Once upon a time, about a year ago, two girls decided to go to San Francisco for a an entire night of writing dangerously – hosted, as you may have guessed, by the NaNoWriMo team.
Then NaNoWriMo cancelled their conference, breaking our hearts, causing endless tears (read: Jacinta) and hurling us into the depths of despair.
What can mend a broken heart? Could a great deal of sunlight, shenanigans, and a tropical ocean come close?
We weren’t sure, but by golly we were up for trying! It was a sacrifice, but one we were willing to make.
Shortly thereafter, a cruise to the Bahamas was booked. (ha! Get it? BOOKED!)
Many months went by, with very little planning, and then, suddenly, it was upon us! We realized we needed to let our husbands know of our plans. (They were bitter, but willing to let us go…conditionally)
As the week approached, Abby decided to shine with her ability to pack ahead of time and was ready with two days to spare. Jacinta, on the other hand, chose to put it off until the night before and (of course), ended up perfectly packed whereas Abby (of course) ended up forgetting one of the most vital items (but that comes later).
Enter Wednesday. Abby’s flight was scheduled to leave at 11:59 PM (always one up for an adventure, she had opted for a red-eye, while Vanilla Jacinta chose a 6:00 AM Thursday flight). Abby should have guessed something was going to go wrong when her flight was delayed, ostensibly to 12:35am, but in reality 1-something AM, landing at the ungodly hour of 7:30 AM (5:30 her time, but who’s counting?).
Jacinta, valiantly forgoing complaining of her 4 hours of sleep (deeply considerate of Abby’s less than 1 hour), arrived in a timely manner, picked up her baggage, and, with oblivious delight, waited for Abby to traverse the entire airport to come to her.
We know it is hard to believe, but once we secured transportation to the hotel (which took work, but we are strong, independent women, so we accomplished it), there was not a lot of drama until we decided it was 9:45 and far past time for breakfast.
Accordingly, we approached the front desk and asked for recommendations for places within walking distance, since apparently the “go-anywhere-within-a-three-mile-radius-shuttle” was not available until after 11:00. After much hemming and hawing and looking at each other, the three ladies at the desk, acknowledged a Burger King within walking distance and somewhat reluctantly gave directions of “beyond the fence, under the bridge, and turn right”. We managed to make it just beyond the fence, where we encountered our first roadblock (heh, get it?). There appeared to be no sidewalk. Undaunted because, as mentioned, we are strong, independent women, we took off across the deep grass toward the bridge, only hesitating when we realized we needed to cross a freeway ramp onto more grass, and either walk along the actual highway or get caught between the railing and the bridge support.
I will not say that there were deep discussions of the value of breakfast vs death, but we did slowly turn back toward the hotel, at which point we realized that we were both brilliant people because, thinking outside the box, we took another look around for an alternative solution and discovered a somewhat decrepit, but nonetheless existent sidewalk across the highway. Wisely waiting for a break in traffic, we made the dangerous passing (with only one honk), survived the crevices in the sidewalk, and with very little ado found the Burger King with its ham, egg, and cheese croissant awaiting us (we briefly considered an alternative restaurant across the road but considerately decided not the disturb the gentleman sleeping/sitting at the door).
The End. But wait. There’s more. We both arrived in Miami from wintry climates (Jacinta would especially like to remark that her 59 temperatures were sheer torture), which as you know, tend to wreak havoc on one’s cuticles. Obviously, this needed to be rectified.
We asked the concierge and his assistant if there was a shopping mall within the three-mile limit of our complimentary shuttle ride.
They exchanged looks. “Well…there’s a K-mart,” the concierge offered.
“But…there’s really nothing else there,” the other confirmed. “Just a few little shops.”
Jacinta, who had hitherto been quite unaware that K-marts still existed in this world, was a little uncertain how exactly to read those quick looks they’d given each other. “We’re just looking for a place to get our nails done.”
The concierge brightened, obviously pleased to be able to give us a positive answer. “Yes, there is a nail salon there! Kim’s Nails!”
“Great, we’ll go!”
These were ill-fated words.
You’d think we’d have suspected an issue when we stepped into Kim’s Nails, smelled the pungent air, and noticed the overly cheap prices on the handwritten white board with a “Cash Only” sign. But no. Delighted at finding such a bargain, we not only proceeded to inform them we wanted both manicures and pedicures, but Jacinta even had the brilliant idea of withdrawing cash using their ATM. We did, however, begin realizing we may have made an error as we sat down in their cracked, broken massage chairs (that did not massage), had our feet stuck in basins that had not been cleansed in who-knows-how-long, and saw the numerous personal items strewn about the entire place. The sick feeling in our stomachs began when we saw the dirt coating the rusted cabinets holding their tools, and the debris and flecks speckling all surrounding equipment, including the massage chairs.
Jacinta’s story somewhat levels out at this point – i.e. it doesn’t get either worse or better, but Abby. Ah, Abby, our ill-fated maiden. The technician she’d been assigned paused to count a fat stack of twenties, shoot back what we hope was nothing more than a double espresso, and then swab off her sweaty chest with a handy towel, delving deep down into the depths of her shirt to do so.
The same towel that was then used to dry off Abby’s feet a moment later.
A sharp tool was then employed, fished out of the rusty drawer and scraped harshly along Abby’s tender piggies. Being the eminent people-pleaser that she is, she manfully swallowed down her involuntary yelps of pain, submitting with martyr-like patience to the torture, which, we will add, drew blood. We repeat, DREW BLOOD.
