The Perfect Storm: A Vacation Travelogue (Part 12, the Finale)

Our last full day on board is mostly uneventful (for a change). But overnight it was ridiculously rocky. Not motion-sickness rocky, really. Just Captain-Ahab-thar-she-blows–rocky. It wasn’t a gentle, lull-you-to-sleep rocky. It was a what-the-heck-was-that-we’re-gonna-fall-off-the-boat rocky.

But we survived. We’re just kinda sleepy. And I used up my hyphen quota for the month.

Wayne and I go our separate ways after breakfast. I do exciting things like hitting the gift shop for their last-day sales and packing my suitcase while watching TV in the stateroom. What’s on the TV this last day? You guessed it: The Perfect Storm. Right where I started in Part 1. And some people still wonder where writers get their ideas…


Hello, Mr. Wahlberg, my old friend… We meet again.


I take a short break and sit on the balcony reading. Then I stand to take some pictures of the ocean, and I see… a dolphin leaping into the air! Three times! This is exactly long enough for me to grab my phone—I mean, my camera/alarm/solitaire device—to get some pictures. Sadly, Flipper is camera-shy. But the sight of him pretty much redeems any bad stuff that’s happened on this trip so far. Pretty much.

It’s no surprise that Wayne heads for the casino. He’s feeling lucky after his big blackjack tournament win. Casinos love when you’re feeling lucky, because they know there’s no such thing as luck. Wayne knows it, too, so I suspect his presence there today has more to do with this little card they gave him right after his tourney win:

2019-04-03 14.02.37
This dangerous, dangerous card means he gets free drinks for the rest of the cruise… (wait for it)… as long as he’s playing in the casino.

And that’s precisely how your luck runs out.

To this day, three months later, Wayne insists that his drinks would have cost more than he lost while playing blackjack. And he says this with a straight face. At least he knows not to compare his losses to the cost of our stateroom upgrade. THAT was the real loss on this trip. Plus, I find it oddly attractive that he has this ability to forget how sick he got just a few days ago while drinking. He actually smiles and even laughs when he’s drinking, so that’s a plus… well, until he throws up.

Anyway, I pack my suitcase and enjoy the large stateroom one last day. Debarkation the next morning is a hot mess, but there’s just no way to get 2,000+ people (and their unwieldy luggage) off a ship single-file without it being a mess. We’ve endured it before, so we’re used to it, and at least we’re heading to Port Charlotte to spend Christmas with Wayne’s mom, Mary, and his brother Ed.

Wayne spends too much time while we’re at his mom’s house trying to get Xfinity Mobile to fix my phone situation. He calls them… more than once. He does online chat sessions… more than once. He even drives to the local Comcast office. Nothing works. Everyone either passes the buck or suggests unhelpful things that don’t work. (“Have you tried rebooting the phone?” Gee, no, that never occurred to us.)

The day before I’m scheduled to get back on the train (alone… because Wayne is flying back the day after I leave Florida), my phone still isn’t working. I don’t want to travel without a working phone, so Wayne dons his Don’t-Mess-With-Me persona and gives Comcast one last phone call.

He lays it on the line: My wife will travel with a working phone tomorrow, or else. He invokes our 20-year history with Comcast, having forked over untold millions to pay for their services, having taken out second and third mortgages, and having sold several of our grown children into slavery… just so I can watch Outlander and just so he can tweak the settings on our router every few weeks because “the damned modem keeps resetting itself to factory defaults.”

He lays his outrage on so thick that I fear his mother will grab a bar of soap and wash his mouth out with it. (She’d totally do it, too.) Meanwhile, Ed and I are smiling, in awe of Wayne in His Wrath. It’s a beautiful thing to witness in person.

He’s put on hold (again) and is finally connected with someone far, far up the tech support ladder. This guy admits that nobody below him has the authorization to override whatever was done to my phone when Wayne called to “temporarily” suspend the service. And, lo and behold, the phone now works!



I’m so giddy I almost forget to pack my suitcase! Just kidding. I totally packed yesterday.

Fast-forward a bit: At the end of the week, the train ride back to Pennsylvania is fun, as usual. And relaxing. Unlike plane travel.

