Tuesday, December 16, 2008

costa rica adventures: day one in which shit hits the fan

ok blog readers, let's begin at the beginning. day one. our flight was scheduled to leave at 8 am, and as a punctual person i tow the line and always follow the rule regarding arriving at the airport 2 hours early for international flights. the bolshevik does not believe in this rule. he thinks it's bullshit. but as i was the one booking our cab to newark, i was the one who got to call the shots. the shots being that we arrived at the airport at 5:30 am. okay, so that's a little too early, but better early than late! anyway, my beloved bolshevik was very good humored about the whole thing and proceeded to lightheartedly poke fun at me as we waited in line to check in. of course, that was before we made it to the counter and i was told i was not allowed on the plane.

say what?!

that's right. the woman at the continental airlines counter told me i was not allowed on the plane. you are probably asking yourselves, "but why, miss dewey decimal? surely you are an upstanding citizen who should be allowed on commercial aircrafts?" well, i would tend to agree with you (except for the time i shouted out "we're all going to die" in a particularly scary bit of turbulence. but in my defense it really was some scary turbulence. and that was years ago. pre-9/11).

anyway, the reason i was not allowed on the plane is because my passport is expiring soon. now of course i checked my passport expiration date before i left, and it doesn't expire until the end of the month. so i deduced that since it wasn't expired at the time that i was leaving, nor would it be expired by the time i returned, then i was okay. but apparently, having your passport be close to expiring is just as good as having it actually be expired. this leads me to wonder what the point is of even having an expiration date at all if your passport can be considered "invalid" before it has actually expired. and according to the lovely staff at continental airlines this is information i should have looked up on my own. i should have wondered if travelling with a passport that wasn't actually expired would be a problem. oh yeah, that seems so likely.

so the arguments went something like this:
continental airlines staff: well, it is up to the traveler to make sure all their documents are valid.
me: but it is valid! it doesn't expire until the end of the month!
continental airlines staff: it is the traveler's responsibility to make sure that their documents are valid in regards to the country they are travelling to.
me: but why would i even think that my non-expired passport may be a problem?
continental airlines staff: it's the traveler's responsibility ....
and so on and so on.

so then the continental woman started printing out the bolshevik a boarding pass! like the bolshevik would just go to costa rica without me! i believe i shouted something like, "he's not going to costa rica without me!" to which the bolshevik nodded in agreement, and then she put the bolshevik on a standby flight for 5 pm that day. but she refused to put me on a stand-by flight, saying that she couldn't because my passport is "expired." then we proceeded to get into the above-mentioned argument all over again.

fast forward to 7:00 am when the bolshevik and i took a cab from newark airport to the passport agency in downtown manhattan. i got some passport pictures taken at a bodega next door (seriously, is there anything you can't get at a bodega?) then the woman at the passport agency told me that i cannot get an "emergency passport" unless i have proof of my intent to travel (and my ticket for a plane that left newark 5 minutes prior to this conversation was not proof enough). so we went through the back and forth of how i can't get on a flight roster without a passport, and i can't get a passport until i'm on a flight roster. grrrrrr.

but finally after a call to continental, i got some very helpful person to officially put me and the bolshevik on the standby flight and she promised to email me the flight info asap. back to the bodega where, for a small fee, i was able to check my email and then print out my travel itinerary. seriously, i heart bodegas.

i was told i could return at noon for my shiny new passport, so the bolshevik and i tried to kill some time in the big bad city. did i mention it was cold and rainy that day? did i mention that we were dressed like two people who were only lightly layered because they assumed they'd be on a plane to costa rica? anyway, the bolshevik and i had a very nice breakfast, then did some shopping at macys. of course everywhere we went people assumed that we were tourists, as we had our luggage in tow. "oh, are you visiting new york? where are you from?" they'd ask. "no," we'd answer sadly, "we're from brooklyn ... it's a long story."

by 1 pm i had my passport in hand, but we still had several hours to kill before our flight. running out of things to do, we decided to catch a movie. it was while we were in the movie theater that i realized my ankle was getting really hivey. now, i had been hive free for a few weeks, but i think the stress of the morning's ordeal had brought them back out again. by the time we got to the airport my whole ankle was swollen. and it was around this time that i realized i only had enough cortisone for the length of my trip. no extra cortisone for this kind of emergency. what was i thinking? i mean, growing up my mom had a whole pharmacy of prescription drugs in her purse at all times. why hadn't i been more prepared?

we made our 5 pm flight, and by the time we landed in costa rica it was about 11 pm and we were completely exhausted. i hobbled behind the bolshevik with my swollen hivey ankle, and as we made our way to the car rental counter, i cursed myself silently for having ruined our vacation. we lost a day because of me, and it looked as though i'd be all hivey and annoying. why would someone as awesome as the bolshevik want to hang around with me? obviously, i am nothing but problems.

the car rental guys explained to us that the area we were going to, santa elena, was several hours drive and that the roads there are really bad and there was a bridge out and pretty much we would be crazy to attempt going there that night. they also told us that it would be completely impossible for us to drive to santa elena in the compact car that we reserved. to sum up, if we wanted to make it to santa elena alive we'd need an SUV and we'd need to drive said SUV the following morning. so we agree that we would upgrade to an SUV, and we even decided to pay an extra $8/day for a GPS.

then (this is the awesome part) they offered to drive us to a hotel nearby and offered to pick us up after breakfast, and rent us the SUV then (thus saving us one whole day of car rental fees). how nice is that? so they drive us (for free) to a cheap but clean hotel nearby, telling us they will pick us up at 8 am (for free) after we've had our complimentary breakfast.

so we're driven down all these windy rocky streets with small one-level houses with roofs made of corrugated metal, and we approach these big doors that look like they hide the operational headquarters of a drug cartel behind them. but when they opened up and we were let inside, we saw a lovely tropical garden and a small brightly colored hotel.

once in our room i soaked my hivey ankle in cold water (just an aside: the showers in costa rica are like 4 times the size of showers in the US. several people could have soaked their hivey ankles in this shower and had plenty of room), and i decided to take my entire stash of cortisone in hopes of ridding myself of hives through a drastic pharmaceutical counter attack.

and finally, after about 19 hours of travel mishaps, we fell asleep in our first cost rican hotel room.

... to be continued ...


Peonys said...

I've been looking forward to hearing about your trip.

I am with you that it seems like you should be able to use your passport up to the date that it expires. I would've been fuming as well.

I am glad, though, that it all worked out. I would think if that whole scenario played out here at Albany International it wouldn't have been as do-able.

I look forward to the rest... with photos.

*Bitch Cakes* said...

What an ordeal!! I would have lost my mind at that airport if that happened to me! I am so glad you made it there safely. Can I assume you blogged this from a Costa Rican bodega? ;)

Have fun, Ms Dewey Decimal!!

rowan said...

i had no idea about the passport business. will double-check mine before i travel again. how annoying.

and very cool meeting you the other nite. i think my exterminator saw my porn dvds piled up. what a perv he must think me.