It all began when someone overfilled the crapper.
I couldn’t make this up if I tried, so you’re going to have to trust me when I say that I’ve never seen anything like this happen before. E and I had just boarded the plane for our three-or-so-hour flight to Punta Cana, DR for our honeymoon. She’d been up since 6, because she’d chosen to sleep the night before and pack in the morning; I, on the other hand, stayed up well into the morning, packing clothes and then putting together our new dining room table, because these are the kinds of things my mind wants me to do at midnight. Still, in our varied states of rested, we crammed into our Swift Airlines seats and readied for take-off.
Then rows 21 and back were asked to leave the plane. There was something wrong with the lavatory in the back of the plane and it needed to be fixed. All others were invited to remain seated while the situation was remedied. E and I, of seats 8E and F, respectively, sat patiently, reading and otherwise passing what I assumed would be a quick fix.
After about 30 minutes, our scheduled flight time had passed. The crew began to inform the other passengers that deplaning was allowed, so long as a boarding pass was obtained. Neither E nor I budged; time ticked on.
More help started to arrive. A man with a long extension cable. Another with your standard issue shop vac. The crew passed out complementary adult beverages to satiate the muttering masses inside the cabin. To the credit of my fellow passengers, nobody really seemed to grow restless or discouraged, and most were in good humor, likely because even if it took a while, the final destination of our flight that day was leading us all to multiple days of relaxation and all the food and beverages we could consume.
No matter how bad the crapper situation got, it’s hard to ruin the anticipation of that magnitude.
Finally, about more than an hour and a half, the aforementioned men came back down the aisle, shop vac (fully of who knows what) man first, then cord man, wrapping over/under; and eventually, the rest of the passengers, who were swiftly ushered back into their seats to get the departure procedures underway. We were now closer to our scheduled arrival time than our expected departure time, but the general mood of the cabin was spirited: we were all just happy to finally not be sitting in a hot airplane going nowhere.
The pilot finally introduced himself, made a lighthearted joke about how you’d feel if you had overfilled the toilet on your first day of work (Apparently a new crew member at the airport had not realized there was a difference between a 5-gallon and 10-gallon capacity toilet, and had gone ahead and filled our plane’s to ten. You can imagine the problems that would cause), and promised he’d get us to Punta Cana as quickly as he could, a promise he’d make good on. The flight itself was pleasant enough—smooth and easy, which is always my favorite type of flight conditions—but E and I both observed later that the passengers were some of the loudest we’d ever seen on an airplane. To be fair, nobody was doing anything stupid or acting foolish, but it seemed like everyone either had someone to talk to (loudly) or quickly found someone to talk to (still loudly), and the cacophony of noise reverberated throughout the cabin. It wasn’t rave-levels of craziness or anything, but the constant sound of conversation murmured throughout the entire flight (oh, and ironically, the gentlemen sitting next to me, who had basically introduced himself by complaining about the size of the seat, spent most of the flight turned toward his wife across the aisle and another women sitting across the aisle and behind him, effectively pushing part of his sizable butt into my seat…I just had to roll my eyes at the whole thing).
But if you thought that was fun, the crazy really hit the moment we landed in the Dominican Republic.
The Punta Cana International Airport is unlike any I’ve ever seen. It’s very open air—much like most places in the country, I’d come to find out—with thatched roofs and no real gates. Upon arrival, we exited the plane directly onto the runway and were bused the short distance to the line for customs and check-in, then we were cattled over to the baggage claim, where the workers had already shuffled all the suitcases off the plane and into the airport. While your standard issue conveyor belt was situated in the center of the baggage claim area, it was hardly in use; all the bags from our flight had been placed in a nice little clump by the time we got through customs.
The problem was that neither E nor myself could see our suitcase. We’d packed in a single suitcase in order to avoid paying for two (one of the “perks” of the company we’d booked the vacation with), and I’d thought we were being economical and clever about the whole thing. And yet the downside.
After a minute or two of walking in circles, trying to check other claim areas and being told there were more bags yet to come, it became exceedingly clear that the latter was not the case. And so we were escorted over to a desk by a congenial young man who politely told us, in the first of many broken-English conversations for the week, that our luggage was still in Charlotte. Normally having baggage in Charlotte wouldn’t be but a minor inconvenience. But seeing as we were in the Dominican Republic and had in our possession literally zero other items of clothing, this was a pretty major issue.
I should mention that every time I fly, I walk off the plane with anxiety of the unknown. Trepidation is high, and I almost always assume that my luggage has jumped planes and took its own vacation to somewhere more exotic than I was headed. The irony of the fact that the first time this ever happens was when I was actually landing somewhere exotic is not lost on me.
