Moving to Vegas: Getting out of Orlando

Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: Packing

It was moving day. So far the mover had hit on my wife, left without us really having everything packed and put on the truck, and time was running out to get Sheri and Pepper to the airport for their flight to our new home in Vegas.

And as time ran completely out, we got saved.

A $20 bill handed to a very nice neighbor got the leftover trash and stuff from the house taken care of. We left a key with her and gave some verbal instructions that I can only hope were relatively coherent. I know I wasn’t at my best.

I did have to leave behind a my hot sauce collection, and I’m a bit pissed about that, but you have to make sacrifices. One learns what’s necessary and what’s merely “wants”. Hot sauce can be repurchased.

At the end of the day, we had everything packed that we needed to, and a means to get the condo empty for its new owner. We even managed to leave behind a few goodies for him. This generosity may not necessarily have been planned in advance, but I’m sure he will appreciate the dishes, hot sauce collection, home automation computer, and other artifacts of our life.

It was high time to get the Sheri and Pepper to the airport. Actually, the time to get Sheri and Pepper to the airport time was 6:00pm, and it now a bit past 6:30. But what can you do? I have many powers, but turning back time isn’t one of them.

At least the flight wasn’t until 9:20pm. The extra window was to allow time for taking a cat through security at the Orlando airport. Orlando’s airport is one of the busiest in the world. Sometimes the security line can be a bit long an daunting, despite the TSA’s efforts to keep things running smoothly.

All of our possessions were semi-neatly packed into a 25-foot Penske truck, with my car out back on a trailer. Driving to the airport in a 25-foot Penske truck with a car on a trailer probably wasn’t in the cards, post 9/11 paranoia being strong in August 2005. We were fortunate to have friends who lived fairly close to the airport where we could park the truck while I dropped off Sheri and Pepper. Unfortunately, the friends weren’t able to drive us to the airport, so I had to go through the process of unloading the car, then load the girls into it, and go.

Our vet was give us some Kitty Valium so that Pepper could enjoy a nice relaxing flight. About an hour before we got to the airport, I gave her half of the pill as instructed. As cats do, she resisted, but I know she got it down.

I had requested a gate pass a few weeks ahead of time in order to help the girls through security. Gate passes are apparently the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket of airports. They simply don’t hand them out unless you’re really lucky. The TSA doesn’t issue them, either. Only the airlines can do that, and they’re loathe to do so since it’s not something they do that often. Nothing like a self-fulfilling loathing to keep things easy for travelers with pets and those who might need an assistant.

Further adding to the fun, gate passes are only good on the day issued, and there was no way to get one in advance. The only result of hours traversing the Byzantine gate pass system was a name to use when checking in, this person stating that my pass would be issued. I had no other information and no paperwork.

Armed with only this person’s name, we approached the check-in counter. (Mercifully, there was been no line, so we walked right up.) I must have looked like Death Warmed Over since the gate clerk looked upon me with a combination of pity and disgust. It nearly broke through her thin façade of professionalism. It only lasted a split second, but I saw it.

When I requested a gate pass, the façade disappeared completely and I got the look reserved for children who have pooped themselves and people who clearly don’t know their place. That look continued until I used the name of the person who I was told had approved my gate pass two weeks previously. That was one magical name: I suddenly became “sir” and was told that she had to check with her manager.

After about two minutes, we were checked in and I had my gate pass in hand. I don’t know what the person whose name I used does for Delta Airlines in Orlando, but with Delta Airlines, he’s got clout.

Thank you, sir.

Happily checked in with the airline and proud owner of a newly-minted gate pass, we now had the TSA security line to deal with. I usually feel dread at the prospect of going through these lines. In this case, I had more than two weeks of anticipation built up for taking a cat through it. Dread doesn’t even come close to what I was feeling.

Sure, all the Reasonable Preparations in the Universe had been made. Of course we had our Sherpa Pet Carrier bag (we’re good Yuppies, after all) to safely transport Pepper through the airport. The megadread was sprouting from the knowledge that Pepper would have to be removed from her Sherpa bag and carried through the security gate. By a person. By me. No X-rays for kitty. Apparently glowing pets are not on the TSA’s list of goals.

Fortunately, the terminal and security line were almost entirely bereft of fliers that night, so we got right to the line.

The big moment had arrived.

I had prepared: Non-metallic shoes, no keys, no change, no watch or wedding band. Pepper already had her harness on and I popped her leash on through a small opening in the bag. I asked the TSA agent if there was any possible way that we would not have to take her out of the bag and he said that it was procedure that she had to come out since the bag itself had to be X-rayed.

Of course it’s procedure. How silly of me to expect anything but frickin’ procedure from a government employee, especially the TSA.

Faced with no other option in the face of wonderful bureaucracy, I relented. Out Pepper came.

Did I mention that Pepper is affectionate, but basically hates being held for more than eight nanoseconds?

I was ready for claws, anger, and a cat on a leash with a harness. Cats don’t care for leashes: they turn into vectors. Vectors that try to go in any straight line away form the source of the leash.

But I was ready. Here goes!

Instead of a crazed and angry feline, I got a happy, purring cat who didn’t even put up a fuss. A few steps through the metal detector and we were through. The Sherpa bag was right behind, and Pepper got stuffed in before she had a chance to object.

Aside from a little nervous growling, she was perfectly fine and happy.

I was nearly in tears and close to shock. I suspect I was simply too tired to cry or slip fully into shock. My body and mind were overwhelmed with fatigue at this point. Two weeks of preparation had apparently paid off. Thanks, Pepper. (I made sure she got bacon as a treat – her favorite – as soon as was practical.)

I suspect that this day I had walked more than 5 miles. My feet were shot and my thighs were on fire. I was walking as bow-legged as I could without being too obvious, Pepper in her bag. Sheri and I made it to her gate with time to spare and we kissed good-bye.

Getting back to our friends’ house and loading the car was uneventful, but a bit dirty. At this point, cleanliness wasn’t even an issue. I was too tired to care.

It was now after dark. When I got ready to leave in the Penske truck, I turned on the headlights. Nothing happened.

“OK, maybe there’s a secret headlight switch.”

Look around.


More looking.

“Oh hey! Lookee this! The high beams work.”

But no low beams. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

“Let me try that again. Nope. Still nothing on the low-beam side. Plenty of high beams, though. Good, strong, bright high beams. High beams it shall be!”

There was no way I was calling for such a small repair item on the truck. I wasn’t about to take the risk of someone at Penske saying “we’ll get you a new truck, but you’ll have to unload and reload.”

If that had happened, only a gun would have been loaded and unloaded.

Since my father had volunteered to drive out to Vegas with me, it was time to go see him. Dad lives about 45 minutes from Orlando, so I had a little drive ahead of me. The plan was to meet Dad at his house, sleep there, and leave first thing in the morning.

As dead tired as I was, my second wind actually had arrived about the same time I dropped off Sheri and Pepper at the airport. I made it to Dad’s without incident, unless you count the 20 minute delay on I-4 because of construction.

Actually, the delay didn’t bother me too much, but the poor guy ahead of me in the Nissan Altima from Georgia didn’t appreciate my high beams. For that, I’m genuinely sorry. There wasn’t much I could do or frankly was willing to do at that point.

Anyway, once settled at Dad’s, I was too wired to sleep, but managed to force myself to get about three hours before we left Wednesday morning.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: The Drive Begins


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