your ass goodbye in the event you are shot down. Only now, they feature cameos by rock stars, actors, and assorted other characters. At least everyone watches the video now to see if they recognize anyone. Nice little touch. But not enough to make up for the other short comings. Namely, the seats.
Here is a clue, for anyone who works in the airline industry. We are a nation of fat, overfed slobs. Everyone is bigger and wider. An 18 inch wide seat with 14 inches of leg room don’t cut it. These seats are cramped and uncomfortable as all hell. On my last flight I had the joy, in addition to the head cold, of sitting on the aisle with a couple who were each twice as wide as their seats. I could not move, could not sleep, and I was constantly getting kicked/bumped/jostled by the attendants going up and down the aisles.
This profit motive thingie that convinced the airlines to squeeze as many seats as possible onto these flights just ain’t right. You’ve taken what should be a pleasant and enjoyable experience and turned it into two or three hours of hell for the passengers. But, given that every flight was full, and the airports were too, looks like you have us all hostage. If we want to fly anywhere, we have no choice.
Another minor issue that I would like to bring up to the fine folks at Delta. Knock it off with all the goddam passenger classes. You have first class, coach, sky miles, gold, silver, platinum. I believe at some point there will be a class for every element in the periodic table. I think I was in yougetonboardlastium or something. Try boarding the plane from the back to the front and from the windows to the aisles so we don’t have to crawl over twenty bodies to claim our 12 square inches of seating that we paid $500 for. Use some common sense here. Oh yeah, we are talking about corporations. And profits. Common sense is not a part of the equation.
Our beloved little island here at the end of the world is solely dependent on the tourist dollar for keeping us all fat and happy. Many of these tourists that come here fly in directly to Key West International. When they get off the plane, and get their bags, and go outside to get a taxi, they are met with a very loud and rude, sheriff deputy, who screams like she is running a prison work gang. She orders all those who are waiting for a cab to line up within the special lines set up to wait for the next cab. She is not polite about it. She points, shouts, and orders.
Here is the thing.
These people coming off the plane are tired, hungry, and just want to get their bags, and get to their hotels so they can start their vacation. Most come from colder climes, and when they get off that plane the heat and humidity hit them like brick upside the head. So why would their first impression of our “friendly” island be a wannabe drill sergeant, fully armed I might add, barking orders and directing them to stand in line properly?
Is that really the image you want to project to these people?
Yeah, I know, security, threats, blah, blah, blah. Here is a simple solution to the issue.
Why not follow the lead of some other islands, oh say like over in Hawaii. People get off the plane, they are met by a pretty native girl, given a flowery necklace, and this is very important, A FUCKING SMILE, instead of a goddam order by a bored cop. So here is what you do. You hire professional greeters, people in authentic island garb to stand in the terminal in the baggage claim, and out on the sidewalk where the taxis, come, and actually smile, greet, and interact with the new guests. Ask where they are from, what they want to do while in Key West. You know, make them feel, welcome?
Yes, it is a foreign concept, to actually go out of one’s way to encourage people to enjoy themselves when they come here, but give it shot. Mix up the greetings a bit. Maybe one week have the greeters dress up as pirates.
For Fantasy Fest, body pai….um, ok, bad example. But you get the idea. This island is known for being a bit crazy, play it up when these tired, poor, and huddled masses hit the ground. You could even get some of the local businesses to volunteer to be greeters now and then. Give them a chance to promote their services right there at the airport. Use some imagination here. Do I have to think of everything on this rock? Anything is better than the screaming deputy with the side arm. You can still keep the security, just keep it in the background so our guests don’t get so damn intimidated when they land. It’s a simple and easy concept to put together. Why not give it a try?
So I am back home on the island where I belong. Just three days up there was more than enough. I am thoroughly convinced that moving down here was indeed the right decision. The lifestyle I had back up there many years ago is so foreign and alien now, it’s hard to believe I was a part of it. When I tell people I live on a sailboat in Key West, they nod, smile, and think I’m crazy. Rather be crazy on sailboat in Key West, than sane in the middle Bugtustle, Pa. It really is like a foreign country up there.
Given the condition of my family, and the fact that I will be responsible for certain things if something happens, I will have to return again. As long as they are around, I will do my best to at least get up once a year to visit. But live there? Never again. Island living, be it here in Key West, or someplace else, is where I want to be.
Try it sometime. You may like it.