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The Top Ten Things I Overheard While At Syracuse - #8

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I have a lot of funny, weird and disturbing memories from my time at Syracuse University ('96 - '00) that span many different places, events and situations. But all of them have one thing in common...someone uttered words before, during or after each of them. And so, I'd like to take this opportunity to remember my favorite utterances and what made them so memorable. At best, you'll find these explanations and stories as noteworthy as I do. At worst, you'll recognize a campus building that I reference in passing and think to yourself, "Hey, I too remember that building and I now feel as though I have some common ground with this fellow."

#8 - "Okay, all we need is your passport and you're all set."

It's ironic that I have the ineptitude and greed of a slimy Spring Break travel company to thank for simultaneously ruining, saving and ruining my trip to Cancun in the spring of 1999. In a strange way, I have their stunning lack of ethics to thank for even having this story to tell you. So...here's to you, Mr. Shady Spring Break Travel Company Owner. (Mr. Shady Spring Break Travel Company Oooooooh-ner!)

Before we go any futher, let's get one thing out in the open. I realize this might be too little, too late for many of you but NEVER EVER EVER use one of those pre-packaged Spring Break trip companies. EVER. NEVER. EVER. NEVEVVER. EVNEVERER.


Anyway, so it's Junior year. 1999. Up until this point I had only spent Spring Break in beautiful, lush Central New Jersey. While my classmates were chugging a funnelworth of Mesiter Brau at a poolside in Cabo with a scantily-clad girl on their shoulders, I was at home chugging McDonald's collectible cupsworth of grape soda in my mother's kitchen with a black and white cat on my shoulders. It was an experience that left something to be desired.


A lot's changed in Spring Break technology since 1999. Remember, this was a time before the Golden Age of the Intertubes (or at least its widespread appeal). This was
a time before The Real Cancun, which I know none of us saw but we're all aware of its existence nevertheless. There was still some mystery as to what really went on at Spring Break locales. You basically only had heresay and stories to go on.

Apparently, for just a few dollars you could visit a place where everything you know about male/female relations ceases to be. Say there's this girl you've been hitting on her for the last two years and she's rebuffed you at every turn. she gets on the plane with you and despite your efforts she STILL refuses you. The plane lands, the flight attendant says "Welcome to Cancun" and before you can check your overhead compartment the girl is pulling off her underwear and using you as a flotation device (think about it). It's as if a passing meteor releases radioactive particles to specific places in the Caribbean, Florida and Mexico and unleashes the Night of the Giving Head. All you have to do is be there before the rouge Russian spy satellite destroys the meteor. Your mission is clear.

There was a group of five of us at this point and, for lack of understanding and money, we decided to take a trip using one of those
Spring Break Travel companies (if I could remember the specific one I would slander them all over this blog but since I can't, I'll just lump them all together under the assumption they're all horrible companies run by horrible people). We were going to spend a week in Cancun and we were going to live like kings when got there. Damn Hell Ass Kings!

We sorted out the details. Picked our non-refundable hotel, which looked very reasonable from the brochure. Booked our non-refundable flight, which seemed to be a reliable enough airline company. Argued amongst ourselves how many condoms to bring and if we might want to consolidate bags so we can just have one condom-filled bag at our disposal. We were ready.


The day of the trip we arrived at Hancock (heeheehee) Airport and got in line to check-in. We worked our way up to the front of the line with just about an hour to spare, we were golden. I was at the front among my friends and I handed over my information and my driver's license. The airline employee looked everything over, shuffled through everything as if she were looking for something specific and then looked at me, uttering the most ball-raising words I had ever heard up until that point in my life:
"Okay, all we need is your passport and you're all set."
Now...I am not what you would deem a special-needs person. I have no discernible mental deficiencies. I am of able mind. I scored well on my SATs. I can and have always been able to operate heavy machinery.

But it never occurred to me to bring a passport with me when I was traveling to Mexico for Spring Break. Hell, it never even occurred to me to GET a passport.

