My trip to crazy and back

When I gave up my condo in Costa Rica, I left a few of my most valuable items in a bodega (storage unit) in Santa Ana, near Escazu. I went back in April to sell or ship what remained. It was a busy and stressful job to arrange accommodations, rent a car, schedule dates with a few friends, and get bids for transporting furniture and boxes.  My go-to guy, who had helped me there for years and planned to do so again, had a complete breakdown and was incapacitated.

So it began.

The only non-stop flight on Delta from the west coast is a midnight flight from LAX. I don’t do well on red-eyes, because I cannot sleep on an airplane. While sleeping meds are an option, taking those on a five-hour flight would make me comatose for the day of arrival. I did plan to have the morning to sleep at my friend’s condo before my afternoon appointments.

I spent the day of departure preparing for my trip, driving to LAX and parking at a nearby lot, from where I was shuttled to the airport. Delta decided to change all or their operations from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 ON THE EXACT DAY I CHOSE TO FLY. The terminal was pretty much in chaos, as one might expect. And my plan to rest for several hours in the Delta Sky Club, with free food, drinks and showers, was aborted when, for a reason I didn’t quite grasp, they closed the new lounge at 8:00 pm and moved us into another lounge in another terminal.  “Just for the first night,” they assured me. As if I would be there for another.

View from New Terminal

I had rented a car with Avis (remember the name) at the San Jose airport.  My credit card specifically covers supplemental insurance on international car rentals, but not liability; I was given a price of $18 per day for that. Upon arriving at the Avis office, I noticed that the guy at the desk was telling everyone that they had to buy a full Costa Rican insurance package for $40 per day. There are a few good reasons for this: Many credit cards which claim to cover supplemental insurance are not adequate in how much they cover; also, claims between CR car rental offices and US credit companies are often a nightmare. In my case, however, I pay for a very expensive Delta AMEX which covers this.

The rental guy refused to rent to anyone not paying the full $40, and there were a lot of pissed of gringos. (This is a classic example of how tourists are politely scammed in the land of Pura Vida.) All ultimately buckled. When my time came, I explained my situation, so he agreed to not charge me the full amount, as long as I showed him a letter of coverage from AMEX addressed specifically to me. (No, the website was not enough.)  I told him I should have been told that when I called Avis in CR two days prior. As you might imagine, he was not apologetic.

I then called AMEX and asked for a letter; the AMEX person told me she was emailing me one as we spoke. It didn’t arrive. I kept checking email for another half-hour, and then called and got another agent.  She said I would get it by the end of the day. I told her again that I was in the AVIS office and needed it immediately and that the previous agent had claimed to have sent me one. After two hours, I caved and went to the agent and agreed to pay the full amount. 

He had rented my car.

Imagine how one might respond to this after a good night’s sleep.  Now imagine me responding after 26 hours of no sleep. After losing my shit, as they say, I insisted that they drive me back to the airport where I could rent from another company. An hour later, I drove off in my Budget rental to make my way to my neighbor’s condo.  By then, I was exhausted, angry and in a state of quasi-panic, since I had to immediately turn around and go to my afternoon appointments.

By the end of the day, I had been up for 38 hours. I did enjoy a moment of levity when I noticed that the bed to which I was assigned was that of my neighbor’s 14-year-old son and was made up with Spiderman sheets. And they were comfortable.

I never caught up on my sleep, and all the prices which I’d been quoted were now double the expected price. I was not happy. I learned that shipping costs to the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach had quadrupled due to the transportation backlog. I found someone to ship my stuff to Miami and then over land to California. I also ended up giving away three of my favorite pieces of furniture, among other items. At least I didn’t need to ship boxes separately with FedEx.

The exhaustion and stress, physical and emotional, took their toll. In six days and nights, I managed to 1) pass a kidney stone, 2) have a literally blinding headache (which I feared was a stroke but chose to die in a Hilton rather than a Costa Rican hospital), and 3) have one morning of cramps and diarrhea. (Poison, perhaps?)  I also had to purchase and wear a neck-brace for the last three days to alleviate the searing pain in my neck and shoulders. Hmm…And here I’ve been so proud of how much healthier I am.

Now, I may not have much in my life, or have much about me which is admirable, but I do know for a fact that I am extremely competent at organizational and logistical tasks. I am the Master of To-do Lists. Which is why I freaked myself out when I found myself making numerous errors, some perhaps to be expected, and others just plain and unusually stupid.

For example, I had moved into my friend’s condo on day one, unpacked, and repacked before moving to a hotel on day three. When I unpacked in the hotel, there was an insole for a running shoe in my bag. I was perplexed, as anyone might be, but then was unable to deduce that I must have packed it in error while my suitcase was open on my neighbor’s front hallway floor. My ability to reason simply shut down. It was only when my neighbor texted me looking for his insole that I understood what had happened.

After my arrival at LAX and picking up my car, I got lost more than once trying to navigate to the 10 freeway and drive to Palm Springs.  I’m pretty sure that I lived in LA for 24 years.

Now, I’ve had experiences of extreme anxiety, but I’ve never lost my ability to think logically (even while acting illogically).  It wasn’t until I returned and rested that I realized that some of the problem could be attributed to a new psychiatric medication I had started one week before the trip. My shrink agreed and has since changed my meds.

So…I feel fine now and am mostly pain-free. Maybe it’s because I did what I intended to do and now have only to wait. Or maybe because I’m back home.

Since my return, it has taken me 10 days of emails, texts and phone calls to receive confirmation that my payments to the transportation company were received and that my things were in the port of Limon. I have been unable to ascertain if and when they have been or will be shipped. And none of the documents which I have received contain my telephone number, which the company here will need to contact me in advance of the delivery date so I can be there with helpers to unpack and load into my unit here.  Another lesson in paciencia y fe: patience and faith.

To end on a positive note, I was upgraded to first class on the return flight and not charged for my extra suitcases.  And, for the first time in three years, I was served a decent hot meal on a Delta flight.  Maybe all is not lost.

My Starbucks in Palm Springs