SWMBO flew from the frozen North back to South Puffin Saturday. It was an Adventure.
United Flight 3868
Status: Delayed due to a late inbound aircraft arrival (Estimated Departure 54 Minutes Late)
“The Guard was flying, though,” she said, smiling. “I got to sit in a rocking chair on the second floor and watch them touch-and-go.” The Vermont Air National Guard also flies from Burlington International.
The late aircraft was a making the loop from Newark to Burlington, Vermont, and back, something they do day in and day out. Maybe they lost their directions.
The story gets worse. Long before we drove south, SWMBO booked herself a United 4894/United 1242 flight so she (coulda shoulda) leave Burlington at 1:45 p.m. and arrive in Florida at 7:33 that same evening. Almost perfect scheduling. About a month later, without so much as a by your leave, United changed her to a pair of new United flights, 3868/1730. That combination was to leave Burlington at 3:30 p.m. and arrive in Florida at 10:33. Then they changed her Burlington departure time five times on Saturday alone. #3 was an hour and twenty minutes late but they moved it back to the 54 minutes with #4 and then to an hour and eleven minutes about eight minutes before #4’s scheduled takeoff.
Meanwhile, I had a little list.
I don’t get off the rock all that often and I certainly don’t go back to the United States more than every month or two when I’m here in South Puffin. Our shopping opportunities here are limited. Marathon does have a Kmart and a Dollar Store but there is no Costco, no Sears, no Target, and no WalMart (Cuba is closer than Wally). SWMBO likes a couple of WalMart store brand items. And none of the stores here sell Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi™. Some things are worth driving for.
The Homestead WalMart was out of Anne’s requests and nobody had Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi™. I did buy a bunch of other stuff but I ended up in line at WalMart an hour before her plane was supposed to land.
That’s when the woman ahead of me in line needed help with her Epson Salts.
See, WalMart had dropped the brand she liked. She brought her empty and three big bags of the competitors up to the register with hopes the cashier could tell the difference. I stepped in when the cashier picked up the phone to call someone from that department.
“May I look?” I asked.
The shopper handed me the bags. I studied the ingredients carefully for 3.2 nanoseconds. “This one is the same, I said.”
She bought it.
Sometimes I love being a consultant.
After all the Fly United shenanigans, Anne made the second leg with time to spare. It landed almost half an hour early. After all the Fly United and the WalMart shenanigans, I was more than half an hour late. Sheesh.
On the other hand, we were so late, she was OK with trying another store in Pembroke Pines to get the stuff I hadn’t found in Homestead. It was nicer, faster, cleaner and had everything on the list but the Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi™.
It’s a 280 mile round trip to the airport. I started with three-quarters of a tank of gas in the truck, so I was ready to refill when we got back to Homestead at 12:45 ayem or so. The South Puffin gas station sign showed $2.309/gallon when I pulled out. I carefully monitored the prices on the way up. $2.329 and up around Islamorada and Key Largo. A couple of stations advertised $2.299. An Exxon in Florida City was the cheapest at $2.259 so I had planned to stop there.
Pulled in to the brightly lighted gas station. At that hour of the day, I had my choice of pumps so I took the one closest to the station door. Ran my credit card. Did the usual. Put the pump nozzle in the tank filler. Pushed the grade button. [BLINK] [BLINK] [BLINK] [BLINK]. Uh oh.
I pushed buttons for a while with no change. That’s when I walked over to the station door and saw the little “CLOSED” sign.
The good news is that when I hung the nozzle back up, the pump asked if I wanted a receipt.
And my receipt show a sale of $0.00, so Yay.
The Mobil Mart across the street advertised $2.279 so I went there as my second choice. I do wonder about the difference in price between the Exxon-Mobil station on one corner and the Mobil-Exxon on the other, but that’s another story. There were people milling around and a couple of cars there, so I figured the other station was fine.
I again took the pump closest to the mini-mart door. Ran my credit card. Did the usual. The pump screen flashed the message “See Attendant.” Uh oh.
The milling people had coalesced into a small crowd of homeless men and women gathered in the parking lot. One took a moment from their social media site to ask me for a nickle. “Even four cents would do it,” he said.
Sorry. I have no change in my pockets at all, I said, rattling my shorts and making no jingling sounds.
The attendant and I tried my card again inside. This time the retailer got a “declined” message and I knew exactly what had happened. Visa had robotically seen this odd set of purchases and blocked the card. I called the 800 number, punched in my card number, my brother’s mother’s name, and the birth weight of my first puppy. Visa unblocked the card.
The homeless folk were interfacing with another group in the opposing parking lot across the street. One man broke away from my group to show me that he had red paint dripping from his hand. “It looks like paint,” he said, “but it’s too sticky.” He asked for a quarter.
The fact that he also had a penknife in his other hand made me think it might not be actual paint.
I didn’t have any change for him, either.
As I walked across the lane to my truck to resume pumping, I heard my new friend shout across the street, “I’ll stick you like I stuck him. He didn’t get up, you know.”
SWMBO had long since locked the truck doors so it was pump gas or walk for me. I pumped 16.25 gallons for $37.00.
An ambulance whooped up while I was looking for the non-existent windshield squeegee at the station. Two police cars followed. I drove out without further incident.
I told my tale to a friend on the beach yesterday. She was amazed.
“But you saved three cents on gas,” she said.