Saturday, March 20, 2010
Vacations are great inspiration for potential stories. For instance, I just got back from Belize with friends Trudy, Joan, and sister Sus. We flew into the International Airport, walked into a reception area with a Customs desk on the left. Through my jet-lagged eyes, I saw a huge pedestal behind which three or four mean-looking, suspicious men and women glared down at us weary, scraggly travelers, just daring us to try and smuggle a fruit-fly laden apple into their country. They were heavily uniformed—I have a trauma-based aversion to anything uniformed (even head waiters creep me out) from the 60ies, and possibly armed. I told you I was fatigued—and sleep-deprived. Somehow, we cleared Passport inspection with only a question or two about our intent.
Ahead, we aim for the luggage carousel. By implicit agreement, we all keep a look out for each other, two of us never having traveled abroad. Three of us wander to the right of the carousel, Joan wanders to the left. Slowly, the bags are placed on the conveyer. Trudy and Sus pull theirs off and are waiting behind, out of the way. I spot my little bag with the bright red ribbon and hoist it up off the carousel. Smiling with the success of my trip so far, I turn to Trudy and Sus. We glance around for Joan. Hmm, in such a small space (a one room lobby), where could she possibly be? Oh, yeah, the bathrooms. Joan? Joan? No Joan. Okay, don’t panic. There’s the duty free store just across the lobby. Sure, that’s where she is. No Joan.
How many headlines have you seen on the evening news about women or children who disappear without a trace in foreign countries? All those come roaring back to me in my head. Breathe. Don’t jump to conclusions. Okay. OH MY GOD, SHE’S BEEN KIDNAPPED! My head swivels back and forth, up and down (I knew she wasn’t really on the ceiling—it was just reflex). We speak to someone in the office. They have no idea, figure she’s cleared Customs and has probably gone on outside. No, she wouldn’t do that, we mumble between us.
There were forms to fill out before we could even go out and see if she was on the other side. Once out, we can’t return to the lobby. How will we communicate with each other? Group decision: we’ll go out, hope she is returned by the kidnappers and figures out we’re not in the lobby. Perhaps she’ll find her way through customs and meet us outside. Okay—that’s the plan.
We fill out our forms, have them stamped, and are herded out the door to await our connecting plane. I cast a furtive glance behind me as I leave the lobby. Stepping through the door I see Joan to my right, looking bored, tired, wondering where the heck we’ve been. She had grabbed her bags as soon as they’d hit the carousel and in her expedient little way headed on through Customs to wait for us on the other side.
Relief pours out of my body like sweat from the change of climate. Kind of an anticlimactic ending for a potentially great kidnap/ransom mystery, but I’ll trade that any day for the safety of my good friend.
For information about the Belize Jungle Dome Resort and Adventure Tours: www.belizejungledome.com
Check it out; you won’t be disappointed.