I take that back. I actually think it did occur to me at one point. And I think that the right side of my brain argued, "Dude, you're an US citizen traveling to Mexico. We're totally cool with each other. We love salsa. You'll be fine." And the left side of my brain said, "What? Sorry, I couldn't make that out through this pot cloud..." And the damage was done.

But...let the record show that I was not the only asshole. No, no...three other guys in my group had done the same thing. The only one of us who DID remember to bring a passport? The guy from Bermuda who HAD TO carry his with him at all times. Golf claps all around for the collection of assholes known as my friends and I.

It was simple. Produce a passport or "thing that's as good as a passport, apparently" and we'll let you on the plane. Don't produce them, you stay here in brisk Syracuse and receive no refund because you are a dumb bastard. Everyone hits the phones (pay phones, that is. Who do I look like, Zack Morris?). I don't remember specifically how it happened but all three of my friends were able to secure some kind of passport equivalent quickly, be it a birth certificate or notarized item.

Me? Not so much. And the clock was ticking. At a certain time, when it was becoming extremely clear that I wasn't going to make it, my friends gave me "the look." I knew what it was and I knew it was right. It was the "Sorry man, but you need the cut the cord" look. Had I been in their shoes I would have done the same thing. The reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. I was going to spend Spring Break in Syracuse, NY. I needed a miracle.

That's when the flight got delayed the first time.

I had never been so happy to hear that a plane I was about to get on was malfunctioning in my life. Hooray for human error! I had been granted a bonus couple hours and I was not about to waste God's precious gift. I was going to go to a place where I could get a handy from a drunk Clemson sophomore on a Cancun dance floor come hell or high water and no one was going to stop me. All the better if it's a female.*

*Ba dum ching.

My mom faxed over a copy of my birth certificate, the closest option I had. Apparently, as we can been told by a kind airline employee, if I could get a copy of my birth certificate notarized, that would be enough to get me on the plane. And so, the Great Syracuse Notary Caper had begun.

We hopped in a cab and made for the first major shopping center we could find, looking for notary signs in the window. We finally found one inside a shopping market. Somehow, despite the late hour, the notary was there and ready to notarize...whatever the hell that is. To be honest, this whole "notarizing my birth certificate" thing sounded suspect and I was afraid it wouldn't pass the smell test with the notary either. But the late hour and her inability to give a shit got me the stamp and signature I needed. Unbelievably, I was going to Cancun that night. Thank you, Jebus. (Later on I learned that there was no way this should have actually worked. Hooray for traveling internationally in the pre-9/11 world!)

We raced back to the airport with little time to spare before our plane was set to take off. We ran into the terminal and found our Bermudian counterpart who informed us...naturally...the flight had been cancelled for the evening. Apparently the plane was beyond fixing and a new plane needed to be flown in. Now, being that we were flying via a charter company and not an official airline, it wasn't like they could just wheel in a spare plane from their fleet. This requires negotiations with a 3rd party, the clearing of schedules, international flight issues and whatever the hell else goes into this kind of thing.

And so we waited. The company was "kind" enough to put us up in a fleabag motel down the street that night. We were told to get up early in the morning for our flight the next day...sorry for the inconvenience but we'd be there in no time.

And then the flight was delayed another half a day.

And then another day.

Eventually we got to Cancun, albeit three days late. We made the most of it and had fun while we could. Sadly I never crossed paths with my Clemson co-ed and I don't remember anyone actually dipping into the condom chest'o'plenty (except for a water balloon fight with people on the balcony across from us), but in the end I think we were all just happy to be there, what little time we did have.

When we returned, we did so under the guise that we would be well compensated for the lost days, the lost hotel room fees and the "pain and anguish" we went through via the ordeal that took us to and from the airport multiple times. In the end, I believe we were refunded about $80 out of the $700/800 price we paid, which seemed...less than right.

The following year we went to Panama City Beach, Florida and we booked the entire trip ourselves. We figured it out and basically we paid an extra $100 by not using one of those charter companies. We gladly paid the "peace of mind" tax and had a great time. Even had grits for the first time. (They suck. Just a tasteless pile of mush. Sorry.)

And you know what...we didn't need our fucking passports this time.

You can read Top Ten Overheard Thing #10 and #9 while you wait for #7.