Characters and events may or may not be truthful !
I’m on my way to the little island of Roatan – yahoo it if you want I’m not going to detail what its about neither am I going to help promote use of that MAIN search engine which will ultimately take over the planet – oh maybe they already did. But seriously when was the last time you got good search results on the first two pages ? Well this isn’t about that so moving on to Heathrow.
I woke up and got out quite quick and the tube ride to Heathrow was somewhat uneventful except some poor soul was taken Ill on the train. In these cases they stop all the trains jammed up with people like sardines and then guess what we all start falling like dominoes.
I had an e- ticket and was flying with Continental, upon checking in and handing over my bags the lady goes “you will be seated at the gate” – I needed some clarification which she failed to provide and I was holding up the line. Pressure and not assuming anything awry I moved onwards towards security I was ahead of the game. Shoes remained on and things went smoothly. Arriving at the gate in Terminal 4 there was no one to clarify why I didn’t have a seat yet. Why am I nervous at this point, well I cant replace days lost and I really wanted to be on the beach at the end of the week. Call me old fashioned but its part of the deal when you buy your ticket. Still I wanted and planned enough time to take breakfast and a beer. I had only enough for the beer and so made a couple of calls and relaxed.
About a third of the way down my pint my natural self started to awaken perhaps and a flag went up on the play. I don’t have a seat yet. It’s ok relax the guy who sold me the flight seemed nice, it couldn’t be that he is paid to be nice and he assured me. He didn’t so here I am in lying to myself territory! And its only 11.00 am.
I finish my pint and head over to gate 10. The guy there mentioned a word which sent chills down my spine and then promptly slid a pre-existing boarding pass which was arms length to my left in front of me. Ok that was smooth but can you just do that, are boarding passes just so interchangeable. There is no cross ref with passport. No Indeed not. Well I had a seat but had I been on standby ? I certainly didn’t pay a standby price !
Speaking of cheap seats did Continental pay for cheap seats as we were held on the tarmac for 30 minutes while all and sundry took off in front of us, from a different line we were the only ones being held. I need to set the scene here bear with me.
Trolley Dollys and a dying art.
Maybe they have all gone to work for Richard as they like the red uniform, I certainly do but where are my trolley dollys today? This continental flights average age of the hostesses had to be 45, coupled to the fact that they are charging me for alcohol on top of my ticket and the fact that I may have had some weird risk based ticket put me on edge. I had lucked out with the seat being right at the back no one behind and no massive person next to me and as it is at the back there was no third person to wake up if I wanted to get out. And I was grateful to be on the flight even if that should have been a given. I wanted to watch some shield on my laptop and wondered about a charge socket. Asking this simple question set the tone for the trip. She may as well have said “Listen buddy I have been an air hostess for 25 years – I’m tired too I even got sick this morning on the tube. The glamour long left my job and I’m not here to serve some needy glass half full Englishman like you…” all she really said was that she would have a look and let me know – saying all the aforementioned with her facial expression proved she had all that experience (she never came back).
Could it get any more interesting as the ceo of the company looking like a smoothed out balding used car salesman - felt the need to get on the inflight tv (as obviously this is going to deliver him an evening anchor position on CNN) and repeatedly call me a customer when passenger was more correct. Is it just me …..
The in-flight TV system is very good and I was surprised, my seat was comfortable and I had a vast amount of quality productions to choose from. Ok that’s the spirit the mind needs to be in, and then we arrived in Houston.
Clearing customs I was told now that I should HAVE TO register online now for the visa waiver program ! What about all of those people that cannot do the internet ? Where is this directive coming from and do I want to start to put my passport details online ? Where are you going with this USA ?
But they let me in J thanks guys.
It was very easy to call any hotel from this kiosk which of course I just found as I had obtained change for the regular phones. But I was due to be picked up in half an hour. Step one sorted.
“we don’t have the pool right now due to something like sewage” I was told by the girl driving the shuttle van. I was staying at the hyatt place 5 miles from the a/p. It was then I felt I had made the wrong decision going for the better place, the place specifically with the pool. As is my nature I made comment of the fact at the front desk in a nice hinting manner. No good so I ramped up my assault as it was to be on the poor guy at the front desk. He was pretty apologetic but unhelpful past that until I stated my case and that a simple apology wouldn’t fix it. Long story short they got me a pass at the local Gym.
I have been at some great gyms in the US of A but this one the fitness connect as part of the mall was truly amazing. Basketball courts, Swimming pool, Jacuzzi training room and a massive gym area full of people. The more amazing fact was the amount of socialising that was going on. I am used to the cold non speaking gyms of London of late. People were trying to hook up or just making the time to chat. Now this of course drops the intensity right down but if they are doing this a lot its effective and very much a part of their lifestyle - they probably like.
My room was really big and had a 42 inch screen. I got some viewing time in and relaxed, made sure I was going to be up in time for my shuttle drop off back at the airport.
I had breakfast was all packed and left through the lobby at 8.00. My flight was at 10.30 ish. I was good. I was told it was a 20 minute run to the airport. Good there isn’t another plane for a week ! “Your not on my list the girl said” ,”Oh” I said she then said I just got a drop off first , “but isn’t this an airport shuttle service”. What time is your flight she asked , “10” I lied. A guy in a suit and hair brillcreamed up to the max got in with no luggage. Then just before we were leaving another “oh I’m glad I just made it he said”. Now I saw that I might not have been on the list and that this made me number 2 on the list but why was I number 3? As it went I was automatically pushed back. I am certain it was the manner and dress of the second guy which seemed to tell the girl that his need was more important. I played the grumpy Englishman very well as we were fucking around trying to locate the first “local” address. “I don’t wish to be rude” this was true “but I booked myself on the 8 o’clock thinking that it was just going to the airport” I wasn’t sure I had so much time to waste and it wasn’t like I could just catch the next bus, there was no other flight. To make such effort then fail at the last hurdle would be catastrophic for me, I mean psychologically it could have been the straw that broke the camels back. We did another U turn and they were discussing where this place might be, they could sense my panic, and tried to waylay my fears, saying Houston was a fast airport and that I would be fine. I was going to find brillcream if I missed my flight and asked him how it went and did he make it on time, and then some luck and then we got to the first place. Well surely I must be next if for the logical dropping off closer people together so naturally the guy who just made it got dropped off and I was last, the most important in terms of “what happens if…”
We made it and the girl was actually right thinking I would be on time even if I lied to try to get her to be a bit more aggressive etc as she was way too relaxed. I said sorry and thank you but not before I tried to highlight the error of the systems ways, with a hint of you might have been a part of this system. In truth it was a lack of communication in the first instance with her colleague followed by her judgement call, but that part to her credit she could have argued was spot on.
La Isla de Roatan
We had very little service on the continental flight but I forgave them on this occasion as she was young and had very pretty blue eyes. 2 packets of pretzels I was given and that was it. Drinks were more frequent but again alcohol was to be purchased. This is not good enough. Trivialities such as these slid as rapidly as us in on the rich blue sea. Suddenly the tip of the island is seen and flowers bay, colourful huts and communities so close. I felt very good. I had chosen my seat wisely, getting first into immigration makes life a lot easier.I was once on an Italian charter with a couple of hundred people and there were no vending machines I had no water and I was dressed for Milan weather it was unpleasant. I negotiated my cab for 8 dollars to the Westend of Roatan and tipped the guy 2 as I softened or perhaps it was guilt. I had loaded up on water on the flight and the first thing I wanted to do was something I had been dreaming about for a long time now walkman on lets run baby lets run. I love to run , I ran through Tokyo in the still of the night, down the malecon in Havana, and down one side of Africa, well a bit of it in Morocco, and many other places. I love it, and for most days while I lived in Roatan I got up and ran each morning down the beach to Westbay and back.
The current team at Tyll’s welcomed me back in the dive shop and I spent most the afternoon recognising and being recognised at sundowners. I got to taste the salva vida beer again and I just need to walk slower – life is slow here. We did some good diving but at first I wasn’t really into it, I was feeling the cold. I think I was still acclimatising and tiring my body out a bit too much with the combination of staying out late and running in the morning. I have since given the morning run up. Amazingly a back injury that has been around cleared up this started to improve things with my diving too. My mornings have been spent overlooking half moon bay one of the nicest spots on Roatan. I have managed to get some really good underwater photos, Blennys and pipe fish, but there is an absence of descent sized fish in the water especially at el Aguila which is know for its sizeable grouper. I love these guys as they really come and check you out.
It was a hot day and this massive cardboard box containing a Yamaha 150 fourstroke needed descending from the lorry across 10 feet of beach and onto the boat. It was one of those jobs that happened in steps. It was in its own cage once we got rid of the cardboard , we got it off the lorry with a lot of hands and ended it over once, there was a wee bit of sliding the cage like a sled against sand the engine must have been 800lbs ?? I was there most part of the way but I was the white guy out in the sun with no shade and having done my bit retired to the shop, at this point the socket set we were using had sheared and nothing was going on, I was just burning up. I left for the shop and returned maybe 45 minutes later to find it on the boat. Rino the divemaster at Tyll’s is a big strong local lad he carries scuba gear in the palm of his hand –seriously.
The blow that got away
I’m certainly no regular to coke or any other food additive (cocaine was used to help Scott and his expedition to the Antarctic as it combated snow blindness when applied under the eyelids -hmmmmm), but for some reason I had decided before arriving I would have a bit, I’m a control freak anyway a wee little buzz was what was desired. A tiny tiny bit so tiny in fact that I am sure that with absolute certainty that it wouldn’t change the world in the grand scheme of things. The tiny amount got even smaller as the little fiddly bags you get and the lack of coordination meant that I lined my pocket with the remaining pea. The main partying of Semana Santa finished last night and the hang over gods were good to me and dancing out the booze on the sand in club hip hop maybe helped. It was fitting to have quite a late finish and I feel I can draw a line under needing to hit the nightlife of Roatan. I have few days left and right now today it has been perfect. In some ways I’m ready to leave. Like the blow it was a little hit that I needed. Roatan has been my yearly fix, already done that- that hit of a holiday which recharges you, though I didn’t seem somehow to find the time to do the contemplating I need to do.
Sometimes I said to myself – I don’t have time to do this or that or running around. Stop- this is your holiday ! Diving has to be punctual otherwise nothing runs strictly round here.
I have met some seriously cool people new since I was last here and younger too, and it’s nice to see that there are some creative thinkers and voyagers still out there. Chris and Crystal two Americans whom I can say I shared some quality time hanging out with I don’t meet many drifters like me not in London at least. Chris a sailor who reminded me of the best way to do the Caribbean. If one day I can manage to do this I would like to discover the Caribbean by boat. I thought perhaps Crystal was busy getting inspired, she was folding lots of paper Cranes after the Japanese Girl’s story [link] and writing a book.
No blow was involved in my incarceration in the makeshift prison in Westend. I had a bounty placed on my head by Kirk and Rino. Two wrongs don’t make a right I tried to explain to them – Islanders do things eye for an eye and it was the case that I had paid 100 Lempiras each to have them locked up in the first place. Kirk had fire in his eyes, had I made a mistake here ? He was lifting the side of the four walled bamboo jail up and down in protest “you will break it ” Christie said “I will break whatever the fuck I like- get me outa here”- typical Kirk . Rino was smiling as ever and just as vocal. Kirk and Rino work in diving at Tyll’s. Essentially it cost to place people in then cost again to release, so there was a healthy turnover constantly and the real police were doing the fetching, they even went as far as Sandy Bay maybe further. I was outside the bamboo looking at Kirk and Rino “bail us out cal” – “now why would I do that I just paid to put you both inside I smiled” “you …f%c&$r. You %$$%£$%” in stereo, this was my moment to taunt and enjoy , best 10 dollars I spent so far.
Whatever I wanted to get some photos before they took showers and bent for the proverbial soap and they both might adopt 50 yard stares. I waved them goodbye and off I trotted to more verbal abuse J. Arriving back on the scene (all of this time we are drinking rum punch and everyone is having a lot of fun) and I see Kirk is out. Did someone pay his ransom ? Then Rino – he’s out too and sees me. Hanging with his bro Otto. Who bailed you out I asked as I was grabbed and hauled away. So I was now inside with no one to bail me out I got a few photos and looked for friends on the outside. And then I fell for the smile of a female police officer probably from the mainland helping with semana santa. After about 30 minutes inside this 10ft square bamboo cell she looked at me and motioned to join her in the free world. Perhaps its what happens; you fall for your captors ? Or it was just that she was incredibly beautiful and with a police uniform, boots and a 45 strapped to her waist.
copyright©2009 calvin crane You may not reproduce any part of this article without express permission beforehand.