Come Home

On 4 May, I pinged Charlotte at around 11:00, hoping she was back from her weekend trip to Madrid, as I wanted to run some of my new ideas by her.  I’d checked with Binter, a local regional airline, and they didn’t seem to have any restrictions on pets, perhaps because everyone here lives on an island and somebody has to be able to help pet owners relocate and/or travel around the islands with their pets.  Binter had flights to mainland Spain, and if we were able to get to the mainland, we knew we could fly Iberia direct to Miami, in which case we could take the dogs with us in the cabin as emotional support animals.  Once in Miami, if nothing else, we could drive them cross-country in a rental car.  It would cost us an arm and a leg, and would take forever, but at least the dogs would be safe and we could stop worrying.

Charlotte had other plans.  She had spoken with a contact on the mainland, and there was another option available that I was unfamiliar with.  I was familiar with only two ways to transport dogs on a plane, either in the cabin or as cargo.  But apparently there is a third manner, called “excess baggage.”  This is the same term that gets applied to large items such as bikes, surfboards, large musical equipment, and so on.  Excess baggage uses the same storage area as cargo, but is booked differently.  For one, to use excess baggage, you actually have to be on the same plane, so we’d have to be on the same flights as the dogs, which was not an issue.  Secondly, excess baggage can’t be booked far in advance, as not much space is reserved for that, so if the plane is full of passenger baggage and cargo items, there isn’t space for excess baggage.  She told me “You have to call Lufthansa direct. Book your flight and ask about pets. They take 24 hours to confirm. Once confirmed you can pay for your flight. 1 pet per person I believe so you both need to travel.”

At the time, I read Charlotte's message as meaning I had to book no more than a day or two in advance.  Now re-reading it after the fact, I can also interpret her as meaning we could book, say, 14 days out, and 13 days out they’d confirm whether they had space.  But at the time, I was convinced we’d have to leave on a whim.  [Also in hindsight, it's fairly remarkable that Charlotte suggested to me something where she wasn't going to get any business. I didn't think of that at the time, but wow, good on her.] I immediately went to Kayak and confirmed what I thought to be the case from prior searches, which is that while Lufthansa flew from Tenerife to Frankfurt 3-4 times a week, and Lufthansa flew from Frankfurt to Los Angeles 4-5 times a week, there were only two instances where the flights actually connected, either Wednesday-Thursday or Saturday-Sunday.  In both instances we’d spend one night, but not two, in Frankfurt, landing in the early evening and departing early the next morning.  We’d land at LAX later that afternoon.  

Crystal was out for a morning run at the time, so rather than wait to tell her the news I decided to just call Lufthansa and see what was available.  I spoke with a pleasant man who was very helpful and earnest in his desire to help us and the pups off the island as soon as feasible.  He double-checked and confirmed that the two routings I saw were the only two that would work, so he then looked for what was available in May.  I wasn’t expecting his first answer to be “we actually have room on tomorrow’s flight.”  Assuming it better to ask for forgiveness than permission, after a couple seconds of deliberation I just said “okay, let’s book that.”  At this point, I texted Crystal, who I knew could see short messages on her watch “Come home – I’m booking us flights for tomorrow.”  My guess is this put a little hop in her step to run home quicker.

As I was paying for the flights, the phone cut off, so I had to call back, now full of nerves and adrenaline.  Crystal got home right around the time the new agent found the reservation that the prior agent had made.  I gave them the credit card information, and that was that.  It was less than 90 minutes from when I messaged Charlotte to when we had booked tickets to fly out the next day, just over 24 hours from now.  So we had a bunch of work to do.  Considering the circumstances, I have to say we were pretty calm and composed.  We pretty quickly listed off all the things we needed to do, and then prioritized them accordingly.  The first stop would be at the medical office I’d been at last week, to get a COVID shot.  They said we needed to be there by 14:00, and it was almost 12:30.  For the first and only time during our stay in Puerto, we took a taxi from the botanic garden down into town.  Under the circumstances, it seemed warranted.

The doctor was surprised to see me again, as he had no idea what had transpired with my failed attempt to fly out the week before.  We explained the situation, and he empathized with our plight.  The tests were quick again, and we were in and out.  From there, we walked east on San Telmo towards Playa Martianez, and then turned right onto Avenida Venezuela to go into Bankinter to close the account that we had expended so much time and effort to open just two months prior.  Much like the doctor, Fatima was very surprised to see us, and mentioned she had a ton of questions, but wasn’t going to ask, since she knew we were in a hurry and likely not going to want to talk about it anyway.  Closing the account was much more straightforward than opening the account, and Fatima gave us very detailed instructions on how to transfer out nearly everything (leaving enough for the small fee that we’d need to pay on closing), then how to contact her to completely close the account.  We thanked her profusely, then continued on our way. 

The next stop was at the veterinary office.  I’d gotten a hold of Charlotte at around 13:00 to see if she or Dani could give us a transfer the next day.  She said she could because she “was supposed to have marble worktop installed tomorrow but they have literally just rung and delayed till Thursday. The stars are aligning for you....”  She did mention that we’d only need a rabies certificate, but that “I would go to vet for a fit to fly certificate to cover you if the airline wants one.”  Figuring it better to be safe than sorry, we wanted to get one of these if possible.  The vet, thankfully, did have availability, later in the afternoon.  So we started walking home to get started packing.  About halfway between the vet’s office and home, near the tennis club, I got an email from Lufthansa indicating there was a problem with my reservation, and to call them.

