It was 2:30 in the morning on a random Tuesday nite in February 2010 when my Blackberry rang. It was US Air calling to inform me that my flight, which was scheduled to depart from on Thursday morning bound for Charlotte was cancelled due to inclement weather. I run to my window…the sky is completely clear. I must be dreaming! I go back to sleep. 6 hours later I get up and it’s snowing out!! I trek to work in midtown from my apartment uptown to find out that no one else made it into the office…no one else except for my boss who is practically my neighbor uptown and who actually wants to work. It’s now snowing pretty heavily and just about every person who I am scheduled to fly with down to Turks & Caicos 24 hours later has been in touch with me…”Wow, this sucks…we’ll have to reschedule…boo, hoo, hoo, poor me.” I contact our Dive Instructor, Michael and inform him simply that I was going to make it Turks & Caicos and that I was going to complete my Open Water Dives to complete my Open Water Dive Certification that weekend. Was he hearing me? He said he was up for whatever I came up with…I volunteered to drive through the nite to Charlotte in time to catch our 6:30 check-in for an 8:30 connecting flight. He tells me I’m insane…we have 19 other people who we need to think about. I tell him I’ll call him back. I had to think…
I call my limo company…my guy, Frank, also from Brooklyn and ask him what he’ll charge me to charter a bus to take me and 20 other people to Charlotte for a 6:30 check in for a connecting flight to Turks leaving at 8:30 the next morning. He tells me I’m insane…”Frank, listen, someone’s gonna do this for me…I’m just giving you the first crack at it.” He tells me he’s gotta call me back.
I pick up the phone again, call other various limo companies, asking them to charter a bus to me to drive through the nite to Charlotte to meet a connecting flight to Turks & Caicos by 6:30 the next morning. I get estimates of $3,000 + tip & tolls, $3,500 plus tip…when my guy Frank calls me back. He tells me: “We’re sitting around here talking about your plan and we think that you’re insane…but we want to be part of it. We’ll do it for $2,800 including tip & tolls.”
We make arrangements that everyone needs to meet the bus at a central location on the East side by 4:00 and that the bus has to be on the road by 5:00 at the latest. The weather has only gotten worse since I left my apartment that morning, I still have to go home, pack, get a pedicure, take a shower and get back to midtown…and it’s already 12:00 and Oh, I forgot to mention, the partner at my firm has had me working in place of his assistant since I arrived that morning!! UGH! I march into his office and inform him that I’m leaving in an hour…what’s he gonna do, fire me? He reluctantly agrees. 1:00 rolls around and I’m out the door, on a train and back uptown by 1:30…I speed race through all of the things I have to complete before we depart, jump into a cab and get back to midtown with plenty of time for 4:00.
Now let’s back up a minute…I had 19 other divers who had seemed still vaguely interested in diving with me that week and I had left my Dive Instructor in charge of contacting as many of them as he could at 12:00 because he had a $2,800 taxi ride to finance…and I had no idea how many of them he had convinced to join us on our crazy voyage. Well, at 4:00, I arrive at this central location on the East side to find that he had convinced all 19 of them to join us! I was shocked! You go, Michael!! Then I sense some resistance…I see that two of the women have not put their luggage on the bus yet…they were standing there on their soap box, with their arms folded over their chests, preaching about how “My father, who lives in Virginia, and is a doctor says that all roads South of NYC are closed to all cars except Emergency vehicles all the way to Maryland. That no one should go because, let’s face it, you guys are just not going to make it.” Wah, wah, wah…I couldn’t resist…and I have to admit, I really do hate Debbie Downers…I told them that they were free to do whatever they wanted and they were also free to take with them any of the other divers who felt the same way, but that at 5:00, this bus was departing for Charlotte…with or without them. Decide what you’re doing, I’m hungry so I’m going to eat. At this point I walked into a pizza place, sat down to a slice of delicious NY pizza and thought, “Wow, are all of these people actually putting their lives in my hands?…or did I just do the smartest thing by publicly giving everyone an out, should they feel they may be in danger at all?”
I finish my pizza, I walk outside, board the bus and find 17 divers, my dive instructor and all their luggage and dive gear ready for our journey South…without the two Debbie Downers. “Let’s boogey!” And the Champagne bottle was opened and served!!
We depart on time for 5:00 PM, giving ourselves a little over 13 hours to get there. The trip should take close to 11 with no traffic…what was I thinking? I have two drivers and we seriously drove through one of the worst snow storms that the East Coast has seen in decades!! And the girls were right…the roads were closed to all traffic except for Emergency vehicles…and us, which really looked like a traveling ambulette which no one ever questioned so we sailed right through, behind a plow and pulled into Charlotte International Airport at 6:30 AM, right on time for our check in!
All I remember thinking was, can someone please direct me to a gift shop, my toothbrush is packed and I really want to brush my teeth! Well, we made it to Turks & Caicos…and we were certified that random weekend in February in 2010 only to return to New York City with great tans and a story that was actually published in a Dive Magazine.
But, I have to say, I forged some of the best friendships that weekend! We had such a ridiculously good time and I should have seen that it was only a taste of what I was destined to overcome during the next few years…though I must admit, from the first time I put my foot in the water, I knew that diving was one day going to be my life! I just hadn’t realized how soon it was destined to happen!
Thank you to all my fellow divers who accompanied me that weekend and who I think about all the time as my journey continues. Please know that I’ll always hold that random weekend in February in my heart as my first inspiration to what I believe was to be my destiny…so now I’m just living my dream!