Category: General

My Nightmare Vacation to Puerto Rico in 2021 – Part II – Getting to the AirBnB

At about midnight of our second (third technically) day of vacation we landed in Puerto Rico near our AirBnB. There was another canceled flight in the middle of our day of the airports, but we begged a counter ticket person and got rushed onto another connection and made it. Also, at one point Jen was seated behind me on a flight and I elbowed her in the eye while getting my carry on down so we could rush to a connection. THAT resulted in a fuck you look and profuse apologies from me. :shrug:

Feeling relief after landing, it was weird to me to deplane using stairs. I’ve always used larger planes that board and exit using jetways. I remarked to myself that I must be living in Casablanca or at least the 50’s. It was funny in my head.

We walked into the airport with our carry on bags and backpacks to retrieve our two checked bags. Exhausted and ready to get a taxi to the condominium, we waited and waited. Finally the bags started rotating around and everyone started grabbing and heading out the door. Most people were locals or had people picking them up. Lots of celebratory hugs were had and we were feeling happy too having made it to our island paradise.

After about 20 minutes, with most people cleared out and the same bags circling the carousel we realized that somewhere in our 4-5 flight day (depending on if you count the canceled flight in the middle) our checked bags didn’t make it to Puerto Rico.

The counter lady was very helpful in helping us file a lost luggage claim and stepped us through the whole process. How many bags, what were the contents, what flights were you on, names, destination address… It’s annoying but understandable. When travel advisors tell you to always pack a change of clothes in your carry on/personal item – LISTEN TO THEM. Thankfully we did. Jen gets full credit for that. I was going to skip it because I’ve never had anything lost nor delays. Quite out of character for Mr. Plans-everything-to-the-last-detail, but we all make poor choices on occasion.

So we grab our bags and head outside to vape. On our way out we pass the car rental counters and I stopped to check on getting a car. After about 5 minutes I wonder where the personnel are at. “Oh, they closed a couple hours ago” I’m told by a kid who has an airport name tag. Apparently they just leave the lights on for fun. We head outside and look around for a cab while getting our nicotine fix.


Some older disheveled men and some kids from the area that work at the airport are hanging out under the canopy. The kids are vaping too and we chat in between their personal conversations. They were kids to me, but probably 16-25 in reality. One was even nice enough to let me get some vape juice since my main bottles were in the checked bags lost to the airport gods.

Finally we asked them about taxis and were told they wouldn’t start running again until about 6am. At this point we’ve been traveling in some way for about 19 hours. FML. The youngest of the kids offers to call his uncle who drives a taxi to take us to the condominium. “It won’t be cheap” he warned us, but I ask for a price before saying yes and have him call. $100. SOLD.

15 minutes of the old man trying to figure out how to steal our bags or jewelry (the kids tipped us off to the guy’s history), our taxi arrived and we got in to relax and get to a comfy bed. Off we zipped.

If you’ve never been to PR, be warned that speed limits are suggestions and traffic lights are optional – especially at 1am. We zipped along to who knows where on a foreign (to us) island sometimes on back streets. It was completely possible that our organs were about to be harvested or perhaps we were going to be robbed and dumped in a ditch. No telling. I did have the address of the condo put into my phone and the route did seem to be heading there so I let it ride.

We got to the gate of the complex and the guard took some time but found the keys for us to get inside the condo. He buzzed us through. We got to the unit, unloaded our bags, and thanked the driver profusely.

We got inside, generally got settled, and crashed.

That view is actually exactly what we had from our balcony. The place was brand new and looked immaculate.

Here is an image of the bathroom. This becomes relevant later.

My Nightmare Vacation to Puerto Rico in 2021 – Part I – Getting off the ground

This post has been two and a half years in the making, and was underwritten by National Lampoons. I wanted to give the memories time to rest and be thoroughly evaluated before writing up the unbelievable list of events. This story contains a cavalcade of mishaps and horrible events that seem like they are ripped from the highlights of the latest comedy movie. I’m not the best writer and so this may read horribly and be too wordy. I assure you, all of these events happened – some of them I even have paperwork to prove.

About the time travel restrictions were letting up in early 2021 my girlfriend, Jen, and I decided to take an extravagant (for us) trip to Puerto Rico. Neither of us have passports and so it was the best island choice we could do on short notice before travel prices started rising again.

In March 2021 we jumped on a great price for round trip flights from the mainland to PR. The trip wouldn’t be until June so there was plenty of time to buy appropriate clothing for the climate and to plan what we wanted to do while there. Our flight was scheduled to come into San Juan and then have a rental car for the week.

Our stay was on the west side of the island in Cabo Rojo. The area is much less touristy and we planned to enjoy the beach and sun while visiting some spots like the bio luminescent pools.

Purchasing of breezy attire and sunblock was completed. Our bags were packed and well under weight. I was nervous about flying for so long at one time. STL to Dallas wasn’t a big deal but the flight from Dallas to San Juan was going to be a long one for someone six feet tall and not skinny. Still, this was a big adventure and I couldn’t wait to experience a part of the US that I had never before considered a destination.

