So Close and Yet So Far

parrotWe were so excited. After seven long years, we were doing it. We were finally going back to Key West for the Parrot Head convention.  We used to go every year, but that was B.C. (Before Children.) I used to go even Before Husband. I’ve been six times and my husband had gone three times.

The convention, called “Meeting of the Minds,” is a four-day music fest for Jimmy Buffett fans – the hard-core ones that join the Parrot Head Clubs. It’s one big-long party, and for most, it’s like a family reunion. We’d meet people from all over the country and every year we’d reconnect in Key West. We’d see friends who’d moved away from our home clubs, make new friends and broaden our Parrot Head family.

Jimmy Buffett’s band, The Coral Reefers, plays every year, and Jimmy himself shows up about every other year. The year we met, my future husband came down to the convention but he decided on it last minute so he couldn’t officially register. Jimmy came that year, the same day as my husband, and without convention credentials my husband couldn’t get into the concert. I didn’t want him to feel bad, so we spent Jimmy’s concert sitting in a bar by ourselves while the rest of the island saw the show.

After the first time, my husband was gung-ho about the convention. His second year he booked the coveted corner balcony room at the La Concha Hotel. It’s right above the stage where Buffett’s band plays. I was a little freaked out because the hotel’s haunted, but we had a party that people still talk about. The last time we attended was the year my husband proposed. We were on a sunset sail with most of our club and although his plan didn’t quite come together, he got down on one knee and brought me to tears when he presented the ring. I was so happy that I forgot to tell him yes and he had to ask, “So? What’s your answer?” That was November 2006. We married in February 2007. I got pregnant that March. And that was the last time we went to Key West.

The convention’s the first weekend in November. I wasn’t expecting our daughter until after the convention,  but by that time we’d moved to Seattle and I was too pregnant to fly, so we skipped that year. We promised ourselves we’d go back.

Because partying is the big thing there, Key West isn’t great for kids but we said we’d find a way to make it work. That was seven years ago. This year things were different. We were on the East Coast. The flights would be shorter. And cheaper. Plus, I was doing research on hotels and I learned that Florida has a state-wide babysitting agency. Perfect. We could do fun things with the kids in the daytime, and we could leave them with a babysitter at night. Woohoo!

I booked a room and it was official. The Fishers were going to Key West! I set up a plane-fare watch and I’d get emails with fares every day. Prices started at about five hundred dollars per person. I’ve bought plane tickets for a lot less in the past, so I waited for a drop in price. There was no drop in price, but there was an increase – to seven hundred dollars per person. The website advised me to wait – prices would go down. It was 80 percent sure. November grew closer, but I didn’t worry. Then it was October. I started to worry, and with good reason. When I got ready to buy, I looked up fares and they were nine hundred per person. That would amount to almost four thousand dollars for us to fly from Maryland to Florida. I shook my head. That was ridiculous. No way would I pay that much for flights.

I started to work the angles. There’s a ferry that goes from Fort Meyers to Key West. I looked up flights to Fort Meyers. Jackpot! Less than three hundred dollars. I looked up prices for the ferry. Forty dollars per adult, less for children. Fantastic! Then I looked up the ferry schedule. It didn’t run on the day we’d planned to go, but we could still fly in that day, stay overnight in Fort Meyers and take the ferry the next morning. Even with the cost of the hotel, we’d save thousands of dollars. I looked up our return date. The ferry didn’t leave Key West until 6 p.m. Sunday. My husband HAD to be at work on Monday. There was no way we could get home in time for that. I asked him if he had any wiggle room on the date. He said no. DAMMIT!

I went back to searching airfare all the way to Key West. We’d already rejected the idea of flying to Miami and driving to Key West. That’s fine for a couple of adults, but we do not enjoy long car trips with the kids and neither do they. I checked every travel site, every airline, every everything and there was no way we could get to Key West for less than nine hundred dollars apiece. Defeated, I emailed my husband and told him the deal and my recommendation that we cancel the trip. I knew he really wanted to go, but he surprised me when he said that the trip was becoming more of a hassle anyway. So we cancelled.

That afternoon I told my daughter we weren’t going. I expected her to be happy, because if we had gone, we’d have missed Halloween in our new neighborhood, but she cried. She told me she’d told all of her friends she was going, and that she’d never been to Key West and she wanted to see it. I explained that this way, she’d have Halloween with all of her friends, plus we were still having the Halloween party we’d planned out of guilt. She’d get the best of both worlds. She was still sad.

I’m still sad. My husband is still sad. Our son never really understood so he’s fine. We’re gonna miss the convention again, but there is no way we’re paying almost four thousand dollars to fly to Florida. Oh well, it’s done. We’ll try again next year.