You know those experiences that are so frustrating while they’re happening but make for a pretty ridiculous story after the fact? Thank goodness Spirit flights are cheap because my layover in Fort Lauderdale on the way home from Haiti is always 9 hours long. I fly from Cap Haitien to Port Au Prince at 6:50am and catch my flight to Florida around 10:15. It’s a two hour flight, and after making my way through customs I eat the appetizer sampler at Chili’s. Yeah, the whole thing. For all you worried mothers who think I don’t eat enough, fret no more. Once I am chock-full (what does that really mean?) of spinach artichoke dip, cheese sticks, boneless wings—which are really just nuggets, right?— and avocado rolls, I head to the gate. It’s important to sit near a power outlet and watch it closely. That Spirit terminal has precious few outlets so as soon as one is available you need to be ready.
Anyway, I’d gotten a little tired of those long layovers and now that I have a working smartphone I thought I’d venture out, with GoogleMaps as my guide, and spend a few hours at a nearby beach. There was plenty of time to walk there; I just needed to know how to get from the airport to an actual walkable road. It can’t be done was the resounding response from all the airport employees I asked. They all looked at me like a mental patient when I said I wanted to walk to the beach. It was only about 3 miles, mind you, and I had 9 HOURS! But they decided it would be much better if I didn’t walk and directed me to the airport’s bus stop instead. The first part was easy enough. Follow the herd of people dragging heavy suitcases to the end of the terminal and hop on. This particular bus only took passengers to the car rental center at the other end of the airport. Thank goodness it was free. Because I have feet.
There are two buses that take you from the rental center out into the city. Each driver told me the other bus would get me to the beach. I got to the chance to speak Kreyol to some Haitian airport employees who were also waiting, which was so fun! But they didn’t know which bus would take me to the beach. Eventually, after several buses came and went and I stood looking utterly confused and probably getting sunburned, someone told me to take the bus going to the central terminal and then the 14 (all bus numbers are fictitious in order to maintain the anonymity of those involved) to the edge of the ocean. I made it to the terminal and found station 14 amidst four lanes with several stations each. That’s when I realized I had used my only small change, $1.75, for my first bus ride. I had only a $20 and there is no change on a bus so I started timidly asking the people around me if they had change. Either no one did or no one wanted to part with it so I went to the train office. At this point, it was almost time for the train to arrive, but I was sure as heck not paying $20 to take a bus somewhere I could’ve walked! I ran to the station office and the stern attendant told me change was only for those purchasing monthly passes, not day passes. Oh heavens, please tell me I make it out of Florida sooner than that. I was directed to the liquor store across the street and the short walk was, well, let’s just say it was a little sketchy. I probably wouldn’t have been comfortable being there after dark or really anytime if I wasn’t so determined. The cashier told me they don’t give change either, but had a change of heart and I left with smaller bills…only to find 14 had just left the station. Super.
This story is starting to drag, as was my day at that point. So I’ll spare you the agony. When the next 14 finally came, it was the wrong bus. I was sent to 40 and the first scheduled bus never came, so I waited another round, and the driver told me I wanted the other 40. What? So I searched for this other 40 and got on just in time.
It had now been three hours since I left the airport, but I finally made it to the beach, laid out my jeans and shirt like my own custom-fit beach towel and fell asleep. I had already changed into my swimsuit in the airport bathroom. Nude sunbathing is for the birds. And probably illegal.
The trip back was much quicker and essentially uneventful. I felt so savvy finding my own transfer point to cut the trip in half and made it back to the airport feeling quite accomplished. Nobody else reacted outwardly to my obvious triumph, but I’m pretty sure they were impressed. I think I heard somebody whisper something about street smarts as I passed by.
I couldn’t resist mapping out my day when I got back, so here it is. The airport is the arrow in the bottom left corner. The central terminal is in the top left and the beach is in the top right. The intended walking route falls just below the bottom of the map where there is a road leading to the lovely looking green stretch directly across from the airport. Maybe next time.
Also, because I didn’t have a travel companion to lean over and laugh about silly things with, you will be my temporary stand-in. At one point over the loud speaker I heard “attention customer spirits” and they stopped, clearly overcome with emotion for their passengers’ souls. Hehe. I’m nudging you with my elbow now.