Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Parents' Tale

It’s hard to recall exactly when I first heard that the girls were going to Costa Rica. It may have been February or March of 2008 - certainly no later. I was quite caught up at work with a new town manager ,an election, and a new town council. I was knee deep in trying to sell my house; - whether I bought it, he bought it or they bought it. Deborah was our realtor. Deborah also is Kelly’s mother and has been our friend … forever. Kelly and my daughter, Lauren grew up together and have been best friends forever. (Just today I noticed a ring on Lauren’s ring finger so I asked her if she’d gotten married. She said: “Kelly and I bought friendship rings. See? FRIENDS.” ) So Kelly and Lauren are best friends forever, and Kelly and my daughter Sarah are roommates. So here’s a scenario of three girls and two moms.

“The girls are going to Costa Rica. Did you know that?” Debbie said during one phone conversation. Our phone conversations were sometimes a mix of house sale talk and the girls’ talk. “ Well Sarah and Kelly are, anyway. They’ve bought their tickets and are getting passports. “ Lauren was in Tampa at USF and having “dorm things” and school issues, and Sarah was 20 and living on her own. I may have made some disjointed comments and replies, and moved on.

As I had calls and visits from Sarah wanting her birth certificate, asking where dad was born and where I was born, I realized she was getting a passport so I asked what was going on. She told me about Katy and Tony getting married in Costa Rica and how they were all going. This is an interesting parallelism, if you can allow me a minute to digress. My Sarah and Lauren are the same age as Jane’s Katy and Kourtney. Debbie’s Kelly is the same age as Lauren and Kourtney. Sarah and Katy were roommates at FGCU. So, you can see it’s a nice bunch of girls who have grown up together. I have digressed to demonstrate that there is a level of love, here. Katy and Tony are getting married, and the girls are going to Costa Rica!

Sarah and Kelly have passports and tickets. Lauren has tickets. In conversation with the FMB Postmaster, (wink ;-) to brother Norbert!) for Lauren and a passport, time was of the essence. We arranged to get Lauren home from Tampa to go to rural Alva post office and apply for her passport, should she even hope of getting it on time.

Blast e-mails began coming in from the mother of the bride about the hotel where the wedding was to be, room blocks, rates and itinerary. In another of our conversations, Debbie mentioned that she had given the girls a gift of three nights at the hotel for the wedding. The answers to my questions to Sarah and Lauren were evidence of a great tag team. As I began asking specifics, the plan - for what it was - came forth.

A great number of people that live in this community are frequent visitors to Costa Rica. Many own property. So I asked generalities from many of my friends and acquired a wealth of information. I wrote down recommendations and thumbs downs and then googled most of them. I knew that they would need a hotel the first night in San Jose, and an airplane ticket to the coast the next day. (ENTER CREDIT CARD NUMBER HERE).

And now enter, dresses. I had bought some spring clothes from a catalog, and offered a citrus yellow dress to Sarah if she wanted it. (she looks great in yellow!) I told Lauren that I would offer her the same - that is to pay for an inexpensive spring dress. Lauren’s whole face lights up whenever the conversation has the word DRESS (ES) (UP) !!! Girls’ gotta have a dress for the wedding! (LET’S BE DRESS GIRLS!!)

It was Wednesday morning, and the girls were flying out of Fort Lauderdale. Kelly was driving her dad’s SUV and they were using the Park N Fly. “Get there early!:” moms’ recommended. So at 9:00 AM, Sarah, Lauren and Kelly gathered in my living room, with Sarah leading the drill: Passport? CHECK! Money? CHECK! Interspersed with giggles and ohmygawds., ican’tbeleive! and Iwant! I went to work, and periodically throughout the day I would imagine at what stage of travel they would be. About the time they would have taken off from FLL, I logged on to fly and watched the plane land in San Jose.

That evening I received the first of two e-mails from Sarah; the first about their airport to hotel experience, and the second about the nightclub /dinner experience. A co-worked commented that my daughters should learn not to tell their mother everything. I laughed a deep, hearty laugh and said, “you think they are telling me everything?!! I ‘m sure this isn’t HALF OF IT!”

