We are among the most fortunate people. Our net worth may closer to the “ninety-nine percent” than to the “one percent” described in last year’s protests. Nonetheless, we are wealthy because, to quote Lao Tzu, “he is wealthy who has enough.” And “we are easily amused.” We have fun wherever we go. But sometimes it is admittedly hard to do.
At about 10:30 at night in a cold Miami airport (raining during an unusual cold spell outside), it was announced that our 11:30 American Airlines flight 957 would be delayed for unspecified reasons for ten hours. During the next two hours in line, we met a number of other couples who were also heading to Santiago, Chile to board Holland America’s Zaandam. It was clear we were going to miss our ship.
Rick, an American Express tour guide who would fail to greet his twenty clients, browbeat American into getting rooms for him, his wife, Alie and me. The other 15 Holland travelers slept on the airport floor.
The hotel was only eight minutes away on the other side of a railroad track. However the rain shorted out the train signals, and every street was blocked by faulty crossing barricades. Finally as it was now nearly one in the morning, our shuttle driver drove around the traffic, illegally across the tracks, and the wrong way down a one-way street to get us to our hotel. We were able to get a shower and warm bed to rest, if not sleep, for four hours until we had to go back to get through airport security again.
When we arrived in Santiago the following night, eighty-seven bags had been lost including those belonging to eight in our party. I stood in line another two hours to report our loss while Alie tried to determine which of my clothes she could wear.
Only two couples had booked their flight through Holland America, so the company bore no legal responsibility to us (as their corporate representative reminded us the night before). Nonetheless, a Holland representative met us at the Santiago gate and shepherded us all through passport control, baggage claim, customs and lost-baggage claim. Holland then arranged A. A. vouchers for transfers into Santiago, rooms at a first-class Sheridan hotel for two nights, meals, transfer back to the airport, a flight to Puerto Montt, and finally transfer to our ship with a tour guide. On board, Holland gave each couple a bottle of Champagne, and we were all invited to a Captain’s VIP reception that night.
Alie’s bag did catch up with us. We also enjoyed our brief stay in Santiago. But most importantly, we developed a special bond with the other seventeen people. On the ship after a required safety briefing, the safety office said it was the first time a group of passengers had asked for a group photo at the end!
We missed much sleep and a day at sea on the ship. We missed a tour at Puerto Montt. But we had seventeen new friends when we boarded. [One came up to say hello as I initially wrote this. — Later in the trip, we had a flight 957 survivors reunion.]
“Life is what happens while we are making plans.”