Peter_paul_and_maryPeter Paul and Mary didn’t have to get up at 4:30am to catch a 7am plane. At least not pre-911. I’m flying back to Key West for 10 days to work with Sam and Janet, customers from last summer. They live in New Jersy and are shopping for a property. We work well together and enjoy each other’s company… so heck! It’s been less than 6 months… surely I haven’t forgotten everything I learned the past 11 years!

God knows the market has changed. Prices in new town are down about 25%, there are more condos for sale than Carter’s got pills. Old town seems to be holding its own pretty well, for the most part. Although at the moment, things are pretty much at a standstill. Sellers can’t or won’t believe the gold rush is over. Buyers are waiting till after hurricane season. Not much is selling anywhere. I’m used to figuring out what a property is worth based on recent sales… and there aren’t any. Plus the trend is down now, not up. It’s a whole new ballgame. It will be interesting to be back, be in the thick of it for a couple of weeks…. hmmmm.

Regardless of the market, I’m all excited. I get to house shop with S&J, visit with my buddies, eat sushi with Peggy and Brian (Hal’s brother and his wife, the two coolest people on the planet besides, well, me and Hal and the boys). AND go stand in Kmart, breathe in the smells. Feel, admire, and then purchase enough Martha Stewart towels and bedding to tide me over for awhile. I am a towel fanatic. I used to be a shoe fanatic but pumps give me cramps and make my hips ache these days. Getting old is hell but it’s saving me money in shoes.

Hal and the boys drove me to the airport this morning. After Hal made me a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs with fried garlic and sliced tomatoes garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and freshly grated parmesan cheese. He did this in about 15 minutes while I was in the shower washing my orange hair which he professes not to notice. Or at least mind. I’m telling you I married well.

They dropped me off out front at 5:15a, I entered the terminal and immediately got into the line that ended just inside the door. You pay your departure tax first before you get into the ticket check-in line. The departure tax line was to the door the last time I was here… this looked the same. I felt pretty cool because I didn’t have to ask. I know some stuff. I live here, you know.

I was in this line for about 15 minutes when another standee walked off, leaving her bag and her husband holding her spot right in front of me. She came back 2 minutes later, got her bag, kissed her husband goodbye, and walked off briskly into the terminal. As her husband walked away, he told me we were in the wrong line. I actually pseudo-argued with him, "No, this is the departure tax line." Remember my alter-ego Criticia Voluptua RIGHT-RIGHT? This is where the Right-Right comes from.

"Well, my wife just went to ask and she says it’s inside the terminal." And he leaves.

OK. Not only is being wr-wro-mistaken hard to admit, but I don’t have anyone to hold my place. If I get out of this line and it IS the right line… well, I’ll have to start over at the back and it’s out the door now.

I hesitated for a minute. Then followed her. Sure enough, I was in the wro-incorrect line! Man that could have been a disaster! I wound my way thru the tiny airport crammed with bodies to the airport departure tax line that was so long last time… and there were only like 10 people in front of me. This line is never short!

Then I realized all the people who should have been in this line were, um, in the wrong line on that other ramp. Do I go back and tell them?

I’m pondering this as I pay my departure tax of $26, then step across the aisle into the AA line which winds Disney-like up to the counter. AA as in American Airlines, not Alcoholics Anonymous. Trust me, there’s no line at the Alcoholics Anonymous portal, welcoming as those people are.

Anyway, there are probably 50 people in front of me, I have just over an hour to spare. And isn’t that nice? AA has stationed a lovely AA employee right there to assist us. SheJuan_santamaria_intl_airport assists me by telling me that the end of the AA line is – and she points: see those people across the aisle? In that line of travelers two and three abreast that goes up the long ramp and out the door of the airport? And then down a little ways along the front of the building? You wanna be in that line.

It’s a long walk to the end. I’ve forgotten those poor souls in the wrong line… My plane leaves in just over an hour and there are at least 400 people in front of me now. OK. AA is used to this, right? They can get all of us thru the line, rifle our bags, check them, assign us a seat and then… send us to the line you gotta get in to enter the gate area after which you get in line to walk thru the x-ray thing. OK. This is do-able. Surely.

6:40am. Twenty minutes to spare and I’m at the counter, only 3 lines to go. HA! I’m practically on the plane.

AND I missed being rifled. Just before you get to the counter, there are three AA employees wearing rubber gloves standing at plastic tables. You can’t get to the counter without going thru them. They call you aside, rifle the bags you are checking, then wait with you until there’s an opening at the counter… I’m next, waiting patiently to be rifled, when… there’s an opening at the counter and all three riflers are occupied. The smiling attendant curls her finger at me… I slide thru right up to the counter. Cool. She checks me in and I head for the next line, thinking I should have brought whatever it is people bring that you aren’t supposed to bring. What would that be? What do you take from Costa Rica to Miami? Coffee beans? Pot? Why? You can buy coffee beans and pot everywhere… I need to research this. Meanwhile, I’m now on my way to the next line… only two lines to go after this and 15 minutes to spare. I’m homefree!

There are less than 100 passengers in the Entering the Gate Area line. That moves along. I go to the X-Ray line. No taking the laptop out, no scanner gun, nothing: just shove the computer bag and purse onto the belt, make sure nothing beeps as you walk thru. Fast. I’m walking quickly toward the gate now… past the Cafe Britt store where I know they have big pots of fresh free delicious strong coffee and bowls and bowls of free chocolate covered macadamia nuts, free chocolate covered coffeebeans, free macadamia brittle… I almost don’t make it past there, but it’s now 7 minutes to 7… I see the gate – naturally it’s the last one in the terminal. I run up to the gate check-in where there is NO line…. I must be the last person boarding! Gosh, just in time! I breathlessly hand her my ticket and she says, "We’re not boarding yet. The flight crew has not arrived."

I would be annoyed, but this means there is plenty of time to run back to the Cafe Britt store. Where I find the flight crew stocking up on coffee. Ok, at least they’ll be awake.

The plane left about 1/2 hour late but we are all on board and no one is stressed that I can see. Now, when I first arrived at the airport and saw all the people, I thought "Good thing I arrived those 2 hours early!"

Then, when I was finally standing in the AA line with only 15 minutes to spare, I thought, "I should of gotten here 3 hours early. I would have missed all this and been comfortably seated outside the Cafe Britt store near my gate."

But just before I got to the counter, I watched as probably 20 more people arrived at the airport, paid their exit tax and sauntered on over to my line… which ended about 20 people behind me. No more line out the door… These latecomers are going to make it on the plane, too! And they didn’t stand in line for an hour.

Now I know how all those Floridians felt who had paid windstorm and flood insurance for years and years only to watch all those people who didn’t have insurance get free FEMA money.

Next time you’re leavin’ on a jet plane from San Jose, you can either get there 3 hours early or 20 minutes early, depending on how strong your nerves are. And depending on how many other flights are leaving that day with passengers who have to pay a departure tax…

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