Last week, Thursday, after checking the weather for South Florida, I decided to make a last minute trip to Fort Lauderdale. I usually stay at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood when I'm in town. The Diplomat has one of the best pools in the area, great rooms, a nice steak house, a sports bar across A1A on the Intercoastal, and a quiet stretch of beach. It's also known for its Platinum recognition, which usually means I can book the cheapest room available and generally count on getting a free upgrade to an ocean front suite. In short, it's one of my favorite Starwood properties in the country. Last weekend, however, the Diplomat was sold out. So I decided to give the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort a shot.
I left the office around 4:00 and checked in at DCA by 4:30. In time for a few pre-flight cocktails and some seared ahi at Sam & Harry's. My flight was scheduled for 5:55, and I got through security in less than 5 minutes. Recently, on occasion, you now show up at security and get ushered straight through -- no removing shoes, jackets or belts . . . no removing laptop from bag. You just make it through the metal detector and your done. This was one of those night. Which meant I had time for one more beer.
So, now it's 5:40 . . . last call for boarding. I've had 4 Miller Lites in an hour. I'm playing with fire. Counting on an on-time take off and being able to use the bathroom quickly once in the air.
QUICK ASIDE: I've had some "bladder-busting" close calls on planes in my day. Times where I almost prayed for a crash just so I could reach the ground and not have to deal with the pain anymore. The worst occurred shortly after 9/11. It was a saturday afternoon. I was flying from DCA to LaGuardia for a quick day trip to catch the 7:05 first pitch at Shea Stadium. I got to the airport early and promptly started the party. I probably had 6 or 7 beers and then boarded the USAIR shuttle to NYC. It was sunny in D.C., and the plane timely taxied from the gate. However, as we get in line to take off, the engines suddenly die. The pilot gets on the horn and informs that, as is often the case during the summer, there were thunderstorms in the New York area, and there was a ground stop at LGA. So, there we are, stuck idle on an "active taxi-way," unable to get out of our seats. After half an hour, panic starts to set in. I've already got to take a leak. And we haven't even taken off yet. In fact, there is no sign of us being able to take off any time soon. And, this was soon after 9/11, when the FAA implemented new regulations for flights involving NY and DC. You were no longer allowed to leave your seat for the first and/or last 20 minutes of a flight into or out of either area airports. And, on a short shuttle flight between NY and DC, this basically meant you had to remain seated the entire time. Thus, for me, this meant I would not be able to use the bathroom until we hit the airport at LaGuardia. I knew I could not make it this long. So . . . eventually, we get the all clear to take off and get back in line on the tarmac. We're like 8th in line. Still well over an hour from relief. I'm already shifting in my seat, trying to deal with the pain. Full. Blown. Panic. Since it was an afternoon Saturday shuttle flight, the plane was not full. In fact, there was no one sitting in the two seats next to me. Just one woman in my row across on the aisle from me. I start considering just pissing myself right there in my seat. I mean, it was basically my only viable option. I figured I could use the inflight magazine to shield the issue. The plane now takes off and we are airborne. And I'm playing with the magazine trying to decide how obvious it would be if I did piss myself. Sure, it would be obvious when we landed and got off the plane. But I wasn't thinking that far ahead. I was focused on the here and now . . . wondering whether the flight attendant would notice when she came around for beverages . . . About ten minutes in, the the bell goes off . . . both on the plane and in my head. I seem to recall hearing something on the news about the FAA dropping the in-flight regulation about 20-in / 20-out of NY/DC. A flight attendant then walks down the aisle and I ask her, urgently - "CAN WE GET UP ON THIS FLIGHT?!??!?" She shakes her head in the affirmative and says, "when the fasten seatbelt sign goes off." JACKPOT!!! Well, she was barely passed my row when I jumped up and made a dash for the head. Sure, I didn't want to risk arrest for violating FAA security regulation . . . but I'd take my chances with some turbulence.... I took away an important lesson from that flight - switch from beer to scotch during the last 30 minutes before boarding!
Well, a decade later, I briefly forgot the lesson. I drank beer right up until boarding Friday. And, of course, as soon as the plane pulls out from the gate (for a sweet, sweet USAIRWAYS "on time" departure), it starts pouring out. We are delayed. And I'm in trouble. About 30 minutes later, we finally take off. We're 15 minutes airborne, but the captain leaves on the fasten seatbelt sign due to storm-related turbulence. I've had enough. I'll take my chances. I hop up from my seat in row 11 and make my way to the back of the plane. But when I get there, the male flight attendant steps in front of the bathroom door and sternly directs me back to my seat. Fuck!!!! Now, usually, if you get up with the seat belt sign on, you'll get quick lecture about staying in your seat; but the flight attendant will still let you use the head. Not this time. Dude means bid'ness. I return to my seat.
20 minutes later, the seat belt sign is still on, when I notice two people get up, walk down the aisle and use the bathroom. I wait a minute, and decide, "fuck it;" I get up and make a second attempt. Again, I get nearly to the back of the plane when the same flight attendant cuts me off and says "Sir, the seatbelt sign is STILL ON." But . . . but . . . but . . . what about the two people that just used the head???? Again, being an officer of the court and a man of the law, I respect his "authority" and slink back to my seat. Fortunately, 5 minutes later, the sign goes off and I'm first down the aisle . . .
30 minutes later, my friend comes by with beverage service. I order a bud light, and take out my credit card to pay. Dude says, "sir, I appreciate you not giving me a hassle before . . . this round's on me . . ." I guess that constitutes a happy ending . . .
I arrived at Fort Lauderdale around 9:00 Friday night and checked in at the Westin. I had again booked the cheapest room available - a low floor, "city view" -- and was counting on an upgrade. As the hotel was at capacity, there were no suites available by the time I check-in late in the evening. I did, however, snag an upgrade to a 10th floor ocean view corner room with views of both the ocean and inter coastal. And, after heading out on the town for a late dinner and a few more drinks, I woke up to this view in the am:
After a quick 4 mile run Saturday morning, I spent spent 6 hours at the beach. The weather was perfect all weekend - mid 80's -- and the water was fantastic.
This was my first trip to Fort Lauderdale beach. It was much more happening than Hollywood. Not exactly the party that South Beach is; but a party none-the-less. Lots of touristy bars and restaurants. I grabbed dinner Saturday night at a decent sushi joint, and spent the evening listening to live music and watching sports at tourist trap called Lu Lu's Bait Shack. It was a good time.
Sunday was more of the same . . . ocean . . pool . . . beers and baseball. And the weekend was capped off with a 16 ounce bone-in filet at the steak house at the W Hotel, followed by some cabernet and Sunday Night Baseball at Shula's on the Beach back at the Westin.
Yesterday morning started with a 4:30 am alarm and an early flight back to D.C. I was back in the office by 9:45. Exhausted. But another successful weekend.
Next up -- Denver, Colorado this Saturday . . . Mets-Rockies series at Coors Field and a few days visiting my niece . . .