I was going to link to V.'s blog with this post, but decided that I'd just copy if verbatim for ease. Sorry about the length but you'll understand as you start reading. :)
We're baaaaaaaack! There is a story to tell.
Our hiatus is over, unfortunately, and we have returned thus far back to a semi-normal existence in Toronto. So, there is quite a long story to tell but if I break it up into several posts, some of you will end up reading it backwards. As such, I decided that you will just have to bear with me and perform some scrolling. So here goes...
A couple of months ago, not sure if it was the end of July or the beginning of August, I decided that what my Pam needed the most for her birthday was a vacation. She's been under some stress from work and some amount of stress as we try to move forward with our family plans and, admittedly, some stress from her husband (though he would claim it was giving the goose as good as the gander received, but that is for another post). Anyhow, I set about researching the vacation spots and also queried some friends about where they have been, especially my eventual top accomplice, BT from the pond.
I told very few people in the beginning (BT, BB at work and Patti) because loose lips sink ships but also, since the date was way off in September, the less people constantly in contact with her that knew, the less likely I would seriously have to hurt someone for accidentally tipping her off. I decided that I wanted to go the week before her birthday and, it being a surprise, I thought the best way to do this was to make all arrangements without her knowing. Later, I added getting her to the airport, sending her on a bit of a wild chase and filming her reaction; this addition would prove problematic as you will see soon.
Not to bore you with the intricate details, suffice it to say that while I can fool the lady pretty easily, doing so over an extended period of time was a real pain. I actually thought I would end up at the doctor's from all the stress. From the time I decided to do this, I had to lie countless number of times, conceal emails, MSN conversations and money transactions (hard with a joint account) and lie about where the money was going to (my upcoming Vegas trip *truth* and my upcoming monitor purchase from my nephew *false*). The monitor purchase had fallen through some time ago and I relied on her inability to remember certain facts to allow me to pull that one off; it worked brilliantly. However, when you get used to a person acting a certain way, it breeds suspicion when they deviate from that path. She was definitely thinking that something was going on but she was not sure what. I covered many times by provoking small arguments (and one large one near the end of this when I almost gave up) to get her mind elsewhere.
So, everything was on track. I was handling the lady, I had the time booked off of work, I had contacted her boss and booked her time, I had started saving up the funds and I was narrowing down the desired destination. I even successfully danced around Pam planning an adult gaming night on the first Saturday we were away (which prompted immediate emails from BB and Patti). It was all coming together until an unforeseen factor entered the fray; my MIL. This was not a purposeful interruption since she too knew nothing but it was powerful enough to change my course. Some longtime family friends, ones that could not make our wedding, were going to be in Toronto the Monday we were to be away and she also wanted us to attend dinner on the Friday for Erev Rosh Hashanah. The latter I could have gotten out of but the former was a big deal. OY! So, on the week I was to book it all, we were to leave and the surprise was to be sprung, I had to change our plans; ALL of them.
I cancel my vacation at work, I contacted her boss and got him to change her vacation and I started anew on finding where we were going. It ended up that our most favourite day, Friday the 13th, would be when we would be booked to leave. For those not familiar with our story, I proposed to Pam on Friday the 13th, my brother was married on the 13th and we were married on the 13th; the number is a lucky one for our family. Of course, the longer this thing dragged on, the more Pam was asking questions, coming into my desk area when I was online with vacation deal places or when telling conversations with BT were on my screen. I worked around her being off the Wednesday before we left when I was supposed to be buying the tickets and I successfully got her to change a hair appointment to cut and colour it the same day. Thankfully, she left the next day (Thursday) to go to work and I was able to go and buy the tickets at the travel agency. I also rigged the money can so I would know if, after our last row, she went into it to check on the funds.
As it turns out, fate is a funny thing. Our current rental home has had, to put it mildly, some challenges recently and requires repairs that the landlord quite simply is not, and has never been, prepared to perform. We have lived there for fours years and it was time for a change. We had looked at a number of places but nothing suited what we wanted until we saw this place in Ajax. It was a large, never lived in, four-bedroom and 2.5 bathroom home. Unfortunately, it came with not-so-bright owners and when we made our offer, they turned it down over a decision to not eat one month (more details later). So, we continued working on this and found another house not too far from there but thought they would not be willing to lower the asking price on the lease. The intricate details will soon follow but in six hours we saw the ad online, called the agent, met her and saw the house, made an offer, answered some concerns, answered the owner's counter-offer and signed the lease. As it turned out, that was good for us, but bad for my surprise plans as we now had to certify a rent cheque, drop off the cheque, receive more copies of papers and another item. All this in the Thursday and Friday before we left.
Add to the rental madness another matter I had to deal with which also stretched over the last two days before we left and the fact that both parties were late on Friday conducting business and Houston, we had a problem. So, on Friday, I had to make like I was going to work after the morning appointment (which dumbdumb forgot his briefcase downtown and had to reschedule later in the morning, wasting an hour of my time), wash some clothes I knew she would want to wear, pack, visit the dollar store for Cuban gifts, visit CAA for new luggage locks, get some necessary work done and emails answered, meet the two people I needed to and then out to the lady to spring the whole surprise. I was doing fine until the packing at the end as I was delayed in trying to reduce the overstuffed bags to something that did not cost a king's ransom to get on the plane (bloody hell, when did the allowance drop so low?); this, combined with the delayed meetings, would prove fatal to my plans in the end. Oh yeah, it also rained and the f**king people in Toronto cannot drive when anything but clear, dry roads present themselves.