I started to freak out, but they answered in a hurry before I could get too nervous.  The problem was that the credit card didn’t go through correctly.  That was an easily fixable problem, so I stopped walking and pulled out my credit card, then read it over the line, double and triple checking that she heard me correctly.  She said everything seemed fine, so I started breathing again.  We got back right at 14:00, and started packing immediately.

I’d pinged Sandra right around the same time I pinged Charlotte, letting her know that we had to leave in a hurry, and if she wanted our espresso machine.  Considering the ordeal to find that thing in January, I was glad it would be going to a good home and not in the trash.  Crystal went down to the “copy store” to get some stuff printed out that we might need for the flight home, such as pet documents and indications that we hadn’t overstayed our visa, but instead were still waiting on our timely-filed visa extension.  She was back before 15:00, and Sandra showed up not too long after that. 

We explained, first in Spanish, but eventually in English, the clusterfuck that had resulted in us being in this situation, and why things were taking forever but also ending almost instantaneously.  She volunteered to drive us to the vet’s office for their appointment, so in the meantime we chatted a bit whilst Crystal and I packed.  The dogs were completely bonkers on the ride over, and we’re glad the ride was just a minute or two, because they could have overheated on their way to get a “fit to fly” certificate and screwed everything up.  At the vet, the veterinarians seemed concerned, because they couldn’t find something in the paperwork we’d brought them.  It related to the microchip being different, and the vet not being able to read the microchip.  Fortunately I was able to show them something in the paperwork from when they flew over what their US microchip number was, and we told the vet we had a scanner to bring with us tomorrow to the airport.  As the vet looked through the rest of the paperwork, the vet remarked “you spent a lot of money to fly your dogs here.”  Yes, yes we did.  And that, somehow, was actually the least problematic part of the whole process.  At the other end of the cost spectrum, today’s visit was a total of 16 Euros for both dogs, not each.  Literally everything cheaper in Puerto.

Not only had Sandra driven us to the vet, she’d also waited for us, and then driven us home.  We thanked her profusely, and gave her a “goodie bag” full of our espresso pods, teas, some bottles of booze, and other good stuff.  I gave her a big hug and bid her adios, and told her I’d be returning at some point in the future, as soon as possible.  We did some more packing, and around 17:30 Crystal returned to the copy store (not really a copy store, but rather a place with all sorts of things that happens to be able to print out items) to get some additional paperwork printed out, including the results of our negative COVID test and the dog rabies certificates.  I made reservations at the hotel in the terminal at the Frankfurt airport, so we’d have somewhere to sleep the next night.  I was able to snag the very last room, so I was glad 1) I remembered, and 2) I didn’t wait any longer.

The Canary Relax video from 4 May is kind of surreal to watch, in hindsight. Our days were completely different, as we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, and he was enjoying a nice day in La Orotava, but we almost crossed paths multiple times. At the 7:00 minute mark, as he is crossing Calle Retama and going west on Calle Camelia, we had just come the other way on Calle Camelia just a couple minutes prior, shortly after being on the phone with the Lufthansa folks to correct the credit card information. Then, as he's coming back down into town, he passes by the Botanic Garden at the 50:00 mark, turns left off of Calle Retama onto Calle Robles just before he would've passed in front of our place, and then ends up right by the "copy place" on Calle Aceviño at the 52:45 mark. Crystal walked down Calle Robles to the copy place both shortly before, and shortly after, this video was taken. I guess it just goes to show you that when you see someone on the street, you never know what they might be dealing with on that particular day. He certainly seems like he had a better day than we did. I suppose it's debatable who got more accompished on the day.

Eventually things calmed down a bit for us, and we realized we hadn’t eaten all day.  So a little before 20:00 we headed out, walking into downtown one last time.  We didn’t really have anywhere in mind, and weren’t sure what was open anyway, as Tuesday was one of the two days of the week with the most places closed (the other being Monday).  So we meandered around a bit, and I made sure to take pictures of some of the places I’d now walked dozens if not hundreds of times but probably never photographed. [In hindsight I really wish I would've taken more photos of the "boring" stuff, as now I can't see it whenever I want.]  Among the places we walked tonight, memorizlized in the below photos (top left, top right, second left, second right, etc.) were:

From Mirador La Paz, it was only about 650 meters up to home.  We did this walk for the last time of what must have been well over 100 times, getting home a little before our 23:00 curfew.  We stopped at Apricot for a moment so that we could say goodbye to Manolo, but he wasn't there tonight. We knew he was hoping to have surgery for something, but it kept getting put off because of COVID-related shortages, so to hear that he'd actually had his surgery, that was great news even if we weren't able to see him and say goodbye. Back at home, I put some water in the water dishes for the dogs’ crates, then put the dishes in the freezer.  That way, the next day there’d be a block of ice at first, which would be less likely to spill when we took them to the airport and they got loaded onto the plane.  Then I called it a night.

Writing this several months later just sucks.  It all comes back vividly, like it was just last night.  But now it’s been several months, indeed, a time period longer than the entirety of the time I was on Tenerife.  I’ve had to consciously try not write “during my stay” or “my stay” about a dozen times on today’s entry, specifically because it wasn’t supposed to be a stay, but rather a move.  There wasn’t supposed to be a trip journal either, because it wasn’t supposed to be a trip.  It’s all very sad, but in the grand scheme of things, and comparatively, its not likely to garner any tears from anyone but me.  Whether it was because of this specific place, or just being retired, or just being out of the US, I don’t know, but I do know that I was a happier person, by a lot, in Puerto, and that I started a lot of good habits in Puerto that I’ve continued since leaving, such as eating less, starting to swim, walking more frequently, and sleeping whenever I’m tired.  I just wish I wasn’t the only person that was happier when I was there.

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