“For God’s Sake Millie, Don’t Hang Up”

Ahh! The good old days!

Now all you Gen X, Y, and Z’ers, you may find this tale a bit hard to believe, but it’s no fairy tale, it all really happened.

Once upon a time, many years ago, there were two fools. They were nice fools but clearly didn’t understand the concept of a “get-away” vacation. One cold and snowy winter they decided that a trip to beautiful St. Thomas would be a perfect winter escape. But there was a problem: they felt very guilty about leaving their three children home with Nana.

They thought and thought about it for many days. Then one day Fool Number One said, ”Hey, I know! Why don’t we go for five days—just the two of us, and then we can have the kids come down with Nana for the rest of the time .”

The two fools thought that was a great idea!

Oh, the fools got away for a vacation all right, maybe a little too away, but that’s where our (oops!) their story begins.

They had it all figured out. Fool Number Two knew if they invited Nana to come with them to St. Thomas—even though she’d love the weather and water—she would never agree. Nana was very stubborn and always refused their offers to take her to new places, so the fools devised a trap: they told her they were going to fly the three kids ( twelve, five, and four years old) down…alone. Nana was horrified and quickly agreed to come.

The fools’ great idea was working out beautifully.Their bags packed, instructions, and tickets given to Nana, off they went to the airport to board a flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Now, St.Thomas had a very small, airport, so they had to change planes in Puerto Rico and take another smaller plane to St.Thomas.

Oh, the fools were elated! They were finally in St.Thomas. They picked up the rental car along with a map, and despite having to drive on the left side of the road, they found their way to the other side of the island and the resort. They located the entrance and turned onto the narrow driveway. The roadway widened slightly, and they parked the car and  followed a small stone walkway that led to a door marked “Reception Office.” The reception building looked like a small bungalow, and when the fools walked in they were surprised by the tall walls of glass and wood that overlooked the ocean.

“Oh look,” said Fool Number Two. “Isn’t it beautiful!”
“I told you it would be beautiful. Do I know how to plan trips or what,” said Fool Number One.
They checked in and were whisked to their bungalow in a golf cart. The small resort was tucked into a hillside and each unit had its own private view of the water. All the units were connected by paths that wound through carefully curated tropical landscaping. The fools’ unit was below the reception building, closer to the beach, yet high enough for panoramic views of the azure blue waters and distant islands. The wide lanai wrapped around two sides of their bungalow, and sliding glass doors opened the entire two-bedroom unit to the outdoors. They were gobsmacked by the beauty of their surroundings.

So there they were, enjoying the escape from snowy February, watching the sunset from their lanai. Day three. No work, no phones, no worr…

“I just thought of something,” Fool Number One said.

“Yes,” murmured Fool Number Two dreamily, still fixated on the sunset.

“It was confusing in the San Juan airport trying to find that other gate to catch the small plane over here.”

“Mmm, it was,” said Fool Number Two as she closed her eyes sleepily. An instant later she opened her eyes and bolted upright.

“Oh, no! Nana’s never flown before, she knows nothing about terminals or changing planes and finding different gates…”

“I know, but that’s not the big problem,” Fool Number One said.“I just checked the tickets a few minutes ago and the flight on the smaller plane is the last one of the day. If they miss it they’ll be stranded overnight in Puerto Rico with little money.”

“What shall we do?” asked Fool Number Two.

“We need to call her. We need to call her and explain what she needs to do.”

“Good thinking,” said Fool Number Two.

The phone in their unit did not have an outside line, it only connected to the main office. In fact, none of the phones in the units had outside lines. There was only one phone at the Main office that had a line to make long-distance telephone calls via a long-distance operator. (are you with me, Gen X, Y, and Zer’s?)

But, no problem, thought the two fools. Off went Hubby, err, Fool Number One to make the call. Only he couldn’t make the call. Turns out there was a naval ship anchored off the port of Charlotte Amalie and the sailors had tied up all the phone lines.

Day four dawned. Still no luck with the phone lines. Finally, that afternoon, the main office called and said the long-distance operator had a line open, “Please come to the office immediately.” Both fools ran up to the office. Fool Number One ran in and grabbed the phone receiver from the receptionist, gave the operator Nana’s name and number, and anxiously waited for Nana to pick up on the other end.

Now another thing to know is, due to her age, Nana’s idea of a long-distance call was it’s only used if someone is dead or is about to die, and costs “thousands” of dollars a minute. She also believed the conversation must be in abbreviated Western Union “telegraph- speech”. The fools were about to find out just how much she adhered to this monetary philosophy.

Nana answered the phone.

“Listen, Millie, this is really important, you have to change planes in San Juan and …
You’ll have to go to a different gate…”
“Yup, yup.”
“…but it’s in another part of the terminal.”

Yup, yup, okay, bye.” Click. She hung up.

Fool Number One got the long-distance operator on the line and asked her to call again.

Nana answered again.

“Listen, Millie, don’t hang up. You’re taking the last plane out of San Juan…”
“Yup, yup, okay, bye”

Wide-eyed, Fool Number One turned around, held the receiver up, and said to no one in particular, ”She hung up! She said, ‘Okay’, and she hung up– again!”
The fools’ last chance to talk to her—to tweak a metaphor—died on the line.