The adventure begins…

We arrived at the airport terminal at about 1030. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 1pm and so we had plenty of time to check our bags and lounge around excited for our trip of relaxation and escape from the daily trappings of Midwest life. Soon we’d be in a lush beach paradise enjoying sun, sand, and fresh seafood.

There were some storms coming into Dallas, but nothing too severe according to and we should be able to make our connection in Dallas. Wonderful news for me as someone who rarely travels unless I can get there by car.

The boarding process was smooth and easy. Jen and I had the two outside seats in an extra legroom row and before I knew it boarding was completed. The captain came on and said that we had a 15 minute delay but should take off shortly after a brief mechanical delay. Yay!

Twenty minutes later the captain announced that our flight had to be canceled due to mechanical issues that could not be fixed because the mechanic that had to certify the repair was unreachable. Not the best start, but surely we can get another flight to Dallas and make our connection with two hours between landing in Dallas and our connection taking off…

NOPE. Due to the weather in Dallas several flights were delayed or canceled and the counter ticket agent couldn’t do anything. We went downstairs and Jen got our luggage off the carousel. Outside, I called customer service and the phone agent told me the flight was still going to leave as scheduled. I had just been deplaned and retrieved my luggage. In an unusual act for me, I asked for her supervisor. Thankfully the supervisor understood and began looking for flights the next day to get us to PR.

She found it! There was actually a flight the next day at 6AM which would be about the same route to Dallas and then San Juan. She processed the transfer and I had an email before we ended the call. We would even keep the car rental because we had 24 hours to actually pick the car up. I profusely thanked the phone agent supervisor and Jen and I got on the shuttle to get my car and head home for a nap until the next day. We had been knocked down, but we were definitely not out.

We woke up and drove to the airport, parked, took the shuttle. When we got to the American Airlines baggage check, our dreams were shattered. It seems that with the Dallas weather there were an obscene amount of people now traveling and all trying to get out first thing in the morning – this meant a HUGE line to check baggage. We watched the flights update board as our time slipped away and our flight time passed. Another knock, but maybe the counter agent can help us in some way.

Once we reached the front of the line we spoke to a very nice lady who took pity on us and spent a significant amount of time to find us a way to get to Eugenio María de Hostos airport. It at least got us to the west side of the island near Cabo Rojo. At this point the rental car was gone, but we should be able to get another on this side of the island. The counter agent warned us that it would be a lot of flying, but we didn’t care. At this point we just needed to get to Puerto Rico and enjoy 4-5 days of what we had left for our AirBnB reservation.

Warning – when an airline employee tells you there is a lot of flying they are not fucking with you. Our trip to Puerto Rico took us from St. Louis to Dallas, Dallas to Charlotte, Charlotte to Orlando, and FINALLY Orlando to Eugenio María de Hostos in Mayaguez.

The very kind counter ticket lady called the gate to hold the first flight, rushed our bags to the flight, and we boarded. Finally, our vacation nightmare can begin!

My REAL remote office on a real budget

Well, we’re all cam girls now.

That was a very funny joke made by a friend back when all of this isolation began a year ago. It was around my birthday that Covid-19 hit big and everything shut down.

Now many of us are back to work, and those of us who can are working remotely most or all of the time. I use remotely because when I work from home I actually work.

Now to the point. Like many people, I was forced to figure out a home office without having set one up before the pandemic. I had to do this on a budget when most supplies were out of stock or were being price gouged by jerks. The articles I find for ‘budget remote work often give a budget of over $1,000. I believe a lot of people don’t have that as spare cash to blow.

So, here’s my non-exhaustive list of home office supplies on an extremely skinny budget. It’s not perfect, however I like to think it’s a pretty decent office at a realistic cost for most people. We will presume that you have a laptop with a docking station or port replicator or a desktop computer to use as the minimal base.

  • Webcam – I like the Logitech 920. It has great video in my experience, and it is very reasonable if you can get one at retail. I paid about $70 for mine. The Logitech C270 is a good runner-up, but truly anything is better than the camera in your laptop.
  • Desk – I spent $100 for an office quality desk at a used furniture warehouse. Search your classified ads, FB marketplace, and Craigslist. I’ve noticed many people are upgrading so if you look you could find a good deal as well.
  • Chair – Already had one. Be sure to get a good one. So many people are frightened when they see a chair over $200, but paying $500 for something you’ll be sitting in for 8 hours a day isn’t too bad. After all, you spend more on a bed where you spend the same amount of time.
  • Monitors – There was a clearance deal at Wal-mart that I caught for 24 inch monitors at a cost of $70/each. So, for $140 I was able to have a complete 3 monitor setup in my office on my discount desk. If you keep an eye out, these deals happen quite often.
  • Power strip – We have to power everything, don’t we? I picked up this Anker power strip on Amazon. It has enough outlets for laptops, monitors, and some USB ports to power up phones or peripherals for about $30.
  • Keyboard and mouse – I had a spare lying around of each, but if you don’t, you can pick up a very basic set for $15.

