I have been back from Florida for over 2 months now... and thank goodness for my phone notes, as without them, I would be horrendously lost as to what exactly happened. When you are used to writing each and every night... and then suddenly you stop, it's quite easy to lose focus. I might only remember sunshine and being yelled at by someone in a Trump-loving truck... and probably not much else.
I will do my best to write this in my regular 'blog' style... rather than simple point-form, as I had originally settled on. I should have known I would be such a horrendous procrastinator. I should have done it immediately, but in my defence, I was so tired of writing on my phone... and I could almost touch home.
Yes, I made it home... but the blog took a back seat.
I arrived at Fort Lauderdale Airport at some ungodly hour. 5am? 6am? Whichever it was... it wasn't anything to celebrate. It seemed almost surreal to be landing in a predominantly English speaking country... and I don't think I was fully prepared to make the transition yet. Especially so early in the morning.
I had become so accustomed to speaking Spanish, that I actually approached one of the airport workers to inquire as to where I might be able catch a taxi.
Me: "Disculpe moi. ¿Dónde podría tomar un taxi?"
The airport lady: "Look here, honey. I don't speak no Spanish."
And then she walked away...
Welcome to the United States of America...
God, help me. I was dumbfounded.
Customer service at its best.
I eventually found my way to a taxi stand, which, without proper signage, was merely a person standing at a podium. I still can't grasp why hundreds of taxis weren't lined up to cart away the passengers coming out of the arrivals lounge. Maybe it was too early?
Not a taxi in sight.
No wonder I was so disorientated.
When my cab finally arrived, my driver was completely unresponsive and disinterested... and finally I just asked him to drop me off at a diner. I was hours ahead of usual check in times and figured I could kill some time eating breakfast and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
My fare was exorbitant ~ especially considering the mere 5km I had travelled... and on top of it, I was made to feel obligated to tip for his ignorant silence and blatant rudeness.
He dropped me at a place called Lester's Diner.
A staple in Fort Lauderdale in 1967, and set in 50s-themed décor, Lester's is a classic American eatery with a home-town vibe. I was originally seated inside, at a lovely, yet crass & quite large woman's section. She called me honey, filled my coffee up a few times, seemed genuinely, albeit briefly, interested in my early morning woes and made a good recommendation for the breakfast crêpes.
I tried my best to drag out my breakfast as long as I could, but eventually I finished my meal, and almost immediately, I was handed a bill and an ever-so subtle hint to move along. As much as an inconvenience for me to be shimmied along, I fully understood it was an inconvenience to them to have valuable real estate being unnecessarily occupied.
I was at a loss. It was 8:45AM. I was finished my meal, I was exhausted and I still had 6 more hours until check in. Did I mention I was also totting around the world's heaviest pack? The crass waitress must have seen the look of turmoil and desperation on my face, because she immediately relocated me along to an outdoor table, in a more undesirable section of the restaurant.
"Sit here," I was told.
My exile had a particularly interesting view of the parking lot and the busy Marina Boulevard. The frequent coffee fill-up service wasn't exceptional, but that could be explained easily knowing I had already paid my bill... and tipped the previous server.
I was persona non grata.
There was a man seated beside me, who embodied everything stereotypical about a greasy crook. His dark hair mullet was slicked back and he wore a sky-blue pink coloured three piece suit, accentuated with the world's shiniest black shoes. Everything about this guy screamed "lend me money" and I knew that had I sat down to speak to him, he would have absolutely had a get-rich-quick scheme up his sleeve... along with an Ace of clubs or some other trick. He was on and off the phone throughout his entire meal, and I listened to his numerous attempts at swindling someone or explaining his whereabouts to a variety of lady-friends. I have to admit, I was more interested in staring at him than I was with my coffee anyway, so it didn't so much bother me that the server ignored my emptying cup.
