To the staff at the Comfort in, Logan Airport: THANK YOU!

To: The Manager and Staff
Comfort Inn and Suites
Revere, MA

June 4, 2010.

Dear Staff:

I would like to convey my sincerest thanks to all for their incredible patience and professionalism in handling what, for me, could have been a disastrous event!

At 2:30pm on Friday, June 4, 2010, I entered my room to find a polite maid there, cleaning up. She was a rushed, but was happy that I didn't mind if she kept working while I unpacked, and after she left I happily began enjoying the amenities of my room.

I went for a quick lunch at 4:00pm at Margarita's and when I returned at 4:30, the room was emptied completely. My heart (and body) raced to the reception desk, in a severe panic, fearing the worst. I prayed that there was a misunderstanding: maybe they thought I checked out, and they were instructed to move all my belongings to another room? Maybe it was because of the emergency we had earlier this morning? I tried hard to think of the most positive result.....

Angel, Erica, and Chris, flew into action, gathering info, maids, and checking key logs as fast as they could. All I could do was pace the entire length of the Lobby!

I ran to my room, checking my key again, hoping against all odds that there was some kind of mistake: Yes, my key opens the door to room 615. This is my room, 615. As I fell in my chair in despair, I realized something: “If there was a thief here, he/she is INCREDIBLY neat and tidy! The bathroom is spotless, the coffee maker is clean, all the cups, towels, glasses, even brochures are back where they belong!”

Then it dawned on me: I didn't use a KEY to get into room was already open because of the maid.......did I get off on the wrong floor?

Angel rushed me to room 415, Having deduced the floor number from my description of the maid. When the door swung open, everything I owned was intact, and in a familiar mess.

My face flushed from panic to mortification. (Funny, though, it's the same colour!) Angel escorted me down to the front desk and I reported my stupidity. Again, the staff showed impeccable care in handling my embarrassment. I deserved, at the very least, a dumb look or a stern scowl! Instead, laughter, relief, and a new room key.

So, it is with sincere thanks that I congratulate everyone at the Comfort Inn, Logan Airport. How ironic that good staff and my bad memory made my stay - strangely – memorable!!

Best Regards,

Foggy thoughts from Hong Kong

What a blessing to have an exit row seat on a 747.  It's pretty much like having an economy-class seat with first-class space!!!  There must have been 2m of leg room before the next row, and there's a sort of bump on the giant escape door that doubles as an ottoman!  As the plane took off from SFO, I was looking forward to sleeping comfortably.  Unfortunately, the seat wasn't very comfy, and I woke up every - say - 30 minutes because my neck kept protesting about having to hold up my giant blonde head.  I developed a sort of "shifting pattern" that worked for a while, but I gave up in frustration by the time dinner was served.  I enjoyed my chicken stir fry while my laptop played the latest of my TV addictions.  (Back Story: The wireless service in SFO was free and FAST, so I was thrilled to download nearly all the week's podcasts, plus TV shows inside 2 hours!)



So, In approximately 3 hours, I managed to finish all my TV, and felt the very real need for sleep.  I caved and had a cup of red wine, which immediately did the trick.  I was back into my shifting sleep pattern ALL the way to Hong Kong!  Funny thing, all I remember was waking up to sit up straight for landing.  Then I fell asleep again, felt the thump of landing, fell asleep again, then woke up in a fog to the "ding" of the seat belt sign being turned off.



I gathered myself together and dragged myself through HKG terminal 1, whisked through Immigration and customs, barely conscious.  At the first public arrival area, I squinted my eyes, scanning through the gaggle of chauffeurs with cheaply printed papers and realized there's nobody here to pick me up.



Oh, the difficulty of thinking clearly when you've had no sleep!  For some reason, my T-mobile phone was working, so I tried dialling the port agent, unaware of how the area codes work.  I kept getting error messages in Cantonese.  (Funny thing, you KNOW it's an error message even if it isn't in English.) So, like the typical tinkerer I am, I tried dialling, removing one prefix digit at a time,!  I hit the jackpot with a ringtone!  The man on the other line acknowledged it was the port agent, but gruffly told me to call another number.  I complied, but my call was rudely interrupted with the T-mobile jingle, then, "Your t-mobile account is depleted. To top up, press 1...blah, blah, blah."




