So I have this friend.. And I’ve known him for probably about 15 years. In those 15 years, I met him only once, yet I still consider him a pretty close friend. You see, we both were moderators on a reef aquarium board called www.ReefCentral.com for a number of years. He was one of the original founders, and I was an early member. We both evolved through the ranks of moderator to become staff members there, and I worked with him on www.Reefkeeping.com doing web design while he was the author of many articles on fish. Through our interactions on the forum, a mutual respect grew out of knowing that we genuinely had an interest in preserving and protecting the reefs through education and good information. After all, you don’t become staff on a board the size of ReefCentral without knowing a thing or two about this spectacular world underwater..
Fast forward a few years, and Henry and I no longer have tanks. Henry has traded glass tanks for scuba tanks and has spent a few years polishing his skills as a scuba instructor in Utila and Fiji, and I haven’t dived in nearly 20 years. I actually became Open Water certified in my senior year of college, but never had the funds to go diving really. Now Henry has offered up his place to a number of people, myself included, to come dive, and I never considered the opportunity until this year. A couple of my co-workers go on some kind of international trip each year, so, this spring I decided to save all my tips and all my overtime, and make a vacation to Mexico this year. Accommodations would be cheap or not cost me anything since I would be staying with a friend, and our only costs would be travel, food and entertainment really.
Finally managed to get a plan together, and set the dates for September 18 -28. I would attempt to get some classes out of the way and get my Advanced Open Water cert, and possibly a few others, and Vicky would attempt to do her Open Water Cert. Henry’s place was open, his offer still on the table, and we had a plan of action! I go on Expedia and book a few hotels for later in the week as we wanted to explore Playa Del Carmen, Tulum and Cancun (Mistake #1 – Planning in advance. Ended up cancelling all hotels and changing plans.).
The week before the trip I stopped at a local beer store which usually has a good selection, and picked up almost 2 cases of some really good beer for the trip. Henry can’t really get good beer down there, and I figured this gesture would set the tone of the week, and we’d all have a good time. I ended up packing 34 individual bottles (3 litres per checked bag, I did my research on what I could bring with me TO Mexico) to be sure we made it through customs without issues.
Friday Comes and we’re scheduled to fly out at 12:30 from Newark International. I run a few errands in the early morning, and have scheduled our car service for a 9:30 am pickup. I figured on an hour drive to the airport, and 2 hours for check-in on an international flight should be plenty, and plenty it was! Had enough time in the airport, board our plane, and finally we were off to our first stop, Miami. Short layover here, little over an hour, so we hurry through the terminal and notice that Miami has a smoking section once you’re beyond the security checkpoints! Bonus! Grab a quick cigarette in the smoking bar, and get ready to board the flight from Miami to Cancun. So far, so good, right? Well, when we check in, we find ourselves seated in row 30. Ugh! This is the last row in the plane, and we’re on a tight schedule to get thru customs and to another terminal in Cancun so we can board a MayaAir puddle jumper flight from Cancun to Cozumel. Last on usually means we’re also going to be the last off. Great!
Well, the gods aren’t on board with my plan evidently, and just after we’re boarded and ready to taxi to the runway, a woman 6 rows in front of us passes out. Anxiety about the flight, but still, they need to get her off the plane. And we sit, and my window in Cancun keeps shrinking and shrinking. They start to taxi us back to the runway and suddenly someone remembers she has checked bags, so back to the gate we go to unload her checked bags. Finally taxi back out to the runway about 7:20pm. Yeah, I’m not making my 7:30pm MayaAir flight in Cancun, considering I’m just leaving Miami, and we were originally scheduled to land in Cancun at 6:00!
The rest of the flight goes just fine, and we land in Cancun around 8:30pm. Now we both have to get thru Customs. No problem, right? I did my research, and packed what I believed was the legal amount of beer to bring in for my friend. Packed it in towels and newspaper, wrapped in a plastic bag in case any broke, I figured I was all good. So I go to the Customs line, press my button and it goes green, and I’m through. Vicky presses her button and it goes red. So she’ll be inspected. I figure this will be quick, after all she only has 17 bottles in her checked bag, and I was allowed to bring in 3L per person. The unzip her bag, see the plastic bag, and one of the bottles had opened. I’m hovering just past the checkpoint when a Federale tells me I have to go out the doors. I reluctantly go thru the doors, and as I look back, they are taking Vicky to a back room, and all I see is the glance of death from Vicky as she looks over her shoulder at me while being led away. Well, it turns out in the back room, they count the bottles and tell her it will be $80. She’s like “No way! I’m not spending that much on taxes” when the official is like “No, thats pesos. About $7 US”. Whew! She almost let them take about $100 worth of beer because of a miscommunication in dollars! She hands over the money, and is sent on her way. Turns out 2 bottles were missing, but no broken glass found. There was beer in the bag, so I’m guessing one just exploded the cap off. All good, if we only have 2 casualties, we’re good!