From here we’re talking about extras, however they can help make your home office better and better looking.

  • Mouse pad – My mouse was jumping around the screen a lot, so I picked up this Amazon Basics XXL mouse pad. It’s much bigger than I anticipated. I would suggest the regular size or XL, if such a thing exists. It did solve my jumpy problem and seems of decent quality for $13.
  • Laptop stand – This can pull double duty as a laptop riser or tablet holder. For me it helps my laptop screen be level with my other monitors and that keeps me from having a sore neck. Well worth the $13.
  • Headset with microphone – You can do them separately or use what’s built into your laptop, but separate equipment will sound better and keep your conversations more private. Caught this Razer Kraken model on sale for $40. It’s worth it. My hearing isn’t very good, but everything sounds good to me and people say my audio sounds much better to them. Please don’t use Airpods. Several people on my meetings use them and their audio is indiscernible.
  • Ethernet adapter – Wired is always better than wireless for audio and video. My new laptop doesn’t have an Ethernet port unfortunately. This model from Anker plugs in and works without any setup for only $20.
  • Lighting – This is more vanity for Zoom calls, but lighting can help you look better. Here is a tutorial with some tips for your ‘studio’. I purchased this ring light with a webcam mount for adjustable front-lighting and webcam spacing at $22.
    • These LED bulbs for $20 in bulk to have uniform ceiling lighting and in my lamp (which I reused from the garage with a new shade).
    • Background – These Amazon Basics LED rope lights will soon go around the edge of my desk to create some more texture. I’m not sure if they will stay or not, but for $22 they’re worth a shot. I purchased these clips to hold them up as the included clips are screw-in and I don’t want to move a 10′ L-shaped wood desk again.
  • Plant and decor – This helps add to the background. It’s pure vanity but like I said at the start, we’re all stars now. I picked up a cheap fake plant like this one from Amazon. Mine was $10 at Ross. I also have a pop storm trooper canvas print that isn’t hung yet from Ross for $10.
  • Rug – $25 cheapie on sale from Amazon. It’s 8×5 and keeps noise down while keeping my feet warm when I kick off my shoes at my desk.

There you go. I think that’s my complete setup for my office. It all adds up, but you don’t have to do it all at once. This collection was done over the course of a year by picking up items as I came across deals. My loose math comes to about $500 for the whole thing. That’s much less than most people have for their whole budget in articles I’ve read.

My super-budget office

Don’t buy into the idea that you need to spend a fortune for a reasonable and good looking home office where you look professional.

Bonus purchase – I spent $160 for a portable second monitor that lets me keep a second screen up when I’m not actually in my remote office. It’s very useful, especially if you work from more than one space regularly or if you’re short on permanent space.

Quarantine Day 3

Well today I ventured out to scrounge some toilet paper. We’re now down to Charmin Essentials and there are only 4 rolls total. Two Wal-marts, Target, and a Schnucks later I was able to find one four-pack of WM house paper. I’m sure it will be equivalent to sandpaper, but oh well.

Target did have some Bounty paper towels in the giant pack so that’s the final line of defense, minus unmatched socks (ew). Here’s to hoping people reign in their crazy before it gets to that point.

The kids are coping well, even the furry ones. For some reason Tiger looks fat in this picture, but she most definitely isn’t. Molly is though. I’m dealing with typical adulting stress with the layoff and bills and I forgot to get cat food and and and…

You get the point. Pretty sure we’ll all come out of this unscathed but it is an interesting time to be living. I hope we learn to keep some supplies on hand in the future. A tornado, or flood, or earthquake – any of these are more than capable of disrupting daily life and causing us to stretch a little further than normal. Keep that in mind.

Now, where’s my quarantini…

2020 Quarantine Day 2

Tiger isn’t worried.

So, today I took stock and we’re down to a couple of rolls of toilet paper and 1/4 roll of paper towels. Kinda pissed at the idiots who cleared the shelves and caused supply lines to be all askew.

Normally I have a lot of paper products on hand because we won’t ever not use them. TP is a staple similar to milk, eggs, and flour. Unfortunately I was just letting our supply run because I do normally have a stockpile and I hadn’t seen any good deals lately.

Enter COVID-19 and BOOM – idiots hoarding. Now I’m in a house with 3 people and 4 pets and no paper supplies.

On the positive side, we are solid on food staples except meat. The butcher was charging about $6/# for ground beef. Luckily I found another shop only charging $4/#, but we still yet may be moving to vegetarian whether willingly or not.

However, everyone is in good health and for that I’m thankful. It’s also comforting that we should be able to ride this out in our home, and not everyone is so lucky. I hope anyone who reads this is doing well. If I can be of assistance in this trying time, please let me know.