I finally headed out super late, hit LOADS of traffic on the highway and got to Pam's office only 45 minutes before we were to leave. I gave my story with the look of dread on my face (the receptionist had to hold her laughter as I had to explain to her what was going on) and Pam went off to explain why she had to leave to her boss' boss as her boss was out of the building (something else unexpected). We got going and was really cutting it tight. I got into the loop around Terminal 3 and gave up on the surprise, telling her in the car. Her immediate reaction? Anger. She could not leave she says. She had things on her desk she says. Her car was still at work she says. Covered. Covered. Covered.
I had planned all of it down to the last detail. My father was on his way to her work where the keys sat with the receptionist to her car. Her boss had already asked her for the secondary support phone for the weekend and was going to pack up and put away her laptop into the server room. The neighbour was going to gather all of our mail and newspapers and hold it for us. Our vacation time at work was booked off. Our families and friends (most of them) were notified. My MIL and LB had our flight and hotel info in case of emergency. Everything was taken care of to the last detail; everything except for me and the stuff I had no control over.
The meeting issues earlier were enough of a delay to throw my entire plan off course. While they had to be done and there was simply no way to get around them, we were buggered. Pam was at the desk, I was parking, the Skyservice dude was not willing to help us in any way and, yes, WE MISSED THE FLIGHT!! Never had I felt worse than at the moment I failed my wonderful wife. This was to be the surprise of a lifetime, the perfect caper, the best thing I had ever done for her and we were standing there at the counter, ten minutes removed from a wonderful vacation. To her credit, the lady at the Signature Vacations counter did her best but there was simply nothing that can be done. Such is the new world order due to the terrorist attacks and the rising cost of travel. So, we were left to decide whether to forfeit the vacation or pay ridiculous money for one-way flights to get down to Varadero, Cuba on another airline.
My baby wanted a vacation and what my baby wants, my baby gets. While I was speaking to our travel agent, my LB called and was speaking to Pam who conveyed the gory details of a plan gone horribly off the tracks. Special thanks goes to LB and family as he stepped up and got the flights arranged with Avion Travel and the lovely and helpful agent there. Pam and I made our way back to the car in valet parking at the Park 'N Fly where they gave us a free day since we had not actually used the time. We headed back to her work where she retrieved her laptop, cleared her desk and briefly explained to her boss and co-workers and then headed home for a night's rest.
We actually got little rest as we unpacked everything and Pam repacked it all (I had about three hours sleep in the last 48 so was pretty baked) until the two main bags were within an acceptable overage (7lbs). We got some sleep and then in the morning we went to the travel agency to get the new tickets, off to STC to reschedule her eye doctor appointment, get a battery for the camcorder, get shampoo from Shopper's Drug Mart and shoes at SportChek. Ok, we were running behind time but still okay. We headed home to pack the carry on luggage when we got a bright/not-so-bright idea. We had read that the shows at the hotel were pretty cheesy (they were) so we thought about LB's family with the little lad's portable DVD player and decided to pick one up on the way to the airport. We took some time picking out some movies to take with us and loaded up to head out.
A quick trip to Future Shop turned into a mini-adventure when the unit we were looking at on the display was not operational due to a bent pin. We had them fix this as we checked models. When that was fixed, we asked for that model and another person had to go in back and check for that. When he returned, he handed it to another twit who would not relinquish it as we told him we still had a CD case to get. We then had to tell senor dipshite to bust a move as we had a plane to catch. We left him in the aisle as we knew we could find the case faster than he could. We did, found him again as he failed to keep up with us, paid and left. Now, in the truck, we strip the parts out of the box, took out all the DVDs from the cases and placed them in the case holder and then headed off. Naturally, we hit traffic going north on Kennedy. I headed up the 404 back to the 407 for some good old fashioned law breaking because we were not missing this plane.
Naturally, there was an issue this time getting the car into the Park 'N Fly. Naturally, we were behind time. Naturally, by the time we got to the counter, they had started boarding and we were on the cusp of missing the plane AGAIN. Hell no!! We got to buddy at the counter who basically yelped that we needed to go see someone over at check-in as he printed the tickets for us. The young East Indian man was courteous and helpful while his bitchy broad co-worker decided that repeatedly telling us we are "very late" instead of helping her co-worker get it done was more helpful. Our bags were over the mark of course, and should have cost us about fifty bucks to send, but we were so late that they simply slapped "HEAVY" orange stickers on both and told us to run to security. We were running when yelping man ran after us to give us what turned out to be return tickets which we would never use because we were coming back on the flight we already paid for. We turned the corner and hit security where Pam explained we were trying to make a plane and is there a quicker line. We got shuffled to the furthest one away and went through but had to wait as they did the wand test (sniffer for explosive materials). We then had to hurry down an escalator, past some shops and to the gate which was thankfully one of the first ones you hit.
There was still a line and we got in it, with about eight people filling in behind us. Pam's throat had started to hurt but she decided not to pop out quickly to the shop behind us to get throat lozenges. We filled out the sheets that they needed to collect at the gate that the dippy twit upstairs said we could do on the plane and give to the flight attendant. We boarded the plane and settled in for our first flight to Cuba. Excited. Tired. And annoyed with the loud, ignorant, middle-eastern twits sitting behind us who insisted on putting a knee or something into Pam's chair back, yapping much louder than is necessary on a plane and just being unnecessarily difficult and demanding to the rather competent staff.
At this point though, it mattered not. We were finally on vacation, we were leaving the wet and cold for the dry and humid. We were finally getting some rest. Hallelujah!!!!
Special thanks goes to my main accompli: BT from the pond, Patti and B-McBain. Thanks also goes to the ladies at Avion Travel for all their help and support. And last but not least, an enormous amount of thanks and appreciation goes to our LB whom without the Saturday flight might not have happened at all. Much love.
To come in a couple of days, an account of the Cuba trip itself and some pictures (and possibly a video) of the trip.