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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sense of humor, don't leave home without it

Friday, April 15, 2011

(Photo)
Whoever coined the phrase "getting there is half the fun" must have never had to get there in the first place.

Because from my experience, getting there and getting back is no fun at all. Especially if either involves airports and re-entering the country.

Believe me, I'm not complaining about a free Puerto Vallarta vacation my wife earned from her employer for a great sales year. The scenery and weather were spectacular. The ocean, the deep-sea fishing, the sun, the pool, the couple's massage, sleeping late ... what's not to like!?!

Let me recount the ways ...

Getting to Mexico seemed easy enough. Don't you just turn left at Texas? But an Indy-to-Houston flight couldn't be that simple. And when we realized our connecting flight to paradise was already boarding with us still airborne, we knew there would be no leisurely start to this trip.

With creaky knees, a bum ankle and flat feet, the last thing I wanted to do was make like O.J. and run through an airport. Of course, the last time he cut and ran didn't work out so well for him either. But we huffed and puffed and limped and loped and made it to the gate before the plane left -- but only because we beat the pilots there by a couple seconds.

Breathing a sigh of relief at dodging that bullet, we settled in for four glorious days of fun and sun. Little did we know that getting there would be so much easier than getting home.

Come Monday afternoon we said adios to the resort and squeezed into the customs sector of the Puerto Vallarta airport. Since we were among the few who had printed out a boarding pass, we were quickly ushered to the front of the line.

But that's where things started to unravel.

There were no security scanners. No full-body X-rays. No pat-downs. Just Mexican security forces rifling through each and every one of our bags by hand.

Yes, those are my boxer shorts you're fondling, thank you. Keep them if you want, just let me move on. Did I just catch you snickering at my Tommy Bahama flowered shirt? Yea, and you look marvelous in solid blue.

Right then every border-crossing scene from every bad movie was playing in my head. But the luggage muggers let us through and soon we were at the ticket counter, passports, boarding passes and suitcases in hand.

That's when I heard the last thing I'd ever hoped to hear from a Mexican airport agent: "I can't put you on this plane," he told us.

Talk about panic setting in. I was ready to admit to smoking a Cuban cigar, masquerading as Deep Throat or even kidnapping the Lindbergh baby if it would help. Then it struck me: Oh, no, that white powder in my carry-on ... it really is Splenda. Honest.

Good old Jon Paul Menzies, the ticket agent in the blue Walmart vest, wasn't having any of it. "I cannot let you on this plane," J.P. repeated as we watched others around us finish their customs business and beat it to the terminal. I couldn't help but think, where was this stickler on 9/11?

Turns out our travel arrangements, made by my wife's employer through Triple-A, did not allow enough time to land in Chicago, go through customs there and board our intended flight to Indianapolis with our bags successfully transferred.

J.P. continued to pound his keyboard like a windy columnist on deadline. "I can get you on a flight to Indianapolis tomorrow at 3 p.m. Can you stay another day?"

Stay another day in paradise? I kept waiting to hear Ashton Kutcher over the airport intercom: "Ruth and Eric Bernsee ... you've been punk'd!"

Of course, we couldn't stay, not with Chopper, our Westie pup, awaiting our return and a City Council meeting to cover Tuesday night.

So we flew to Chicago, landed 35 minutes early, and navigated O'Hare customs despite a meandering line that resembled the queue for Space Mountain at Disneyland. We literally ran (OK, jogged) to the ticket counter to reclaim the very seats we had been denied four hours earlier in Mexico.

"But I don't think you can make the flight," the attendant predicted, nonetheless sounding less ominous than his Puerto Vallarta counterpart.

And we didn't make it. Came up short at the gate like a Colts' running back on a crucial fourth-and-one.

I didn't know whether to scream, cry or collapse on the counter when a voice behind us sounded like an angel with a Romanian accent. "There's another flight in an hour," the off-duty flight attendant said oh so matter-of-factly in piercing the gloom.

Soon we were taking a bumpy route to Indy, and didn't even care. We were going to get there after all. Making our way through the new terminal toward baggage claim, we stepped off the moving walkway and spotted something on the floor in front of us.

"Is that a thong?" my wife asks incredulously.

Yep, no pants on the ground, just a gold lame thong gone wrong. Wondered if it fell off the owner or out of her bag.

Regardless, it returned the smiles to our faces. After all, getting there really is half the fun.