Next, a second drawer (also rusty) was pulled open and Abby’s eyes widened as she beheld a hand mixer, jerry-rigged to have a circular sanding device attached to it. She glanced over and caught Jacinta’s even-wider-eyed gaze, and then cringed as the makeshift power sander powered up with a rather terrifying roar and was then applied to her heels. (Thankfully, the sandpaper was fine-gauge and there were no blood spatters.)
A tackle box full of crusty nail polish containers was finally presented before her, and Abby gleefully whipped out her own nail polish, which was ceremonially slopped onto her toes with all the precision of a five-year-old child, the edges cleaned up with the even sharper end of the metal torture device.
Meanwhile, Abby and Jacinta had been exchanging horrified texts throughout this saga, settling upon politely refusing the manicure, (“Ok, twenty dollars, right now!”) escaping before they decided to keep us there by force, and immediately descending upon the K-Mart next door for rubbing alcohol with which to cleanse our wounded feet, thereby reducing the possibility of horrific diseases that haunt you the rest of your life (the memories will be quite enough for that).
We entered the K-Mart with some (a lot of) trepidation, having noticed the somewhat questionable residents around the building, immediately encountered a security guard who seemed rather more suspicious upon being smiled at than otherwise, and, skirting the equally questionable shoppers, managed to procure a large bottle of rubbing alcohol and generic Ibuprofen, since apparently they didn’t believe in name brands.
In desperate need of sustenance following our lengthy ordeal, we decided to see what else was around the shopping mall, and, in a strange twist of fate that apparently decided to have mercy on us, happened upon a small Cuban cafe that harbored delicious food and a comforting atmosphere. Granted, the waitress had to summon the only person in the place who spoke any English to translate what we wanted to order, but that just makes the experience more genuine, right? Anyway, after we devoured our food, paid our checks, and departed, we called for a pickup and were shortly sinking with relief into the loving, familiar atmosphere of our hotel room (having thoroughly doused our feet in the rubbing alcohol).
You think this story ends now and you escape the post-of-never-ending-doom, don’t you? Ha. Some people also believe there’s gold at the end of the rainbow.
As we blissfully contemplated our narrow escape with death, we decided the only remedy was to sit next to the pool and soak in the 80 degree warmth with a book and possibly a nap. Accordingly, Abby opened her suitcase while Jacinta procrastinated on her phone, only emerging to a sharp cry of dismay from Abby. Looking up, she still didn’t comprehend the horror on her friend’s face, and smilingly inquired if something was wrong.
“I don’t — I didn’t—” Abby’s face was contorted with dismay.
Jacinta waited patiently.
“I forgot to pack my swimsuit!” Abby wailed. “All of them! Any of them! I had three!”
If you are a woman, and we presume that you are, you are fully aware of the existential crisis that usually accompanies swimsuit shopping. Furthermore, if you are, by chance, a unique size that America chooses to ignore and have to special-order your swimsuits from Europe, you may imagine how the dismay is multiplied.
Multiple hours later – including two one-hour-long shuttle rides, a detour involving trying on elaborate formal gowns, a sidestep to Auntie Anne’s for a very important snack of pepperoni pretzels, and dangerous navigation around a continuous swarm of very cute trick-or-treaters (apparently the mall was the equivalent of a neighborhood) – a suitable suit was procured.
The end. BUT WAIT. We know you aren’t bored yet, so guess what? Our adventures weren’t quite over.
On the verge of perishing from starvation, we made our way to the hotel bar, where we propped open this laptop, ordered a variety of appetizers, and our bartender played mixologist for us and slid over custom-designed beverages. Then, as the well-balanced women that we are, we laughed off our entire day while comprising the first half of this missive, blissfully unaware of the eyes on us around the room. Until the bartender informed us that the gentleman across the bar had purchased drinks for us. AND was paying for all previous drinks as well.
This prompted a second existential crisis. What do we do? we whispered to each other. Are we allowed to accept this? Do we need to hold up our ring fingers? Worst of all, does this mean we have to talk to him? This has never happened to us before! We awkwardly avoided looking in his general direction until we had summoned our bartender and, panic most likely obvious in our voices, asked her what the etiquette was in such a scenario. She shrugged. “You say thank you. That’s it.”
Relieved, we raised our glasses to the man across the bar, and he nodded a “you’re welcome,” making zero signs of moving from his seat, much to our secret (and let’s be honest, probably obvious!) relief.
SURPRISE! A second man slid into the seat next to us, seemingly far less interested in ordering a drink than he was in grilling us with questions, and informing us quite proudly that he was a pilot. A private pilot, ooh. The first gentleman made faces at him across the bar as he spoke.
Jacinta, typically, shut down with terse responses that likely made him think she was a spy (he did ask for “her CIA name”), while Abby valiantly attempted to answer politely and sweetly without encouraging him. Finally, Jacinta piped up, and inserted into the conversation that we were leaving the next day for a cruise, upon which he suddenly regained interest in his drink, and after informing us he would be at the hot tub if we were looking for him, retired.
Spoiler: We would NOT be looking for him.
We decided, backed up by multiple text messages from our respective husbands, that it was probably best to call it a day. And carefully avoided the third gentleman who waved to us from his seat as we passed.
The end. For real this time.