Its a two hour journey on a bad day from the port of Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala to the capital city airport. Today it took three.
I arrived nonetheless with two other entertainers with whom I had just spent an enjoyable and successful three days on the Celebrity Infinity… still full of the joys. Because I was flying to Miami. Direct. And in three hours time I would have two nights and a full day and a half to myself, to do what I wanted…See friends, shop, have a cheeky vino or two before joining the awesome celebrity Equinox in Miami for the last cruise of four in a row. For those of you who have read my previous commentaries you’ll know I am always very fond of my albeit short but sweet stays in the South of Florida. Having joined and left ships here during the winter months for the last three or four years I have accumulated a lot of great friends in the area and my knowledge of outlet shopping is akin to a local. So I was excited, despite the lengthy commute and the early start.
I trundled along to the American Airline self check machines and after several fruitless attempts I had to call on a member of staff for help. Very pleasantly he tried himself twice to access my booking and there was no joy. He kindly helped me with my copious luggage (yup… still travelling with all those shoes) to a customer service desk where it transpired there had been an issue with the booking and it had been cancelled.
I wasn’t worried. These things happen. Oversights usually, so I called my agent in the UK who was heading out of the office and asked him to help.
Eric, the comedy magician I had been travelling with approached me with a puzzled expression…
“Whats going on?’ he enquired. His glances towards the luggage I was still in possession of, clearly causing him confusion.
“Don’t worry” I explained “Little hiccup. I’m on with it. My agent will be sorting it out for me. Listen, you head through departures and I’ll see you shortly. We are both very hungry and I don’t want to keep you waiting. I have no idea how long this is going to take”
Last night I had performed a ‘one off’ kind of show in the Grand Foyer of the ship. It was well attended and very enjoyable but because of the time of the show, my inability to eat food before I sing and the ludicrously early time our pick up for the airport had been scheduled for, I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours.
“I don’t like leaving you… you sure you’ll be ok?” he asked ever so gallantly. ‘Want an emergency protein bar?”
“Thanks but no I’m fine. We’ll eat properly soon. I’ll be there annoying you shortly” I assured him. We had been scheduled to take the same flight and I had every intentions of bugging him the entire way to Miami with my childlike excitement.
Ten minutes later my agent called back.
“Your booking was cancelled Jayne but they have booked you another flight. Have you got a pen??”
Theres no public wifi in the Departure hall of Guatemala Airport so I had resorted to texting and calls. It had already cost me a fortune.
“Your flight is now at 4pm. Via Panama City and you’ll arrive in Miami at 1am tonight”
My heart sank.
As regular readers will know, I am a ‘Person of Interest’ in the immigration system in the States due to a misunderstanding with my ESTA earlier this year. I am now in possession of not one but TWO legitimate visa’s which allow me unlimited entries to the States for ten years… but I‘m still in the system regardless and EVERY TIME I enter through Miami airport I am detained. For anywhere up to four hours.
My early evening arrival had meant that regardless of my fate on this particular day.. I would be in bed at a reasonable time and ready to have Breakfast with friends and pound the pavements of the ‘Miami Dolphin Mall’ earlier than the first cock crows. Not that I had ever heard a cock crow in Miami.
This was going to be tough. A 1am arrival. Then join a line to learn my fate. I wasn’t relishing it. But I was trying to remain positive.
When I find myself in these situations I usually try to take a minute to think about all the awesome experiences this job has afforded me. It takes the sting out of the tail a bit.
I have been out on cruises now since October 28th when I joined the splendid Celebrity Eclipse in Southampton for her transatlantic repositioning cruise to the States. It was seven consecutive days at sea and whilst the weather can be unpredictable and the many sea days a little weary, this time it was exactly the opposite. I’m fortunate enough to have an excellent working relationship with the cruise director Eddy, and he and I had met a month or so previous to discuss a few Ideas I had come up with to add to the entertainment programme and make the whole experience a little more eventful and rewarding for the guests and the other entertainers. He gave me the thumbs up and whilst it was an inordinate amount of work and I found myself either on stage, in rehearsal or in the shower for the entire duration of the trip, I seldom remember a trip I enjoyed more. It had ignited a fire in me… my creative juices had been flowing and the feedback and positivity it had stimulated catapulted me towards the rest of these subsequent back to back contracts with a vigour I haven’t felt for a long while.
From there I had been to Celebrity Reflection in Roatan Honduras, where I had spent a night in a beautiful and tranquil hotel on a diving lagoon, perfect for rest and relaxation and an opportunity to recoup some energy before the next ship and a new set of shows. It was not ideal however, for pest avoidance… It was my fault… I had left open the balcony door for too long and I woke the next morning in abject horror to discover that I had been bitten to death by a mosquito. But only on my right boob… which was now accurately akin to a squashed Blueberry muffin. Not attractive.
From Reflection I had headed to Celebrity Infinity in Puerta Vallarta Mexico and from whence I was currently making my way to Miami.
