Since I haven’t had email service to update you on the following day’s events, I thought I would humor you with …the rest of the story!

Ok, we get up before the many roosters that roam the streets to make sure the boys are at the airport 90 minutes before take off. Since Garrett is under 16, he is considered a child and therefore an unaccompanied minor. For some reason, that one year jump to 16 makes you instantly an adult! Wow. Anyway, since Garrett was going to have “like, my own personal servant” (those are his words), we were told he had to be there early. Their flight was scheduled for 6:20am (because the airlines can’t stand to have those nice even times like 6:15 or 6:30–it’s always 6:27 or 7:23… but I’m getting off track), so that meant we had to get them there by 4:50am! That’s early, folks!

We got in the dew covered dinghy and headed over to the dock, anticipating the $16.75 parking fee. We got there and the place is completely abandoned. There isn’t a sole in sight…not even in the parking lot guard house! How do we get the car out if there is no-one there to open the gate? Now we’re thinking we may have just spent a lot of money on a rental car trying to avoid paying a lot more for a taxi, and now we may have to pay the taxi as well if we can’t get the car out!!!! But wait. Oh, joy! The gates are up. Not only that, but the ticket collector man isn’t there in his little house, so we don’t have anyway to pay the tremendous parking fee (which could feed a family of Haitians for a WEEK). Oh well…we must go.

We arrive just in time to be 90 minutes early, just like we were told. I think Continental doesn’t realize that things operate a little differently in Key West. The only people anywhere near the airport when we arrived were the security guards. Hmmm. We tried to check in with the little computer thingy, but it wasn’t on yet.

In a few minutes we see an employee-like person turn some things on, so we figured she was getting things set up and would come over soon to help us. There are only like 3 or 4 ticket counters there: American, Continental, Delta…that’s pretty much it. So we noticed that the little computer checker was now on and working. We type in our little numbers, but it told us to go to the counter because we had an unaccompanied minor. We wait some more. We watch the Delta employees come in and light up their ticket are. Then around the corner, we here the American counter coming to life. Passengers on those airlines start to arrive. No employees on our side though. It’s now about 5:30. The girl we thought was an employee was actually just another security guard. She noticed that we had been waiting a while, but didn’t say anything. We asked her what time the employees normally arrived. She told us that the Continental people had to work overtime last night because they had a flight that left but had to turn around because of engine problems. Since they were there til after 11:00 last night, they probably wouldn’t be there until 30 minutes before take-off.

OH.

That isn’t something you want to tell the mother of two boys who have never flown before. It also doesn’t make the boys very happy that they had to get up at the crack of dawn so they could wait on the employees who told us we had to be there 90 minutes early.

Another couple arrive to check in 30 minutes after we did, so they could be there the requisite hour before take off. About 10 minutes later another passenger comes to get in line. I saw him outside chug down the rest of his beer and throw away the bottle just before he walked in the door (I hope he’s not the pilot.) He’s not. He staggers over to the que line, but soon discovers he’s at the wrong airline, so he staggers over to the other airline counter.

At 5:45, an employee shows up. He looks very official. He starts turning on the computers at the Continental station. He looks like he’s going to begin helping us (we’re first in line). We get so excited, like a puppy waiting for you to set his newly filled food dish down so he can start chowing. Then, to our dismay, the guy disappears. I guess it was about 10 minutes later, the real check-in lady arrived and began our process. Just about that time, a Policewoman asks for the owner of the silver convertible parked in front to identify themselves. Oh, yikes!!! That’s us! She was just letting us know that in two minutes, our car would be towed. (so–it’s a rental–he he he). While John finishes check-in, I go move the car—but where? I didn’t bring my purse. I don’t even know where my purse is. I haven’t seen it since we left the U.S. That means I don’t have my driver’s license, and worse, I don’t have any money to park the car anywhere. I figure I’ll just circle till their done. Then the very nice Policewoman asks me if it’s a rental, and since it was she told me to just pull into one of the slots where they keep their cars. Great idea! So I parked in the slot that we pulled it out of. Easy breezy & “free”zy, and she didn’t seem to care if I had a license or not. It’s Key West, they’re very forgiving here. Back to the counter.

The boys got their boarding passes and go over to the point of no return. I noticed that they didn’t have anyone helping them find their way (which they charge you $100 extra for). My motherly instincts kick in. I’m not letting them go through security and not know what to do next. I jumped up to go wait on the other side with them and make sure they get on the right plane safely. These are my babies. Oh no! I can’t go! I don’t have any identification on me because I don’t know where my purse is!!!!! I have got to make a note to find it. I made John go back to the ticket counter and get them to give him a pass to go back. He did. Just so you know, the girl at the counter should have seen that Garrett was an unaccompanied minor and needed an employee to “guide” him, and/or give the adult dropping him off a pass to go to the gate with him. But we’re in Key West, and apparently, that’s asking a little too much.

Well, they’re off. And we’re hungry. McDonald’s breakfast anyone? Do we dare risk it? Why not? This time, it’s the drive-thru for us. The only incident is when I asked for straws and she said they were in the bag, but I only found one straw, not two. She shot me a pair of evil “you’re a stinking liar, chic” eyes and very gruffly handed John another straw. After we had eaten everything and were stuffing the trash into the bag, I found the other straw. Oops.

It’s only 6:30. We all want more sleep, but where do we park the car until we’re ready to go exploring? The city streets! Most of the streets are marked off for the residents and you have to have a permit to park there. We did finally find a street in front of a condo construction site that looked tow-away free, and it was only a few blocks away.

After a nice long rest of the morning’s sleep, we headed off for a bookstore. Kimi and I both bought several books for our upcoming Gulf crossing. John drives us all over town to every marine supply store there. We wait in the car and read–with air conditioning. Once we had been to every marine store, we drove almost to Marathon to see what the other Keys looked like. Lots of mangroves. We saw a couple of iguanas that looked like they were trying to hitch a ride on the side of the road. We stopped in Big Pine and ate Key Lime Pie. Then we decided to head back to Key West to turn the car in before the last shuttle ride–just in case they forgot what they promised.

Oh, earlier in the day, we got a call from a man at the airport wanting me to identify the man picking them up as an approved adult. It was John’s dad, so they let the boys go with him. Turns out, when the boys arrived in Tampa (their first stop), they couldn’t get on the next plane because they didn’t have any paperwork at all. Evidently, the Key West employee did the check in process all wrong (Now there’s a big surprise!!). The employees in Tampa have their act together and got the boys all fixed up, and even gotten them a personal attendant. It was smooth sailing, er um flying, from there. Here’s what I learned: don’t book your kids on a flight with three change overs for their first flying experience without you, and don’t ever go back to Key West.

We bought an entire Key Lime Pie from a place in Key West that is actually a Christian owned establishment (at least they had a scripture up on the wall). We needed some yummy-ness for the upcoming Gulf trip that we were not looking forward to.

Stay tuned for the next post on the Gulf trip! I’m too exhausted to tell you all about it, now.

I will tell you that we are in our little marina slip all safe and sound. Tomorrow we rent a car and drive to Oklahoma. I will try to post about the Gulf trip sometime tomorrow evening. Good night.

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