Finally I made the plunge, picked up my dead body pack and made my way into the parking lot to wait for a taxi. The calling of the taxi was the most challenging. Being unable to call myself, due to my Panama SIM card and the WIFI not cooperating, I had to rely on the woman at the hostess stand, who, unfortunately, didn't quite possess the capabilities required to use an ordinary telephone. At all...
The taxi was yet another mortgage payment and it baffled me to discover how big Fort Lauderdale was. I had NO idea. The taxi driver took the Interstate #95 and regardless of the fact that everyone was traveling at an alarmingly fast rate, it was still over 12 miles and took us almost a half an hour. So much for walking from the airport.
I was a little bit upset, as I figured the original taxi driver probably could have taken me slightly closer to my destination. But... he was a dick... so what can one do? I was really regretting his tip. I could have stayed at Lester's for lunch and dinner for that amount...
My motel was called The Blue Strawberry by the Sea and it was in an area called Lauderdale by the Sea. I arrived too early, of course, so one of the nearby construction crew members let me in the main gate, and I decided to just hang out by the pool until check in time. Around 10am, the couple that owned and operated the motel arrived and approached me to inquire as to whether or not I would be interested in checking in early.
Life in the United States of America was getting expensive.
Ok... I really had no other choice. My pack was impossible to leave and even more impossible to cart around.
The lady started off on a slightly rude note... and if I wasn't already upset, this attitude had tipped the scale in wishing I'd avoided the US altogether. I was exhausted. My pack was heavy. My neck hurt. I was rapidly running out of money...
... and then BAM!
... she discovered I could speak Spanish.
The tables suddenly turned.
She LOVED me and couldn't do enough to make me feel at home.
And yes, unfortunately she still charged me the extra $50 for early check in, but she did give me TWO blue towels, as opposed to the usual one they normally hand out to guests.
I settled in and then decided to go for a walk and see my surroundings - AND change my Panama SIM card back to my Canadian SIM card. Easy enough, right?
I must have walked into 4-5 places and no one could help me. They all had ideas of where I could go, but each suggestion was much farther away than I was willing to walk. Miles... and miles... and still no guarantee of aid should I make it.
As I ventured into the main touristy area of Lauderdale on the Sea, I came across a little pub that looked like it just might be a place I would like to sit down and have a drink. Before walking in, I stopped at the hostess podium and asked about WIFI. WIFI is a prerequisite for someone with a Panama SIM card.
She shook her head.
I then exploded with verbal diarrhea, spewing out my current dilemma... and although I really didn't expect her to do anything but smile and nod, she suprised me! She held out her hand to try and help me.
Of course, desperate times call for desperate measures... and I handed over my phone, willingly. She then pulled her hoop earring out of her ear, stuck the pin point into the side of my phone, opened up the panel and ejected the card container. Voilà!
Brilliant! I was in complete awe and admiration!
I was extatic... and she rejunivated my dream of Florida adoration once again.
Then a LOUD, classless, flag-bearing Trump loving vehicle passed me. I must have had a look of complete shock, horror, utter disgust and disbelief on my face, because he yelled out the window, "You don't like him? You can fuck off!!!!!"
So... off I fucked...
These people. My Florida adoration was down again...
Ahhh... the ups and downs of life.
Oh well... moving on along the Lauderdale promenade, I walked along the beautiful sandy beaches and strolled to the end of the Pier. After all my sightseeing and exercise, I decided it was high time to indulge in a much deserved glass of white wine. There were a few pubs around, but I set my sights on a little beach café called Anglins Beach Cafe.
I had just settled in at the bar, sipping on a lovely glass of Pinot... enjoying the spectacular ocean view and the lovely sunshine.
Life was getting better.
Life was good.
The bartender had an accent and I couldn't quite place it, so when she came acround to fill up my water, I smiled and politely asked, "Where are you originally from?"
"I'm from my mother and that's all you need to know."
As I said, welcome to the United States of America.
No tip for you...