The two fools went back and sat on their lanai and thought and thought.
“There’s only one thing left to do,” said Fool Number One. “We have to go and meet them in San Juan.”

The two fools went to bed thinking they had a plan. And they did. And it was a good plan…until they woke up, heard the thunder, and saw the rain and fog rolling over the ocean. But, this was paradise, right?

“It will clear up by mid-morning,’ said Fool Number Two.

Only it didn’t. It continued to rain as they drove to the airport. But they were relieved—planes fly all the time in rain. There was no thunder and no lightning. Arriving at the tiny terminal, they went up to the counter and purchased their round-trip tickets from a slender middle-aged man who reminded them of Bob Newhart.(Google him, you—well you know who you are.) He pointed to a waiting room and told the couple to wait there until they were called to board.

The room was long and narrow with folding chairs aligned along both sides, and a door at the far end of the room. Opposite the door was a small counter. There were no windows in the room, and most of the chairs were occupied when they arrived. Fool Number Two thought it resembled a community detention lock-up. Not the she ever saw one, but she imagined it would look like this—sort of like the insides of a very long paddy wagon.

After a wait of about forty-five minutes, the Bob Newhart guy, comes in and sprints to the end of the room and picks up a radio receiver on the shelf under the small counter.
“Come in. Come in. Can you hear me? Over” Then a wrrriisskkk…wrrriisskkk… wrrriisskkk… garbled noise that sounded like “ are ‘ditions — field? Over.” At that point Bob opens the door, steps outside, comes back in, and grabs the radio.

“Fog, low visibility, over.” Wrrriisskkk… wrrriisskkk… wrrriisskkk… “can’t ‘ee runway. Try ‘gin. Over.”

The fools heard the prop plane circling overhead, and Bob repeated his opening the door, checking the weather routine two more times, and two more times the fools heard the garbled voice on the other end say he can’t see the runway, and can’t land. The noise of the props slowly fades away.

Bob—the ticket taker, bag handler, and flight controller, then announced, “Sorry folks, too much fog. The pilot couldn’t see the landing strip and returned to San Juan. He’ll try again a little later. You’re welcome to stay and try for the next flight, but if you all stay, and other ticket holders arrive there won’t be room enough on the plane for everyone. There are only twenty-six seats on the plane.”

Nobody left. Fool Number Two counted the silent, waiting passengers. Twenty-four. What if more passengers arrive? How would they decide who gets bumped? What if the last flight gets delayed?  Fool Number Two began to eye the others in the room with suspicion. Does that person really need to get to San Juan? An hour goes by and, Bob of “Take a Chance Airlines”, rushes in and repeats the show. Still fog, still no landing.

Now, after the second flight was canceled, a few more people arrived. No, no, no.  Fool Number scowled at the waiting passengers. Leave! Leave, she tried to communicate telepathically. Then magically, they heard her, because three of the original waiting passengers left! She counted quickly, twenty-five seats. An hour later, the plane returned and safely landed. Everyone scrambled aboard, and the fools took off.

Settled into their small seats,they began to relax…until Fool Number One checked his wristwatch and realized they would arrive the same time as Nana’s flight.

“Oh no,” said Fool Number One. “The last plane to St. Thomas leaves almost at the same we arrive, and the gates are quite a distance from each other.”

So the fools fools devised another plan: Fool Number One would go to the gate where the last flight to St. Thomas was to depart and would try to get them to hold the plane while Fool Number Two would run to the Capital Air arrival gate  to rush everyone to the “Take a Chance” airlines.

“This will work,” they confidently said to each other as they put their heads back and relaxed for the few remaining minutes of the flight.

When they landed The fools set about their mission. Fool Number Two ran to the arrival gate and found Nana and the kiddies. Nana was looking all around, trying to take in everything around her and beaming. The twelve-year-old was excited and the four and five-year-olds looked tired.

Fool Number Two grabbed Nana’s arm and her small bag and herded the group through the terminal. Nana didn’t grasp why the fool was rushing her, and no matter how hard the fool tried to explain, she couldn’t get Nana to walk any faster.

The last passengers had already boarded the plane, when the kiddies spotted Fool Number One looking anxiously for his family.  “Wait, wait, we’re coming,” shouted Fool Number Two The six of them scrambled onto the plane. Nana and the four-year-old sat together. The small plane took off and immediately got tossed about in the storm. The fools knew it was to be expected for a prop plane. Up. Down. Up. Down. A little to the left, a little to the right. Up. Down. But Nana had never been on a prop plane before, and with each “drop” she turned to the four-year-old and exclaimed loudly over the noise of the motors, “Weeeee! Weeee!” They both loved it!

The plane landed and Nana proclaimed, “That was the best ride ever! It was just like riding the roller coaster.” A passenger sitting in front of them said to her companion as she stood up and glared at Nana, “That is the LAST time I EVER get on a plane.”

The “roller coaster ride” began a wonderful family trip for Nana. As for the Two Fools? 

Well, they had three…err…almost three blissful days without the kids. What a terrific get-away they thought.


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