Monday, November 24, 2008

The Other Handbag

A Postcard from St. Thomas

I heard about the lady who switched her handbag from Sally, her daughter. I like this story for many reasons. I like it because it is a true story and not some concocted Caribbean tale. Also, it is blissfully free of any sanctimonious morals. And most of all, I like it because it could happen to any one of us.

Our cruise ship was pulling into Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the ridiculously beautiful St. Thomas, USVI with its unreal turquoise bay all around us. I was on the open 13th floor deck of the cruise to watch the docking when I heard Sally talking about what happened to her mother. I will call the mother 'Ma' since I didn't learn her name.

Back at home in Alabama, 78-year-old Ma was all packed and ready well in time for her flight to Miami. Ma would be taking a week long Caribbean cruise with her daughter Sally’s family. At the very last minute, she decided to change purses before getting on the taxi to the airport.

The cruise started on Saturday afternoon, so on Friday night they stayed at a nice hotel in Miami. And on Saturday, around noon, they all came over well in time to check-in for the 4pm sailing.

But there was one small problem.

Ma had forgotten that she had kept her brand-new passport in one of the side pockets of the purse before she switched to the other one. So she'd ended up leaving the passport back home in Alabama. Since our cruise destinations included stops in a few other countries the cruise company simply would not let her board without her passport. (I found this a bit puzzling because even though we had all brought our passports, we never once had to show it to anyone or even take it ashore, except in Miami.) After agonizing about it, Sally and her family boarded the ship and sailed away, leaving the 78-year-old Ma by herself in Miami.

Poor Ma went back to the same hotel. Her son, who lived in Alabama, was going to go into her house and get the passport to her. (I didn't get the details but perhaps he was FedExing it to her.)

The cruise had a full day at sea on Sunday. Then, our first port of call was the town of Samana in the Dominican Republic, but there were no flights there from Miama. So Ma had to wait three nights before possibly joining us in our next stop, St. Thomas.

I heard the story in the morning, just as our ship was pulling into port at St. Thomas. Her flight was supposed to land at 3.30pm that afternoon and we were departing at 5.30pm sharp. If everything went smooth, she would get to the ship just in time. The cruise line knew her story and had promised to help. I never did find out if Ma had made it to the ship okay.

Sally said that Ma ended up spending close to $1000 extra, what with three more days of forced confinement in a Miami hotel and her last-minute purchase of a one-way flight to St. Thomas. All this because she decided while waiting for the taxi that the she’d rather take the other purse with her to the cruise.

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