Not necessarily emulating the Sardine, Pope Sixtus needs to leave the cramped confines of contemporary issues and controversies. He has a plan.
First, he must get beyond the borders of the United States. Being the most efficient way to avoid references to news reports. Unfortunately, CNN is on every cable package in every resort around the world.
Second, thus, he must choose a resort most likely to have people who didn’t care about contemporary issues because these people are affluent and inherently lack empathy for the non-affluent. This usually means going to a country with many non-affluent.
Third, and possibly most important, obtain reservations for a non-stop flight to the potential destination. By securing this, with departure, arrival, and return times at the most convenient times, his worries would be minimized. Having made the reservation six months in advance, he felt even more secure.
However, there were no non-stops to Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja California. Worse, the flight connection would last seven hours in Dallas/Fort Worth. Then two months before leaving for Mexico, Sixtus received notice that his flight be leaving not at 8:00 A.M. but 5:20 A.M. This meant having to wake up at 3:00 A.M. and subsequently feeling awful during the flight, as well as after arriving in Cabo at 5:00 P.M. and missing a few hours by the pool (resting from the flight).
He wanted to bring the pertinent personnel of American Airlines responsible for his displeasure before the Inquisition but decided to hold off until the vacation was over. No telling who else might deserve the auto de fe.
In any case, the Renaissance Pope planned his trip meticulously. He made sure that he got enough sleep the night before and went to bed at 8:00. With some extra sleep on the plane, he could fight back the jet lag. But the airline had one more punch to ensure his wooziness before, during, and after the flight.
At midnight a ringing awakened him from a deep sleep. Sixtus didn’t initially understand the ringing sound. Was it the alarm clock? No, the phone. He checked caller i.d.
A cold call at midnight? Instinctually, he would hang up but something kept him from dismissing the unwanted caller. He pressed the green button and waited. Initially, nothing.
A mechanical voice clicked on a split second before he was going to press the red button.
It was the airline telling him that his flight had been changed. It would not stop in Dallas/Fort Worth but would go to Chicago where he would connect for the flight to Cabo San Lucas. He would arrive in Mexico at 11:53 A.M. He quickly found a pen to write the information.
Sixtus barely had time to process the information when the mechanical voice asked him to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the changes.
“Yes,” he said hesitantly, not fully understanding the meaning of it all because he was so irritated that the airline changed its schedule five hours before the flight.
Wait, this was a good thing. He’d get into Cabo five hours earlier than expected. The wait in Chicago would only be an hour and fifty minutes. How fortunate! How grateful he felt to the scheduling God and muttered a small prayer.
“Thank you, Lord, for giving me back three or four hours to be poolside.”
Wonderful news often is accompanied by new problems. He had arranged transport from the Cabo airport to his hotel, telling the shuttle company he’d be there at 5:00 P.M.
He tracked down an ‘800’ number for the company but the place was closed, not opening until 7:00 A.M. mountain time. He did the math. 7:00 was 8:00 in Chicago. He‘d be in Chicago at that time, most likely on the plane ten or fifteen minutes before takeoff. Would he be able to call from the plane? Would he be able, after contacting the shuttle company, to change his pre-paid reservation. A cab to the hotel, a forty minute drive, cost much more than $25. He worried he’d be stuck at the Cabo airport for five hours. The nightmare of being besieged by dozens of people trying to sell him something (from time shares to fishing trips) dominated his thoughts until he got on the plane in Chicago.
Pope Sixtus was smart enough to take his Iphone even though he would not be getting service in Mexico. He boarded the plane in Chicago at 7:50 and called the shuttle company at 8:03.
He got through and moved his transit to the hotel up to noon. He blessed the agent with whom he had spoken, offering five-years indulgence.
“Thank you,” the man said. “Would you like to get the all-inclusive package at your hotel?”
Apparently, the hotel owned the transit company.
“How much would that cost?”
“Seventy-five dollars a day.”
“I would have to eat and drink $75 a day. I don’t think I could.”
“Prices can be very expensive at the restaurants.”
“No, thank you.”
“It’s a very good bargain.”
“I have to hang up. My flight is about to take off.”
The agent just needed that last four digits of Sixtus’ credit card number: 1484.
“I believe the Aztecs sacrificed 20000 people during a three-day period that year.”
“Interesting. It’s also the year I died.”
“Have a nice day, Your Eminence.”
(to be continued)