Wayne flies home the day after I leave and should be coming to get me at the station around 8 p.m. tonight. Our texts this morning:

Me: I still have my phone!
Wayne: Yes, I got home.
Me: I figured.
Wayne: When you do need picked up?
Me: In theory the train arrives at 8 p.m….but I’m not on that train yet to know if it’s going to be on time. I figured I’d text you later today once I know more. But let’s start with the 8 p.m. scheduled time. I can sit in the station and wait if I get there before you do.

Later, I come to regret this admission. Not that it was his fault…

Around noon, more texts:

Me: This last train (#43, the Pennsylvanian) is scheduled to leave Philly on time in a few minutes. I’ll keep you posted on whether it stays on time today. You can also check train status on the Amtrak site. Apparently it’s pretty accurate in real time.

Also Me: Plus I still have my phone.


Me: Still looks like you getting there around 8:00 or a tiny bit after is good. Easier for me to wait than you.

Boy, I am really going to regret these sorts of concessions…

Wayne decides to head to the Grand View Buffet for dinner (which is conveniently located inside Rivers Casino), so he’ll at least be within shouting distance of the Amtrak station in time to pick me up.

This amount of forethought and planning would have been a great idea (and totally unlike Wayne), had there not also been a Steelers home game within a half mile of the casino that evening. This also would have been a great idea, had there not been a freak accident involving a car catching fire inside the Fort Pitt Tunnel minutes before he left the casino to head my way.

He couldn’t figure out why traffic was stopped dead on the Fort Duquesne Bridge (which leads to the Fort Pitt Bridge, which leads to the aforementioned Fort Pitt Tunnel).

This afternoon:

Wayne: Will you need to eat? I’m planning on eating before I get you.
Me: If there are eggs in the house I can just make eggs when I get home. No problem.
Wayne: OK. Then I’m going to go have a Rivers buffet now. Rivers closes the buffet at 8.
Me: Okay. Just don’t forget to come get me because you’re at a blackjack table.

Later, from the casino:

Wayne: There must have been a football game today.
Me: Yes… Why? Parking garage a zoo? We are just leaving Greensburg.
Wayne: Yes and all the football shirts.
Me: It’s probably still on and near the end…. You might hit a mess of traffic when you leave.

Just before 8 p.m.:

Me: Am safely in the station and can easily zip out to you when you get here.
Wayne: On my way.

Around 8:30 p.m.:

Me: Are you here? There was a car on fire around the Ft. Pitt Bridge and the tunnel is closed.

No response.

He arrives around 9:30 p.m. He doesn’t have a clue whether we have eggs in the fridge (so much for that forethought and planning), so we stop to pick me up something to eat on the way home.

I’m exhausted, but at least my phone works again…

…until Xfinity suspends it sometime in February for no reason. A glance at our account online shows three cell phones, not two: Wayne’s (which is listed correctly); the replacement phone that he bought and that we’ve already returned (and for which we’ve already received credit), which still has my phone number associated with it and some of my actual phone’s specs; and a third phone, also with my phone number, but with specs that don’t match my actual phone, but which is, out of the three listed, my actual phone.

A few more irate phone calls from Wayne later, my phone is working again. But for how long? Wayne’s thinking that, if Xfinity ever resells that phone we returned, it’ll wreak havoc with my actual phone one more time.

It’s early April and my phone still works… but our account information still hasn’t been fixed.

And I’m getting on a train Tuesday night for another trip alone… with more than a little trepidation about this phone.

If you live in Vegas, let me know what the odds are on this bet, okay?

And what’s the best part of this twelve-part travelogue? 

Gee, it’s hard to pick just one thing, but I have to go with my gut:

Wayne’s first-place blackjack tournament win entitles him to play in the $100,000 Grand Tournament for free in early May… on another cruise… which is not free. The last time he won the smaller tournament, we laughed off this idea as a scam to get people to buy another cruise.

But guess who’s going to that Grand Tournament this time? Apparently he’s still feeling lucky.

We booked the cheapest rooms available: no balcony, no ocean view, not even a porthole. We won’t know if it’s day or night in our stateroom. But it’s cheap.

And Wayne has a chance to win $50,000 if he wins this tournament. And they’re already promising him free drinks in the casino again. What could go wrong?

Well, how about this email he got from Natasha from Carnival Cruise Line three days ago?



My response?



Wayne’s response? …  “Hello, Natasha?”