Pope Sixtus on Vacation, Part 3

One half of one percent of the time Pope Sixtus came to, stayed at, and returned from Cabo San Lucas amounted to the accumulated time he felt distraught. Yet, at the time and in retrospect, it felt as if it were ninety-five percent. The reason: simple worry.

A special kind of worry at first. What might be deemed “anticipatory expectation”. This meant he had begun worrying about all the worrying he would do as soon as he booked his room and flight.

Sorry for the redundancy. Anything planned for this trip had the less than a remote chance of going sideways if not straight down. It started two months after booking the flight when the airline contacted him that there would be changes. Most egregiously, he would have to wait six hours in Dallas-Fort Worth for a flight change. Two more changes in the next few weeks placed his departure at 5:20 A.M., back from 7:30. Now he had to worry about not getting enough sleep. When he received the emails, he half-anticipated the flight to be cancelled.

Only the start of a burgeoning of potential problems:

  • Would the wheelchair be waiting when he debarked in Chicago, Cabo, Dallas, or back in Philadelphia?

[Note: the Pope is very very old and, despite relative good health, he can barely walk one hundred yards. The distance to baggage handling and customs and, especially, to connecting flights, can add up to more than a mile. The benefit of getting through security and customs quickly is a bonus he thanks God for.]

  • Would he get through the Mexican airport without being harassed by dozens of Time Share salespeople?
  • Will he get to the pool earlier enough to secure a lounge chair under an umbrella to avoid the merciless Mexican sun?
  • Will his luggage arrive at the sundry destinations – the opportunity for it to be lost or diverted increased during flight connections?
  • Will there be a whining baby or irritating brood (two or more ages three to twelve) in his vicinity on the plane?
  • Jet lag.
  • Did the restaurants record his reservations?
  • Will the taxi driver try to cheat him on the fare? The Pope didn’t mind losing a few pesos. It’s the principle of Being Taken as if he were a clueless tourist, which he certainly could have been.
  • Being on time for the shuttle to the airport on the day of his departure.
  • No one would be playing loud music at 1:30 A.M. next to his suite. The Pope hates confrontations unless the Swiss Guards are near.
  • Stuck in the middle seat on the plane – one never knows when an airline will not honor a reservation request.
  • Spending too much money.

The last might have been the most annoying. No matter what he bought at a shop, ordered for breakfast, got drinks at the pool during happy hours, charged on a credit card for dinner, there was a lingering feeling that he paid too much. No luck trying to tell himself that it’s only a few dollars difference between, say, the Special and a regular entrée on a menu. Always a tinge of regret (not quite guilt) after each purchase, which has the larger effect of curtailing what he would buy. More than once he skipped lunch and subsisted on peanut butter crackers and a bottle of water.

Never, never, never did he feel that he got a bargain. The two-for-one drinks around the pool seemed to have more ice and less liquor. And he realized – not that this helped – he wasn’t paying that much more than he usually did at home. Nor did he take into account that, as a Pope emeritus, so to speak, he had access to unlimited Church funds. One always felt as if the natives were out to rob him.

There seemed little time to relax, really, and ample time to worry. It was nearly, but not quite totally, enough to make him stay put in one’s place, be it a domicile or a crypt at St. Peter’s in the Vatican.