Buoyed by these thoughts of the past few weeks, I shuffled over to the ‘Copa Airlines’ desk to check in for my new ‘around the houses’ version of my previous route only to be told the ticket hadn’t been paid for.
Not a problem. Another call to my agent in the UK and all was sorted. However, Copa have a strict policy about flying into the US and because I had no exiting flight details or any paperwork they deemed official enough to allow me board the ship in the States, they refused to check me in.
Several more calls to my agent in the UK and a two hour wait and finally I was issued with a boarding pass.
By this point I don’t mind telling you I was a little frazzled. My correspondences with the UK had racked up to over £100 and knowing the other acts were now somewhere around 35,000 feet on their way directly to Miami made me feel envious and a little sad I’m not proud to say. One more incident in customs with being shoved to the back of the line and my patience had evaporated.
I dragged myself to the nearest bar.
“I need a beer. Its an emergency” I told the bar tender and she smiled and poured me cup. My eyes were hot and red as i gobbled the first mouthful.
I finally got online and managed to message Steve who had understandably been worrying as I had been sending him text messages as the drama had unfolded.
“I can’t talk right now. I’m too upset. Let me just have this beer and calm down” I wrote
“Whats happened? Are you ok? Are you SAFE??”
And I realised at that moment what an irritating drama queen I was being. This is NOT a big deal. In the grand scheme of things I stand to be a little inconvenienced. My plans for a hotel evening of CNN’s ‘Anderson Cooper’ and Chinese take away food in little cardboard boxes like they have in American sit coms might have been kiboshed, but so what? I was safe.
It took me the duration of the plastic glass of beer (yes I AM a glass snob but today I was so not bothered) to rationalise the entire situation. And on boarding the aircraft I decided I was going to spend this next extra two airborne hours thinking about the highlights of the last two weeks….
The pop up jam night in Martini bar on Eclipse, getting to sing AND dance with some of the cast in a show I got to produce called ‘Duets’… a fantastic day in Boston sharing every kind of food conceivable in Quincy Market with some very good friends and a mini tour of the Irish bars…catching up with pals on Reflection, a lovely dinner in Tuscan grille with guests who travel with me regularly and then another in the Porch seafood restaurant with another couple from Belgium I have known for years. And the beautifully gift wrapped Belgian chocolates they had given me. A shore excursion to the rainforest in Costa Rica… seeing Sloths and Vipers and Herons in their natural habitat and tasting Pineapple that had been hanging on a tree only hours before…sweeter than I ever dreamed plausible… Joshua the dive instructor from ‘Barefoot Cay’ the hotel in Roatan, who drove me to the immigration office from the hotel and carried my luggage all the way to the ship for me.
I came to my seat ( a middle seat) and the gentleman in the aisle seat offered to switch with me.
“Really? How kind of you!” I exclaimed. “Thats the first nice thing that has happened to me today”
“Oh No!” he said in perfect English… “What’s happened?”
I told him and I felt foolish.
He empathised with me and ooo’d and aaahhhh’d in all the right places. He was very sweet.
He told me he would be taking his first cruise this year.
“Oh do you work on Cruise Ships too?” I asked. His English was so good I thought he would have been an excellent International Host.
“No No I work in a bank. There are 60 of my colleagues on this flight. We are going to the Dominican Republic tomorrow on a trip with the bank”
“Oh how nice!” I offered”
“It is” He said “especially as 50 out of the 60 of us have never been on a plane before”
I was stunned. And shamed. And altogether put right back in my proper place.
How dare I moan.
I have been paid to see the entire globe. I’m the luckiest person I know.
It doesn’t matter HOW LONG it takes me to get to Miami. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get there today at all. I am SO fortunate. I am so lucky. And this guy has just given ME his seat.
Consider my attitude shifted.
I attract calamity I think. Often times I worry its because I am not organised enough (though I try very hard to be) or I am simply doing too many things at once.
Just this summer on two consecutive cruises I went to the Celebrity Silhouette in Helsinki without A SINGLE PAIR of knickers but with SIX bras…..HOW???
And the cruise previous I had ended up on a train from Bruges to Amsterdam leaving one ship and joining another and after getting into an argument on the platform with a very rude ticket collector, had been forced to ride the whole way there sat in the luggage rack.
What I sometimes forget are examples like the generosity of the ‘Baker’ family from Matlock, Derbyshire who allowed me to share their cab to Bruges from the port when I couldn’t get one so I didn’t miss my train, or the passengers on the Silhouette who bought extra CD’s because they knew that I would have to buy knickers in Stockholm which is one of the most expensive cities in Europe.
Never underestimate the magnitude of human kindness, It will bite you in the bum when you least expect it.
(Post Script… as I write this I am on the plane to Panama and I have just been given my airplane food… PIZZA! Plantain chips, Oreo’s and BEER!! Is this the best airplane meal EVER???????)