March 1-16 – The run-up

Hoo Baby, those last two weeks were a ride.  After a very quiet two years in the travel business, punctuated by cancellations and re-books, all hell broke loose and we’re traveling again.  Not to Russia, mind you, and certainly not to the poor, brave Ukraine, but, we’re traveling.  It’s not exactly optional in winter, when you live in Montreal.  Here’s St. Catherine Street from the wheel of Marc’s car on February 19.  Marc is my neighbor.  He’s in Revelstoke, you see.

Before I could go off for three weeks, I had to attend to any and all business for the first half of this year, and book anything anyone wanted, because cruises for ’22 and ’23 are filling up.  (Commercial Break:  If you didn’t get a booking in and you meant to, just email me.  I can book anything from anywhere, these days.  Especially contact me while I am on board if you want to book Oceania.  Most cruise lines extend the on-board future cruise deals to clients of travel agents on board.  I’ll let you know about the deals as I am offered them but, meanwhile, it can’t hurt to go to, and fish around.  End of commercial.)

So, I booked, cruises, air, hotels, cars and drivers, insurance, the works, and lots of it.  I was at my computer for eight hours a day, minimum, 7 days a week, except for the day I went to Laval to see Rod and Claude’s new place.  Luckily, I thrive on work.  The last two days at home, I made deposits or final payments on 14 staterooms, to give you an idea. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

I finished packing, did a couple of last bits of travel work, popped out for a COVID test, and almost had it all together when Robbie’s staff rang the doorbell at three.  The taxi arrived then, too, so the last-minute house tour was pretty quick.  Karen and Paul live in Toronto.  They came by train and rolled their luggage (underground) from Central Station, through Place Ville Marie, The Eaton Centre, Montreal Trust, Simons, into Cours Mt Royal, and up the elevator.  I got into the taxi at 3:20 pm and was at the airport by 3:45, thanks to the HOV lanes. 

While I was standing in the security line, I checked a client in to a flight.  See what I mean about working anywhere?  It’s all wonderful, but you never stop.  Security took away my 250ml bottle of Listerine.  I should have known better.  I’ll get used to traveling with carry-on only.  I managed this one, by having Distinctive Voyages sending the folders, letterhead, etc. directly to Neville and Peggy Muschett’s house in Fort Lauderdale.  I was also rather interestingly attired in indoor boots, which will double as sneakers for the trip, a large, warm cashmere shawl, and the old light raincoat, that I got in HK, back when I lived there.  Lots of versatility, minimal space.

When I checked it, I sprang for business class, for another $320.  I’m still nervous about flying sardine can, and there’s some slack in my travel budget.  Ya think?  Business class was only half full, so I felt very safe and got right to work.  I had downloaded all the documents I needed for my assignment.  So I could set to work, getting the manifest the way I wanted it, setting up the mail merges, creating a check list of what to do on boarding, scripting the welcome broadcast and the cocktail party speech, etc.  I barely had time to eat and had to chug the last few sips of my ONE glass of wine, before we landed in Fort Lauderdale. 

Neville and Peggy Muschett were at the airport to meet me.  My B & B comes with chauffeur service.  I have known them over 50 years.  We all worked together at IBM and had the best Bridge eight-some ever, back in the day.  We played the entire card – 7 rounds of 4 games.  We started around 7pm on a Saturday night, played bridge and drank until about 1am and THEN, we ate.  Good stuff, too. We were always trying to out-do each other and still have it just pop out of the oven at 1am.  This was way before you could just buy the meal and heat it up.  It was the early days of TV dinners and we had too much self-respect to serve the likes of those.  We made it all, from scratch, and it was all good.  Not that we would have cared after all we drank, but it was.  We got to know each other very well, who could fart the loudest, who would try to grope you under the table, and important stuff like that.  This is how you make best friends.

I had only one glass of wine at dinner, so I could have a scotch on arrival, and I did.  And off to bed we went, because it was way after midnight and we’re old now. 

Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day

So much for the “Kiss me I’m Irish” button.  The business of the day was getting a COVID test.  I had a PCR booked at a CVS, but it was for Thursday and we figured it might be a good idea to move it up a day, or get an Antigen, to fit into COVID’s ever changing rules, as interpreted by Oceania.  They must have sent us six sets of rules, all slightly different.  So, Neville and I went off to CVS and talked to the pharmacist.  He had the time to do it and would have, but CVS has rules, and he couldn’t.  I could come at 9:30 tomorrow morning, though, which would give me a pretty good chance of having the results by the time I boarded at noon on Saturday. 

Then we went cruising around the ‘hood and found a pop-up testing tent.  We both got PCR tests and I got an antigen test, too, just in case.  The results would come in by email and text.  This baby iguana was just around the side of the strip mall, from the pop-up testing place. 

It was Spring Break, and St. Paddy’s day, but we were going to eat outside.  Neville and Peggy had wanted to try Lucky Fish, a new place at Pompano Beach, which friends of theirs had recommended.  It was fun, live music: good but too loud, great Margarita, bar food: I had popcorn shrimp and poke – two appetizers – yummy.  After dinner we walked out to the end of the new pier and it was just magic.  I wanted a picture of the three of us but it was too dark, even with the full moon.  I’ll get one tonight.  I promise. 

Friday, March 19, 2022

No email, no text, no results.  Oh, dear.  So Neville took me to CVS for 9:30 am and I took another PCR test.  They didn’t charge for the first one, because I had Medicare, and if they charge this one, I am going to claim it on my Canadian medical insurance.  They don’t know I’m also American. 

Then we went back to the pop-up place, where it was a different guy from yesterday.  He wasn’t very friendly and tried to blame me for not having the email, as in “Did you check your spam?” (“stupid old white lady”, implied).  We both remained sweet and calm, something neither of is in real life, and he softened up.  He found a way to do that which he had said he could not, and I have the results of the Antigen, at least, which will be enough to get me on the ship.  Neville, who can say this stuff because he’s from Jamaica and 10% black, said that was an example of an NWA.  For me, that’s a new name for Robbie, replacing the also politically incorrect LBB.  But look at him: