My business trip to Snowball, Florida did not get off to a particularly good start. The week of the trip was also the week of my 44th birthday and I had already made plans to visit my twin brother in Chicago, I had even purchased a plane ticket. But there was a major crisis with an inflexible deadline, so my employer offered to pay me for my unused ticket if I would re-schedule my vacation and head down to Florida for five days.
The afternoon of my departing flight, I noticed that my car was sitting unusually low to the ground. I had just inflated my tires the previous day and was alarmed to find that two of them were already conspicuously flatter.
Nothing to do but change the flattest one and hope for the best, I reckoned.
As is often the the case when I attempt car repair of any kind, the best didn't exactly happen. I wound up calling for a tow truck, which picked up my hobbled car and drove me to the airport in time to catch my flight.
I ducked into the airport Applebee's while I was waiting for the flight to board and had a late lunch. I was disturbed to find a large fragment of what looked like a human tooth inside my chicken wrap.
After inspecting the fragment and comparing it to the contents of my own mouth, I was doubly disturbed to realize that the offending tooth was my own. I was going to be on the road for a week and a toothache could really complicate things. Fortunately, it wasn't hurting.
At the last minute a ground crew drove up to our plane, sneakily opened the cargo hatch, removed my cell phone charger from my suitcase, and then sped away into the mists of time and loss.
When I arrived in Fort Lauderdale I called the hotel for a shuttle pickup. Upon arriving, I found out that not only was I at the wrong location, but the hotel had never received the reservations my employer had made for me. I didn't get inside a room until just before midnight.
As you might imagine, the lifting and toting of boxes is hungry work. Unfortunately, my company didn't spring for a rental car, so for I had to choose from restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. Snowball is part of the Ft. Lauderdale suburban sprawl, one endless stretch of malls, chain restaurants, hotels and corporate campuses. It isn't the kind of place that has walking distance.
Two meals were taken at a place called The Grande Mal Cafe. This was a fulsomely ornate, overstuffed and overpriced eatery run by the same company that operates the Cheesebrick Factory, whatever that is.
The first night I ate there, I was so tired from work that I just had appetizers and dessert. That was plenty.
The waiter's 'warning' that the "portions were huge" and the mango salsa was "very hot and spicy" were received skeptically by myself, but I tried the Jamaican Pork anyway.
I was right to be skeptical. This is not a "large" portion of anything; the food only covered a small oval at the center of the plate, the sparse chunklets of pineapple-based salsa were all but hidden by the sprig of cilantro and the tiny decorative mounds of beans and rice were little more than a few forkfuls apiece. A few tasty but short-lived morsels of pork cowered underneath the onion garnish, but were hardly enough to satisfy my carnivorous appetite. Two shark-fin shaped pieces of fried flour were an ineffective distraction.
Still, it tasted good. I had to ask for more salsa, but it was provided without charge. It was neither hot nor spicy, but did have fresh cilantro in it. Duh, right?
For dessert I stopped at Bin and Gerald's and had a nine-dollar ice cream sundae. Two scoops.
On the way back to the hotel I felt the cold eye of Authority on me. The Police had a 'lifeguard' tower in the mall parking lot. Just seeing it hovering over me made me feel like a criminal, as if the cops could tell that I was an oatmeal-eating file clerk outlaw, one who has no business trespassing in the world of hotels, giant malls, tiny expensive meals and the expense accounts that make such things possible.
Thursday was my last night in Florida. I celebrated bt going on an alligator hunt. There was a small man-made lake near the hotel that looked promising.
I was hoping to get a few snapshots of myself wrestling an alligator, but my hunt was unsuccessful. All I managed to wrestle was this sign, which I walked into while I was fiddling with my camera. Considering how ill-conceived my plan was, I suppose it is just as well that it didn't work out.
By Friday I had moved 8.5 tons of boxes. I was ready to go home. So I went.