46: Pantless in Puerto Rico

46: Pantless in Puerto Rico

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

Pantless in Puerto Rico

If a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking
if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.

~Edgar Watson Howe

We were nearing the end of our Caribbean cruise. My wife Carol and I were aboard the MS Windward, escaping the wrath of winter in Canada. We had spent the last seven days celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, along with our friends Jim and Meada Hunter, also celebrating their twenty-fifth. It had been a wonderful experience, from the accommodations to the dining and shows; shipboard life was luxurious and we had a terrific time touring the islands and sunning on the beautiful sand beaches of the West Indies. But now it was time to return to reality… or so I thought.

Our ship would be docking in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the early hours of the morning. Every one of the 1,300 passengers on board would have to clear U.S. Immigration before being allowed to disembark for the airport to catch their flights home. This sounds like a simple process, but in fact, it is a very complicated operation that involves careful planning and coordination by the ship’s crew and the full cooperation of the passengers — 1,300 passengers generate about 5,000 pieces of luggage. Somehow, it must all get off the ship and onto the same airplanes as its owners. To facilitate matters, the passengers are required to place their luggage in the passageway outside their cabins on the last night at sea. Before retiring you lay out your clothes for the morning, keep a carry-on for the trip home and put everything else out in the hall. While you sleep the stewards collect the bags for shipment to the airport.

Our last evening was outstanding! After a sumptuous dinner, we caught the finale in the lounge, spent some time in the disco and then hit the casino in hopes of recouping some of our losses. We partied until the wee hours, dreading the mandatory muster for immigration clearance at 6 a.m. Jim, Meada and Carol wisely decided to head for our cabins to grab at least a few hours of sleep. But I had consumed enough piña coladas to convince myself that if I played blackjack just a little longer, I would end up ahead. My companions abandoned me to my folly.

I had a wonderful time winning and losing and winning again, just barely accomplishing my goal. I finally quit while I was ahead and at about 5 a.m. crept quietly into our cabin and crawled under the covers to snatch at least a little sleep.

Carol took no pity on me and shook me awake at 5:15. She was already dressed and anxious to leave for the immigration screening in the main lounge. I groaned, pleaded for a little more sack time and pulled the covers over my head. She relented and left to visit Jim and Meada in the adjacent cabin, threatening dire consequences if I wasn’t up when she returned. Carol was back before I knew it and woke me again. She was very upset. Thinking my tardiness was the cause I started to beg for mercy. But, that wasn’t the problem.

Carol explained that in the Hunters’ cabin she had found Jim missing and Meada in tears, clad only in her underwear.

Her initial thought was that something had happened to Jim or that Meada was ill, but thankfully neither was the case. The problem was — Meada had no pants!

I started to laugh! Carol frowned and tried to voice her disapproval, but she too couldn’t keep a straight face. Apparently after last night’s revelry, in her hurry to lay out their travel clothes, pack everything else and get the bags out into the companionway, Meada had forgotten to keep out a pair of pants to wear home. Jim was fully dressed and so was Meada, except for slacks.

Meada didn’t discover her error until she started to dress for breakfast. Jim immediately went to see if he could get access to their baggage, but it was already on the dock. Next he tried the on-board Duty Free shops they were required to stay closed when in port. He tried the Purser’s Office too, but they could not help. Finally he sought out the Officer of the Deck to seek permission to go ashore. Permission denied! No one was allowed to leave the ship until they had been cleared by immigration. He reminded Jim that the process would soon begin. All passengers were expected to gather in the grand ballroom by 6 a.m. sharp. Jim returned to the cabin to find Carol consoling Meada. When he delivered the bad news she broke down completely. She was pantless in Puerto Rico!

With all avenues of hope exhausted Carol explained that the tentative plan was for Meada, passport in hand, to appear before the Immigration Officers wrapped in a stateroom blanket. We knew from experience that she could not skip out because the ship would not be cleared until every single passenger was accounted for. Indeed on our last cruise we had watched with amusement when ship’s security arrived escorting a young couple, still dressed in their pajamas, whose absence had delayed the ship’s clearance for about thirty minutes. The electronic ship’s chime sounded and the fateful announcement, requesting all passengers to attend the Crystal Ballroom, was made. That was my cue to get up and Carol pointed to my traveling outfit hanging in the closet.

I reluctantly removed the bedcovers and revealed the solution to Meada’s problem.

I was still fully dressed. Carol grabbed my traveling slacks from the hanger and ran to the rescue.

I must say, that when we arrived in the Ballroom we presented quite a picture. Carol and Jim were impeccably dressed, while my clothes clearly reflected the fact I had slept in them. Meada’s attire was unique; blue pants, legs folded and pinned way up, baggy in the crotch and butt, cinched tightly at the waist and all nicely set off by a white blouse, lime green jacket and black loafers. We passed muster, made it off the ship and returned safely home.

But to this day, whenever our group gathers to reminisce and the talk turns to our anniversary cruise, Carol pipes up and revels in retelling the story of how she saved the day by helping another woman get into her husband’s pants!

 

~John Forrest

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