Anyway, the nice young man tells us the next flight from Charlotte is coming in Monday afternoon, and that he will see to it personally that our luggage will be driven directly to our hotel, and even implies that he will drop it off at our room himself. As a sign of good faith, he even provides us with his direct telephone number (a number we’d soon find didn’t work at all) and asks us to call him with our room number as soon as we arrive at the hotel.
To say that this added to our already long day would be understatement number one for the week. Rather than being able to go to our room and shower off the travel grime, put on fresh clothes, grab a bit to eat, maybe hit the pool before the day was done, E and I were left with the realization that we needed a back up plan if we wanted to participate in anything for the first two days of our trip.
We finally arrived at our hotel much closer to dinner time than we’d expected, and even more exhausted than we’d wanted to be. Checking into the hotel wasn’t an issue, and the dinner buffet was in full force by the time we arrived, meaning if nothing else, we would be able to get a good meal and eventually a bed to sleep on for the night. My proactive nature also led me to spend a good chunk of our first evening trying to figure out how to get somewhere so we could buy some clothes. This yielded two results:
First, our resort had, like I imagine most resorts do, a gift shop, with t-shirts, bathing suits and other knick knacks to take with you and share with family back at home (the sort of “haha, we went on vacation and all you got was this lousy photo frame” type of stuff), which solved most of our issues, minus at least one: underwear. But for that, we were told we could take a bus to San Juan, a shopping center about 20-minutes from the hotel, where we might be able to solve the rest of our issues.
I should stop here and admit that I had expectations regarding my honeymoon, probably some that I’ve built up over years and years of hearing stories or watching too much television or too many movies. In short, I’d assumed the whole thing would be a magical time, where we’d both be happy all the time and all our preferences and things we wanted or needed would be secondary to us spending our time together. I admit this, because otherwise it will seem foolish for me to be shockingly admitting that our honeymoon was not those things. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has traveled with someone they love, but being on vacation does not mean that the person you are goes away. If you get mad about certain things or frustrated by others, if those things pop up on vacation, no matter the purpose of said trip, they will bother you or anger you or make you sad or whatever on vacation.
I should also mention that this does not mean that the entire trip was like this. Most of it was not, but I got frustrated by the normalcy of my feelings towards E and the world around me. An embarrassing example:
While we were shopping the Sunday after our arrival, my expectation was that E would get a bathing suit so that we could go in the pool or do something before our stuff arrived. It didn’t have to be fancy, just something to get her through the first two days. I did not express this, but internally I allowed myself to get more and more exasperated by the fact that she didn’t seem to be taking the shopping process seriously, all without uttering a word to her. So when she said she wanted to get some food at this little rinky dink shopping mall (complete with the tiniest IKEA of all time), and asked me if it was okay if we got food from the Wendy’s inside, I got mad; mostly because I’m an idiot, but also because of silly things like not eating at a place we could eat all the time. And also because of the bathing suit thing.
E, you see, is more optimistic about things than I am. I was looking at this shopping trip as a final destination—very much we either get stuff there or that was the end, or “assume our luggage never comes” type of thoughts; while she saw none of those things—this was something we were doing to get by for a time. Also, to be fair, I never said anything about the bathing suit or the frustration until I was already mad about the Wendy’s thing; this is a dumb thing I do, and something I’m realizing needs to stop unless I intend to drive both myself and E crazy for the rest of our lives.
Anyway, I can tell this story because it is my own fault and I am the one who comes across as a failure. It’s only right, because my lovely wife is somehow perfecting herself and I am getting stuck in my ways. In some ways, I’m even older than I actually am.
A great deal of other details happened of note on our trip. We walked on the bottom of the ocean (although I bailed before the trip was over, because the pressure underneath the water was getting too much for me, and, I’ll admit it, I panicked more than I needed to); we swam with very docile sharks (who mostly just sat on the bottom of the water, minding their own business); we ate splendidly, especially at the specialty restaurants at our resort; we slept on a king sized bed (eventually stirring us to trade up on our own bed at home) that was probably the firmest mattress I’ve ever slept on; and we mostly just tried to relax as best we could.
I won’t continue with specific stories, mostly because that would get boring after a while, and this is already a pretty long post. Here’s what I did find out: the person I am all the time, regardless of how tropical or otherwise the location may be. The thing is, I’m not sure this is a terrible realization to take on just a few weeks into marriage. You see, our life, for better or worse, is going to heavily built upon transitions. We’ll move in and out of school years, in and out of vacations, all that, quite consistently. So I think it’s okay to sit back and collect these thoughts, file them away for later use; because they are going to be useful. It was great to get away for that week in Punta Cana, but I believe the recalibration of my brain was the most important part of the entire thing; and I don’t anticipate that being something that ever stops from here on out.