Wednesday January 26th, 2011 – Montego Bay, Jamaica/Chicago, IL
Another 14 hour ‘off’ day of travel. I’d never been to Montego Bay, Jamaica before so I checked out of my cabin extra early so I’d be sure to make it to the airport on time. Every port is different, and this one made us go through Immigration and Customs before they’d give us our passports back. I had to wait in line for quite a while and I’m glad I left early.
One of the others with me who was also signing off was a cabin steward supervisor who lives in Montego Bay and has been working for Carnival for 24 years. He was waiting for a ride home from a relative of his, and generously offered me a ride to the airport. I didn’t want to be rude, but I had no idea who the guy was or if I’d make it to my plane on time.
We waited a few minutes and then our ride came, a tricked out Toyota that looked like it came out of a Fast and Furious movie. There was reggae music thumping so loud out of it the mirrors were shaking on other cars around it. Too late to back out now, I’d said yes.
The driver turned the music down a little, but not much. I expected him to pull out a big fat spliff and start passing it around, but he didn’t. Some of the song lyrics had the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘Lord’ and ‘heaven’ sprinkled in, and those were the few I could understand.
Maybe the guy was a Christafarian Rasta Christian hybrid or something, but I got in the back seat and hoped for the best. I had no idea where the airport was in a town I had never been to and I trusted a guy I’d never met who says he’d worked for the company 24 years.
Welcome to the world of cruise ships. This isn’t the first time I’d been riding in a cab or car with total strangers in a foreign country wondering if I’d ever set foot on an American soil again, and if not would my death be quick and painless? My luck, I’d be kept alive to perform underground government scientific experiments with monkeys and coconuts.
We did eventually get to the airport and I thanked both gentlemen and meant it. It could have easily been my last ride of any kind, and had they wanted me dead it would not have been a difficult mission to complete. I was thankful to see the dingy Montego Bay airport.
Of course I had to go through security again and of course the large Jamaican woman in charge took it upon herself to personally check my luggage and remove a shampoo bottle and a shaving cream can that were over three ounces. Excuse the hell out of me for using toiletries, and not being able to buy them in smaller containers in a third world country.
I didn’t flash anyone any attitude, as I didn’t want to risk time in the hoosegow with my new found Jamaican friends. I was representing the cruise line and America, so I shut my mouth and let her take my items. If that made her feel better, I’d let her have her victory.
Plus, I was wearing a Packer t-shirt. That might not be a large problem in Montego Bay, but I was scheduled to be on a flight from Charlotte to Chicago and that could get a little hairy. Actually, I hoped it would. I love verbally sparring with strangers. I always win.
The flight from Montego Bay to Charlotte, NC was about an hour late to board, but not a word of mention was ever made. Was this just how laid back they do things here, or did the main engine have an oil leak? I’ll never know, but it did get frustrating to wait around.
We finally took off, but I wondered the whole way if I’d make my connecting flight. It’s a feeling of constant compounding stress, and it’s especially frustrating because nobody is concerned but me and there’s not a damn thing I can do except hope for it all to work out.
Of course my gate was completely across the Charlotte airport, and after getting grunted at from a U.S. Customs officer, I had to go through security…again. Why the hell do they make us do that? We just came from a damn plane, that’s not good enough? I don’t get it.
I just wanted to get home and I didn‘t have a lot of time to spare to make it to my gate. I did their little chimp and doggie parlor tricks of taking my belt and shoes off and opening my computer bag and taking my laptop out, even though I hated every second of doing it.
I noticed a married couple in line looking as pissed as I was, and it turns out they were. We commented on how stupid all this ‘security’ is, and the guy said he wants to see all of the fat ass members of congress who approved all of this have to go through all the exact same hassles we do. I loved that idea, and then his wife said she was sick of it all as well.
After a couple of minutes we were laughing about it, and I thanked them for letting me vent. They thanked me for listening, and we went on our way. We saw the TSA agents all looking at us, and that made it all even funnier. Small victories at the right time are large.
Once again, I barely made it to the gate on time, and they were already boarding a super packed flight to Chicago. They made us all check our carry on luggage, which delayed us another half hour. This is how it is when one travels for a living, and it gets old very fast.
I could see frowns and sneers as I walked down the aisle of the plane wearing my green t-shirt with huge yellow letters spelling ‘PACKERS’ with the holy ‘G’ logo underneath. It put a big grin on my face as I looked dead in the eyeballs of everyone I could. How sweet.
Actually, the guy sitting in my aisle pretended like he wasn’t going to let me in because I was a Packer fan, but we ended up having a very good conversation about the game and football in general. He was an intelligent fan, and made some great points. He saw I knew what I was talking about and wasn’t going to razz him, and we enjoyed each other’s view.
That helped pass the time a little, but it was still a long travel day. Checking my luggage made it even longer, and I had to wait for that as one last hassle. After that I got picked up by a former comedy student named Jason Hale who will be helping me with marketing.
Jason is a brilliant marketer and we hadn’t seen each other in about ten years. He’s been very successful doing what he’s doing, and wants to help me market comedy classes on a bigger scale than I have been. We met for dinner and talked it over, and will get it going.