There's something about my personality that just wants to FIX things, regardless of how pointless, time wasting or expensive.  I followed the phone tree to an operator in India, who simply couldn't understand that my credit card had a canadian zip code!  After 10 minutes of trying to explain, he passed me on to his supervisor...except it was another fucking phone tree, and the branch I reached was dead.  I hung up and yelled at the ceiling. 



 I didn't notice the beautiful architecture until then.  I followed the lines, hypnotized by the simple beauty, until my eyes picked up the words "free wifi".  It's a miracle!  I popped open my laptop and fired up skype, which conveniently identified the correct way to dial Hong Kong area codes, and within a minute, I was talking to the right person.  Her accent was very difficult to understand, but, thank goodness I live in Vancouver.  Cantonese accents are common there. "Meet.... driver..... at..... Burger King.  He will be there..... half hour."  I complied, though I thought to myself, how pathetic that, of all the places to meet in a Hong Kong airport, BURGER KING is the BEST they could come up with?



My driver arrived, guiding me through the maze of parking lots, until we reached his Audi.  I couldn't help but notice that this parking lot was loaded with very powerful cars!  Maserati, BMW, Mercedes, Audi...I was in the premiere parking lot, that's for sure!



No time to admire the Maserati behind us, off we went for the 40 minute drive.  There was a fog today, so any exotic photos I could have taken from the dashboard would have been useless.  I took one picture.  It was a massively tall building that literally cut into the clouds.  I listened to Cantonese talk radio while we drove through Bridge, tunnel, bridge, tunnel, and we were there.  It definitely wasn't a passenger pier.  Hastily erected tents were the only people-friendly aspects of the dock.  It was 9am.



I checked in, got to my room, threw my bags in a corner, ate breakfast, and flopped in bed, hoping to get just an hour's nap.  I woke up SEVEN HOURS LATER to a phone call, telling me to meet immigration on deck 10.  I totally missed Hong Kong.  Funny thing, I didn't feel too bad.  Vancouver is pretty much the same city.

Immigration HELL in Rio

I’m on my second day of my cruise up the Amazon, and I’m only just becoming “stabilized”. It’s not just the time zone difference (I’ve crossed the Atlantic many times, so I’m used to 8 or 9 hour jet lag: 5 zones is only an intermediate level) or the endless hours on a jet where your butt falls asleep but the rest of you remains completely and uncomfortably awake. Arriving like a zombie is standard fare for a job like this, but arriving in Brazil without the standard paperwork is a whole new level of pain.

I arrived in Rio after nearly 24 hours of flying and transfers, and I presented my “back door visa” to the authorities. My back door visa happens to be a Bahamian Seaman’s book which proves you intend to work on a ship, therefore avoiding the time and expense it takes to get a Brazilian Visa. Thanks to George Bush and his stupid xenophobic foreign policy, all citizens of Brazil must get expensive visas in order to enter the U.S. Brazil reciprocated by requiring the same in reverse. What, do they think I want to DEFECT to Brazil? Give me a break!

So, here I am with my Bahamian “passport” and they take me aside for what I thought would be a standard immigration interview, like the U.S. authorities do. Instead I sit on the side of a hall for an hour while they try and find someone who knows what this document is supposed to be.

The supervisor entered the hall with my Bahamian book: she was a tall, thin woman dressed in a worn black business suit. She was probably in her 30’s but years of smoking and hard partying aged her to 40-something. Her long hair needed cream rinse and her highlights desperately needed retouching months ago. Everything seemed to bother her.

She said that I had to have a representative of the ship to speak for me and prove that I actually worked on the ship. I showed her the contract that came from Radisson’s head office in Ft. Lauderdale. She shook her head, flipping her long, semi-bleached curls over her nametag.

