Ana Marie Cox's Girlfriend Getaway to South Beach


Day three: A nasty surprise during checkout

11 A.M.

I am impressively tan, considering my normal state, in which I could pass for a Da Vinci Code villain. Kate is brown like a nut. I hate Kate.

Of course, I don't, and even if I did it wouldn't be because she tans like George Hamilton. It would be because she chose our poolside seats today and the screaming children, it turns out, have some kind of three day weekend. I think the holiday they're being let off for is National Eardrum-Piercing Scream Day. To be fair, she's even more peeved than I am. Her malevolent glare reaches Blue Steel-level intensity and yet the children remain unaffected. They have puffy swim wings of kryptonite or something. We're heartened that we're not alone in our stressful state of we-love-kids-but-just-not-these when another woman gets up and gives the business to the head screamer's parents. "This is the adult pool, she reminds the attendant. We nod vigorously. (Our only exercise of the weekend.) We bond.

Our consolation is the pre-check-out bill that was slipped under our door. It's remarkably lower than it has any right to be after so many lobster quesadillas and, um, margaritas. BUDGET TRAVEL, we congratulate ourselves. BUDGET TRAVEL! We are checking out at noon, and then hope to spend some quality time in the spa area before heading home. Betting on the lack of sound-barrier-breaking munchkins at the spa, I duck out early to retrieve my bag and head for the sauna.

7 P.M.

The Ritz-Carlton does not have many German employees in Miami, but they clearly brought one out here for the sole purpose of expertly humiliating Kate and me during check out.

Please imagine the role of Elsa (a guess) being played by Marlene Dietrich.

Kate: Wait, this can't be right.

Ana: No, it can't. This is so much more than the bill we got this morning.

Kate: Can you review some of these charges?

Elsa: But of course. What would you like me to look at? Kate: How about these two charges? They're both for around $50. Could they be duplicates?

Elsa: Hmm. [Raises eyebrow.] At 11:30, you ordered margaritas and a lobster quesadilla. At 1 PM, you ordered margaritas and another lobster quesadilla. And French fries.

Ana: And what about...

Elsa: At 2 PM, you ordered margaritas and a lobster quesadilla. Yesterday, you ordered lobster quesadillas and...

Ana: Stop! Here, this mini-bar charge! We didn't actually have that stuff. I just took it out to make room for the...

[Elsa's eyebrow is raised so high it meets her hairline.]

Ana: ... leftover wine...

Elsa: Very well. I will take off the charge for $12.75.

Kate and I huddle meekly, ready to surrender our credit cards. At that very moment, our bartender from our final good-bye drink runs to the counter and alleges, wrongly: "You forgot to pay for these!" Elsa does not seem surprised.

In the cab on the way back to the airport, our Socratic dialogue with Elsa gains hyperbolic proportions, and we find ourselves giggling through security, shouting apparent non-sequitors to each other -- "YOU HAD NINE THOUSAND LOBSTER QUESADILLAS!" When we're asked if we want our $100 upgrade, we figure that after eleven hundred margaritas, we deserve it.


On a capacity-filled plane, a $100 upgrade starts to seem like a bargain. We unwind in our spacious seats and continue to giggle about Elsa. Our good mood stands out and is, apparently, contagious. The harried flight attendant, fresh from cleaning up a, uh, "whoopsie" in the coach lavatory, smiles at us as she refills our drinks. She's clearly frazzled, and we ask her to join us. Wisely, prudently, she declines. But we chat throughout the flight and it's clear that being a flight attendant is a career for those of great calm and good humor.

On the way out the door, she smiles and hands us a wine bottles wrapped in a napkin: "It's from our European leg," she says, "I think it's good." Budget travel.

Back to day one

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