Debbie had booked for them three nights at the Dioria in Tamarindo. I hadn’t heard from them, but no news was good news. The wedding was scheduled for Saturday. Sunday evening I received an e-mail from Sarah telling me that they are in Arenal,(R N pronunciation!) they’ve rented a car, and are looking for Katy and Tony. This was memorial day weekend, tomorrow was a holiday, and I was spending the weekend cleaning out closets and remodeling my bedroom. About 9:00 PM Florida time, I got a call from Debbie. This was unprecedented, as in all the years of all the girls, a late weekend call was unusual. “Hi. Have you heard from them?” I barely spoke the subject of Sarah’s recent e-mail when she said, “ Kelly called me. They want to come home. I don’t know what ‘s going on…” So we talked, Debbie said that Katy (the bride) had her passport stolen from her room and they were scrambling to get to the Embassy in San Jose. We talked a bit about how to reschedule their plane tickets. Debbie said she’d call the airlines in the morning. I went back to the computer and read another e-mail from Sarah, saying ‘their luck had changed, and bags were stolen“. Well of course I had to call Debbie. OMG was the common moniker…does she have her passport? ( I’m telling you what the e-mail says) Where are they staying? ( I don’t know, she didn’t say) We agreed to inform each other of any and everything we heard from anyone , regardless of the hour!

Monday morning, Debbie called me early. She’d received an e-mail from Jane (mother of the bride) that “someone from our party had their passport(s) stolen. The subject line on the e-mail was: Sarah Lauren and Kelly. What’s a mother to think. Jane’s e-mail went on to explain the process and the limited hours at the embassy, and if the girls had their passports stolen, what they needed to do,.

Have I lost you, yet?

At this point, I’m looking for a good long drink….

Debbie called every hotel in La Fortuna. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that office. She coaxed an employee who is fluent in Spanish to assist in the “girls- finding mission.” No luck. Monday rolled on in anxious anticipation for some word from Costa Rica.

Monday eve I get an e-mail from Sarah, and Debbie received one from Kelly. They are in a hostel in La Fortuna. They spent the day doing the zip lines, seeing an Indian Village , riding horses, and visiting a frog and butterfly garden,. It all sounded so lovely! Why were the moms worried?! At this point, the communications began to contradict. I sent Sarah an e-mail saying: What you tell me, and what Kelly tells her mom do not agree: be of one voice and one plan.,

The next morning the e-mail says I guess we’re coming home Wednesday (two days early) and Kelly’s mom is reschedulingthe airfare. BTW, our car keys were in the bag that was stolen, not sure how we’ll get back to the beach.

At about 10:00 Am on Tuesday morning, Debbie called me at work and said she was on her way over to the house (where Sarah and Kelly rent) to look for a spare set of keys to the SUV they left at the Park N Fly. Rather thinking out loud, I mentioned that I have a brother who lives about 10 minutes from the Park N Fly, and maybe we could overnite the keys, should they be found. I offered this before speaking with my brother, and began envisioning all kinds of snafus: Overnite package is delivered, at the wrong address, overnite package is delayed….Overnite package is left without a signature…and on and on.

Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.

Tuesday afternoon , I’m home for lunch and Debbie called to say that she had located the spare set of keys. She brought them by to me, as I said that I would “figure it out” - meaning getting the keys to the car in the Park N Fly. In Fort Lauderdale.

I won’t bore you with the incidental crap of trying to re-arrange last night hotel: Sarah was smart and just rescheduled the one night. I, on the other hand attempted to book one and cancel the other, and it turned out to be quite the cluster fuck. In the end , that all worked out.

On Wednesday morning, at work, I told my boss I had a dilemna and needed to leave early. I guess I’d just drive over to Fort Lauderdale? And…find the car (which is totally strange to me!) and ..leave the keys! Not a wonderful plan. When I asked Sarah to ask Kelly what kind of car and did they know the license plate number, Sarah said it was a silver Ford Escape, but that I could just walk around and press the alarm!

As I said, not a wonderful plan.

I left work around 2:00 in the afternoon. Leaving the beach, I stopped at the 7-11 on the south end to refuel and to buy some Ice Tea. I pulled to the pumps and in front of me was a Lee County Sheriff’s Officer, fuelling his vehicle. I recognized George as the deputy that was assigned to the beach. He was also the deputy that had recovered my bicycle when it was stolen from Town Hall a year or so ago. George was on a cell phone while pumping his gas. By the body language, he wasn’t intent on the phone call, and occasionally waved the phone away from his ear. Finally, he flipped the phone closed and said, “ I’ll tell ya’. If you have gold fillings in your mouth,hang on to ‘em! “ “What?” I responded, as much with my expression as with my voice. “They’re stealing everything these days! “ George said. I joked a little about my mission, as a result of theft, we bid each other good wishes, and headed on to the highway.