“These contracts are not good enough?” I asked.

“Those contracts do not prove you work onboard.”

I retorted, “Yes they do. Look at the date. Look at the signatures. Look at the nice, shiny paper that says in bold type: RADISSON CRUISE LINES ENTERTAINER CONTRACT. Under that is my name, address, date of birth, phone number, pet’s name, and zodiac sign.”

“This contract is not the document we need.” She stonewalled, un-amused.

Well, what DO you need, lady? A friggin’ picture? A certificate embossed with gold? This woman must have been a Samba dancer for years and years during Carnivale, but it felt like she never had a day’s fun in her life…

“Come on! This contract is the best possible way you can prove I work for Radisson!” I added, “It works for the Americans…”

“We’re not American.” She said, and before I got deported, I added, “What do I need to do?”

“Call your ship’s agent. Do you have the number?”

Ahh, she can be helpful! I thought maybe she wasn’t just some bitter, blind bureaucrat.

“Easy. It’s right here…no, wait…here? Oh, no.” I fumbled through the documents: I had no agent number.

“I have to phone my booking agent in Miami. He’ll know.”

“No, you have to phone the SHIP’S agent in Rio.”

“I don’t have the number, but my BOOKING agent in Miami would know that number.” I said.

“You can’t call long distance in this office.”

“Well, can’t I use that phone down the hall?” I offered.

“You have to be cleared first to get into that public area.” She countered.

“Well, then, have one of your staff follow me and make sure I don’t run away!” I reassured them.

“They’re busy.” She blurted.

I looked around the room: They were talking to each other, sipping small cups of coffee while the immigration hall was completely empty. “I see…maybe the guy who’s asleep on the desk can take time off his busy nap to help me?”

“You cannot go into the public area without being cleared.” She was sounding like a skipping CD. (A broken record is sooo last century!)

“I can’t be cleared until I make that phone call.” I said, exasperated.

“Then you’ll just have to wait until the representative shows up, or you have to go back to America.”

“CANADA, actually.” I corrected her. Not that I wanted that, either. I began imagining a call from a pissed off Radisson management, swearing never to use me again for following their advice. I was beginning to think I was Dilbert. “Please, let me use that phone!”

“I can go with you.” A guy about my age with the deepest tan a white man could ever have approached. His white shirt only deepened the hue of his face. He put down his coffee and escorted me through the security doors to the kiosk while the supervisor glared at him. He paid no attention (obviously she was not HIS supervisor!) and took me to the phone. “Do you have a phone card?” He asked.

“No, but I could buy one from that store there.” I cringed, thinking he wouldn’t allow me to go up the escalator, but he sighed and said, “Come.”

I had my card and phoned my agent in Miami, who immediately sent someone from the Rio agency to meet me there.

“Do you have your original contract?” I handed him the precious document, and 30 minutes later, I was sat in another empty hall, where another man smiled, introduced himself as Renaldo, and gave me my contract back. I thought it would be all over soon, and I could make my flight…if I hurry.

2 hours later, I had not been seen, talked to, or heard from. I was getting more and more anxious, pacing the waxed marble floor, rearranging music, and generally being restless. I would have driven my ex up the wall.

Renaldo finally came back and reported that they were waiting for a fax from Radisson’s Ft. Lauderdale office. It was the document proving I worked for the company, but apparently, no one has faxed it yet. “Do you have your contract?” He asked, and I handed over the papers once again.

“Call them again.” I said. “For crying out loud, I’ve been here 2 hours.”

“I will, but I’ve already called them twice.” Renaldo explained.

“Well, call them again. My bags are whirling around the carousel, just waiting to be stolen. If I lose them, I can’t work, then you might as WELL send me back to America, and you can KEEP my damn contract!”

“OK. Please be patient. I will take care of the bags.”

I grunted, throwing my hands up, “I got all day.”

10 minutes later I finally got my clearance: They got a fax from Radisson’s Ft. Lauderdale office proving - once and for all - I worked for the company…

It was a copy of the EXACT same contract.