I was in the warehouse break room resting, when I noticed the TV was broadcasting an episode of Swamp People. They were hunting alligators during the “hunting season”. I didn’t realize there was a regulated hunting season.
Reminded me of an “episode” of my crazy life when I found myself on a fan boat looking like a Cuban drug dealer with my co-worker …
Follow Me, I Said!
Years ago, I work for Costco Travel. One of the business educational trips was on a cruise. It was on #WindstarCruises as a Familiarization Trip (or FAM for short) The ship was the Wind Star.
The team sent was: Travis, Anita, Kris, and yours truly. My roommate was Travis. He shared with me prior to the trip he had never experienced a FAM.
Follow Me, I said, with wide sweeping confidence. Trust me, Travis.
The actual story happens after the cruise FAM.
We were disembarking the Wind Star only to board to the airport transfer immediately. Anita and Kris got separated from us, Travis and I, due to their cabin location and structured disembarkation process.
After we grabbed our luggage from the warehouse, we headed outside. A long line of buses were in front of us. To double-check, I ask a Wind Star employee if “this bus” was one of the many transfers to the airport. She looks at the bus that I’m pointing at and confirms – yep, that’s it.
Foolish me, I trust her. Subsequently, Travis trusts me.
We board the bus without issue. Since it’s Travis’s first time, I offered the window seat. Once we get rolling a nice lady named, Olga, jumps on the microphone to give commentary on the drive. Nothing unusual about that – so far.
In my experience most transfers are not so chatty, but hey, it’s Florida! It’s the South, maybe she was being hospitable.
Wait … what the what?
Then she starts dialogue about “when we’re on the tour”, and “be sure to follow closely”, which concerns me. As I peer out the window, I watch in silent horror as we literally zip pass the Ft Lauderdale Airport Exit Only sign!
Luckily Travis didn’t see that! But I’ve already had an OH$H!T second, as I realize we’re on a post-cruise shore excursion bus – NOT an airport only transfer.
Follow me, I said. Trust me, I said, I mentally grumble sarcastically.
Olga finishes her dialogue with this: “You can always know where I am in the park, by this…” She brandishes a bright green umbrella with what appears to be alligator eyes on top.
NOW Travis knows something is rotten in Denmark. Ish… I mutter. I subtly approach Olga’s seat on the bus.
Me: “Hi Olga. I’m Carlos. I have accidentally boarded the wrong transfer bus, and literally dragged my co-worker along.”
Olga: “That’s a big problem, Carlos.”
Me: “For sure. Since we didn’t pay for the shore excursion can we stay on the bus for the duration, and be returned to the airport once it’s done?”
Olga: “I’m sorry, Carlos, no. This bus will continue on to other areas.”
Me: I am Carlos’s worst nightmare “Ok, we’ll camp out at the office area.”
Olga: “There’s really nothing there but an office. Lemme discuss this with my company, and we’ll letcha know. Please take your seat in the meantime.”
Me: How am I gonna start this story once I get back to Costco Travel… “Travis, I’m so sorry, bro.”
Travis: “What’s going on, ‘los?”
Me: I mentally sigh. I’m about to drop a ginormous bomb on a very unsuspecting victim… “We’re on a post-cruise shore excursion with an airport transfer after.”
Me: Yeah, knew that was gonna go over like lead weight “Yeah, buddy. Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out.”
Travis: “Oh, ok, ‘cause that’s got us far right now.” I earned that remark.
[Moments later, Olga approaches our seat]
Olga: “Carlos. How did you manage to end up on this bus without a ticket?”
Me: “Oh,” I pause. “That. Hm. Well, we bought the post-cruise transfers onboard so they didn’t have a voucher. They advised it was manifest only.”
Olga: Still baffled, “Ok, well, we’re almost there. When’s your flight?”
Me: “About 3 o’clock and change.” She turns on her heel and returns to her seat.
Fort Lauderdale Everglades Fan Boat Tour
We arrive to our destination a few minutes later. Everyone exits the bus, including us. After reviewing the flight schedule on United Airlines and USAir there’s only one other flight beyond our scheduled one to get us home tonight as we have to report to work the next day.
In a desperate attempt I talked with the security guard who has a pickup truck; tried to bribe him into a ride. Nope, he says. Ironically, his name is Court, which was the name of the Costco Travel President at the time of this story.
After a few panicked minutes from being shot down by Court, Olga walks up and announces, “Ok, you two.” I can feel Travis’s laser eyes trying to burn my skull in half. This is Carlos’s last FAM with him, I tell you what! “I’ve scored you two seats on the fan boat tour. It’ll be up front on the fan boat. But we must go now.”
To fully appreciate the situation, you must know that Costco Travel attire for FAMS is slacks, collared shirts, dress shoes, and more. I think, this is really happening? We board the airboat with the other passengers dressed as tourists would with shorts, tank tops, etc while we look like Cuban drug lords with my shades, red iridescent shirt, black slacks, black dress shoes, bling galore, and then Travis – my rather silent assistant.
I’ve often wondered if he was silently cheering for me to crash and burn. After all it’s highly entertaining to watch me squirm out of trouble!
At any rate, we rock up this shore excursion. We are educated about the Everglades, and alligators (‘gators for short) I still remember the information learned too! After the airboat tour, we were invited to walk through their zoo. It was time to tell my wife, at the time, of my situation.
Picture this – I’m on the cellphone (Nokia bar like phone) near the swamp bunny exhibit having a heated conversion wearing what I’m wearing. WOW!
The walking tour ends with a ‘gator keeper demonstration with Hannibal, a 1,200 lb. alligator that lives there.
Follow Me Still, I Said
Thankfully the tour ends, and we board the bus. I glance at my watch with optimism. I’m thinking we might actually make it on time for our flight. Maybe. As we are dropped off for our flight, Travis and I hand over as much money as we have: 36 dollars. With a thank you, a hug, we bounce. We have time to beat security, post up for lunch, and roll to the gate.
Travis is still bent!
I buy him lunch, I felt so bad. After lunch, we roll to the gate. A very exasperated Anita and Kris run up to us. Obvious questions on their minds, “where the hell were we? ”Wouldn’t believe me if I told you, “why didn’t you answer?” No reception in the middle of the SWAMP!, “and how did you manage to get here on time?” I’m kinda a big deal like that.
Travis beams the brightest smiles, “’los and I went on a free shore excursion!” He puts his arms around their shoulders, with the words, “Lemme tell you what happened.”
Really, Travis? I guess I’ll follow them this time…