The drive across the alley is painless, even for someone like me who doesn’t drive much. 100 miles of straight, flat, dry highway with limited traffic. I recall 30 years ago, when it was a two lane road with no rest stops, no call stations, nothing but everglades and alligators. Alligator Alley. This time, I set the cruise control at 70, popped in an audio tape on the Hobbit, and settled in for the ride.

It’s rather precisely a two hour, twenty minute ride from my house to the Fort Lauderdale Park N Fly. When I got there, I had consumed two 16 oz. bottles of water and a 20 oz Ice Tea. “NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS” was the first thing I saw. (suck it up, Michelle).

The following is an e-mail that best describes what happened next:

I did the round trip to FLL to drop off the keys at the Park N Fly. The folks there were extremely nice. I parked outside the gate and walked in, and right away a woman who seemed to have some experience or authority asked if I needed help. I explained the situation and she said what they usually do is leave the voucher and keys with the booth and when the travelers arrrive, they pick them up there. When I told her I wasn't positive the keys were correct, and wanted to find the vehicle myself, she said (in a very heavy hispanic accent) we don' no where is theese car..." and I said, My daughter said when you drive in, it is to the left. She waved her hand, in a huge semi circle, as if to say, "so large"... and I said, "do you mind if I walk around and look?" to which she willingly agreed. So now I'm looking for Ed's SUV..which I have seen briefly on two occasions, and in passing. Sarah says it's a Ford Escape, silver. I'm walking where I think Sarah indicated it'd be, and I see a silver ford escape, and it has a stethoscope hanging from the rear view mirror. I walked up to the vehicle and clicked the alarm on the 'clicker' (don't know the technical term). Nothing happened, so I peered into the vehicle, and saw things that didn't look like it'd be these girls'. So I continued on. I walked all over the stinkin' lot. One driver - very nice, all smiley, and also very hispanic, asked me was i loo-kin for my ca'? I 'splain'd what was going on, and he grinned, shrugged, and in his own way, said good luck. Sarah had said, when you come in go to the right. Well, she also said, when you come in to the sleep inn, go to the right. Obviously she was tired or confused. So, having completely checked out the right, I walked around the left. At one point, I saw a monkey lumbering through the parking lot. I recall after Hurricane Andrew, hearing about all the exotics that were released from the Miami Zoo, and shortly after Andrew, returning to Ft. Myers Beach after a visit to Hollywood Beach, I saw a monkey off the side of the road, very near what is now the Park N Fly. Anyway, after walking still a good bit, i said to myself, No. Sarah said, Right. So I returned to the right side, and decided to further investigate the one and only Silver Ford Escape. I went to it and tried the doors, the clicker, walked around it. When I looked at the license plate, and the renewal was September of 2008 (I know Ed is December 2008 - a Sagittarius, like moi) and then saw that the license plate holder was from Sawgrass Ford, I was convinced this was the wrong vehicle. I walked further, and saw another Ford Escape. I pressed the alarm on the clicker, and <<voila>>! I tried the key, it fit, I investigated the vehicle, it was certainly correct, the plate was 12 2008, and from Sam Galloway Ford. bingo. I realized that earlier, I had walked right passed this vehicle, but, as I was walking, my foot hit something that drew my attention to the pavement. It was a disposable lighter, no big deal, but, it caused me to walk right passed this. There was the same disposable lighter.

On more than a couple of occasions, I looked at the bushes on the perimeters of the parking lot: it could be so quick! Yet, there were all those surveillance cameras….

I left the key and the voucher on the floor of the car, returned to my car, and headed back across the alley.

I arrived back to the Beach around Sunset. Driving due west at sundown is memorable. I know when I got home.

Several hours later, Sarah called to say they had arrived at Fort Lauderdale Airport, and had I been successful with the keys? I told her where the car was and where the keys were. Within 3 hours, they were home.

For now, this is the end.

But, it’s far from the end!

For now, if you’d like, visit


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