After four awesome days with our friends in Hope Town on the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas, sadly, it was time to head back to Nashville. We threw all of our stuff in our bags, got up early and boated back to Marsh Harbor where we would catch our plane taking us to Ft. Lauderdale. We made it there with plenty of time to spare, so we checked in and waited…. and waited, and waited…..
An hour went by and the tiny terminal began filling up with people. Another hour went by and the tiny terminal emptied, but we were still there. Finally, after about three hours, they called our flight number. So, the three of us, along with the five college “spring breakers” also riding on this flight headed out to “customs” (which was just a fold out table and a lady with surgical gloves) to have our bags checked before boarding.
We walked across the tarmac and over to our very small, very yellow puddle jumper. Our captain, an Asian man strongly favoring Mad TV’s Bobby Lee, welcomed us aboard, quickly ran through the safety schpeel, then began the unsuspectingly hard task of closing the door. We watched him with a bit of speculation as time and time again he would open the door, close it and attempt to lock it. With each unsuccessful attempt, he would snap at the door again, then mummer something under his breath that must have been Japanese for “Damn.” With applause from his small audience, he finally fastened the door and crawled through the window into the pilot’s seat. I’m pretty sure that by now you can guess what I was thinking.
We began to cruise upward, and upward, and further upward. We just kept going up and up and up to a “favorable” cruising altitude, and then we leveled off. Once we leveled off, we were cruising pretty smoothly, and with nothing below us but water, it became very relaxing and before I knew it, I had dozed off. I must have been out for a bit and when I woke I looked around and noticed everyone on the plane had also fallen asleep, and call me crazy, but I swear the captain was asleep as well.
The captain woke up just in time for us to make our descent into Ft. Lauderdale and land us safely. By this time, we were over an hour behind schedule and still hadn’t been through customs getting back into the States. To say customs coming back into the US, is a little more involved than entering the Islands of the Bahamas, is being nice. Customs is a bitch. (Please excuse the harsh language that may appear in this post, but sometimes there are only certain words that can accurately describe an emotion.)
Before we even made it to the customs line, we had to grab our baggage from the Yellow Air Taxi baggage claim area. OK. Sounds great. WHERE THE HELL IS IT?? We wandered around baggage claim forever looking at every carousel, and the only baggage in the room was either from Haiti or Bogotá. We, along with the five spring breakers, scoured the baggage area and finally found our luggage, piled up in some random corner, just waiting to be taken by anyone.
We finally got through the baggage area and headed out to catch a shuttle that would take us to the main terminal so we could go through Customs and board our flight. Then, as luck would have it, as we are turning a corner in our shuttle, our driver for some reason decides he didn’t like the silver Lexus next to us and proceeds to run into him. Yes, in typical Chandler fashion, we had a wreck in a freaking airport shuttle, not to mention we were in an unreasonable rush to catch our flight. At this point, we all knew that was a lost cause.
After giving a cop all of our information due to the shuttle scuttle, we finally made it up to Customs. We stood in what seemed to be a three-mile line to get the O.K. to return to the States. Now, you may have forgotten by this time, but we have been traveling with a six-year-old. Standing in this line isn’t easy for anyone (especially when you aren’t allowed to use cell phones) but it’s excruciatingly painful for a young boy. He needed to pee, he needed a drink, he was bored, his bag was getting heavy. He came up with every excuse possible and every one of them scraped on my head like fingernails on a chalkboard. Not because he was being impossible (on the contrary, minus those few moments of complaining, he was a real trooper), but because all I could focus on was the fact that we were not making our plane back to Nashville. I was having an inner freak-out, and I thought I was going to puke.
We got through customs and came to the realization that we weren’t riding back to Nashville, by way of Raleigh-Durham on Southwest flight who-gives-a-crap. We started frantically finding another option out of South Florida. We went to the Southwest desk to try to change our tickets to another flight to Nashville. Not one single flight out of South Florida to Nashville was open all weekend. It was Friday, and the next available flight, from ANY SOUTH FLORIDA terminal, was Monday. Of course, that sent my can’t-sit-still husband into panic mode. There was no way we were going to be stuck in Ft. Lauderdale for another two days. We decided the next best option is to rent a car. And yes, we were both very aware of the amount of hours it would take to drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Nashville, but hell, I did it in one day when I was in college, 15 years ago, with no kids, and some medicinal assistance. As crazy as it seemed, we decided that was our only realistic and affordable option. Determined, we proceeded to the rental car floor.
My husband, who I know by this time was probably ready to punch something but remained totally calm and good-spirited, headed to the first desk. Stupid Car Rental didn’t do one-way rentals. They suck and we went on to the next desk. Same thing at Rent-A-Stupid Car. Walked on to the next desk. To our surprise, Overpriced Auto Rental would do one-ways, but there would be a $600 drop off fee. Are you freaking kidding me?? I seriously threw up in my mouth a little and then began to cry. By this time, we were kinda loosing hope. Surely if Overpriced Auto Rentals charged an exuberant amount for a drop-off fee, they all would. Another random car rental place basically said the same thing. Totally defeated, we moped down to the last desk on the floor – Budget Rent-A-Car. We spoke to the sweet guy at the counter and told him our predicament, and although he probably didn’t really give a crap, he seemed very concerned and determined to help us. It probably helped that I pinched my son’s cheeks and messed up his hair and repeated over and over, “don’t worry Jake, I know you are starving, but we don’t have any money for food because we have to rent a car.” Anyway, he typed in some “codes” and after each type, he would shake his head or say “yes, yes” under his breath. My husband and I are standing there holding our breath, hoping that the drop-off fee for Budget was under $400. To our amazement, after some navigating by the manager, we were told that not only could we rent a one-way, but that due to the previous holiday weekend they had an overage of cars in South Florida and they needed to move them up north. They basically paid us to take the car for them! I was soooo relieved, I couldn’t hold back the tears. For $37 we had use of a hotrod Hyundai for two days and thousands of miles!! I was so excited, once again, I think I might have given the Budget counter guy an accidental lap dance. Although, I don’t think he appreciated it as much as my Fed-Ex guy.
We were on our way!! So relieved, we skipped out to the garage, found our super-sexy Hyundai four-door and hit the road. After grabbing a bite for lunch, we merged onto the interstate. We didn’t get long before we saw there was a bit of a back-up. Traffic was pretty much stop and go but since we weren’t familiar with Ft. Lauderdale, we thought we would wait it out, hoping it would clear up soon. We thought maybe there was construction or something. But after an hour on the interstate and still in the Ft. Lauderdale area, Steve checked out Twitter for any messages that might shed some light on the delay. Well, turns out, someone tried to commit suicide in the middle of the busiest interstate in Florida. It was a real mess and it had traffic backed up for more than five miles. It took us almost three hours to get out of South Florida. Thankfully Jake had decided that would be a good time to take a nap, so he was conked out in the back the whole time.
We made it to Valdosta, GA around midnight and decided to spend the night there and just get up early and start again. We made it back to Nashville around 5:00 on Saturday night. We went straight to pick up our little guy and our dog who were staying with my mom and dad, aka, B and Doo-Dad. Our dog Millie was ecstatic to see us and Griffin said he missed us, but that he really missed Jake. We all piled in the car to head home and I looked over at Griffin. His little lip was pouted out and his eyes were tearing. “What is wrong?” I asked him, thinking he was probably so overjoyed to be with his Mommy he couldn’t hold in his emotion. He looked at me and said with complete conviction, “I want to stay at B’s house!” Being that he was the only reason I was wiling to leave the Bahamas in the first place, I just dropped my head in my lap and began to laugh.