August 22, 2017 | by Mark Stephen O'Neal
One of my favorite television shows that I watched as a young adult was Miami Vice in the mid-eighties. Sonny Crockett was the main character played by Don Johnson, and he was a stylish and charismatic undercover vice cop who drove a Ferrari. The show shed light on the drug culture in southern Florida, and despite the fact that the show filmed some of the rough parts of Miami, the South Beach area still looked appealing to visit. Fast forward over thirty years later, and I finally got my opportunity to visit Miami this past April. It was my sister-in-law Cherrise’s birthday weekend; and my wife Glenda and I met up with her and my wife’s brother Larry at the Grand Beach Hotel on Collins Drive in Miami Beach, Florida.
We booked our flight for Friday evening, April 21st, and Glenda had taken the day off to handle a few odds and ends while I worked a half day. Our goal was to give ourselves enough time to get to the airport in rush hour traffic and check in without any complications. My niece Cameron was going to drop us off at Midway Airport, and we were flying out on Southwest Airlines to Fort Lauderdale. Southwest doesn’t fly into Miami, so the plan was to catch an Uber from Fort Lauderdale to the hotel in South Beach.
Cameron arrived at our house a few minutes early, and I had begun loading our luggage afterwards. Few obstacles impeded us on our way to the airport, and we made it there without getting stuck in any traffic. I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact that my nineteen-year-old niece was a safe and cautious driver, and I made a point to tell her. We grabbed our bags after Glenda tipped Cameron and went to the check-in kiosk to get our boarding passes, and then we went straight to TSA. Going through airport security was quick and painless, and we decided to get something to eat before boarding the plane. Burgers and fries were the of choice at Miller’s Pub, and the Bulls vs Celtics playoff game was on. Everything went perfect as planned that night—well, almost everything—and we boarded the plane and were in the air by about 8:30 pm. The flight was filled to capacity, and we got our seats near the back of the plane. I gave Glenda the window seat, I sat in the middle, and a young lady who appeared to be a college student sat in the aisle seat. She had a laptop that kept her occupied the whole time, and we watched the complimentary television shows that Southwest provided on our phones.
I eventually got bored with watching NBA basketball, so I decided to take a nap. However, the altitude started giving Glenda problems with her feet, so out of concern for her, I cut my nap a little short. Thankfully, we arrived in Fort Lauderdale shortly afterwards, and it was onto the Ridershare zone because we had carry-on bags. The problem with that was the Fort Lauderdale Airport didn’t really have a Ridershare zone, so the Uber driver had a slight problem trying to locate us. I tried to ask the guy at the information booth to show us where to go, but his English was bad and directions worse. I managed to get off to a bad start with the Uber driver with a misunderstanding about the location of Ridershare zone. He called me when he couldn’t find us, and I told him where we stood. He then informed me that the Ridershare zone was a few yards behind the information booth, so we started walking toward it after I disconnected the call. He pulled up in front of us moments later and was on the phone with another passenger who was lost, but I thought that the driver was directing his comments at me. His tone was forceful and accent foreign, and that sent me into orbit. I quickly let him know that we weren’t from there in an angry tone, and the driver said I’m not talking to you in an equally aggressive tone, and it was then that I noticed the earplugs in his ears.
He popped open his trunk, and I grabbed our bags and tossed them inside. There was silence the first five or ten minutes of the ride to South Beach from the Fort Lauderdale Airport, but an accident on the freeway seemingly broke the ice between us and the Uber driver. It appeared to be a two-car accident, and one of the cars was smashed beyond recognition. We all prayed that whoever was inside survived. The tension had subsided as my stance as well as the Uber driver’s stance softened, and Glenda was more or less neutral about the whole situation. We then arrived at our hotel in a little over a half hour, and I grabbed our bags from the trunk. I had forgot my jacket, but luckily Glenda grabbed it from the back seat as we bid our driver farewell. I waited to see what the driver rated me before I rated him because by me being Uber driver myself, I know that a driver can’t continue on to the next fare without rating the previous fare first. I had it in my mind to give him a five-star rating in spite of our initial meeting because we arrived at our hotel without any problems, but I was going to rate him based on how he rated me nonetheless. He had let bygones be bygones and rated me a five, and I followed suit by giving him a five also moments later after he had driven off.
It was almost midnight, but unfortunately, too early to check in. Larry and Cherrise had already been at the hotel for a couple of days, so we went up to their room to hang out awhile. Glenda had a plan to get us checked in early without being charged for Friday night because we were booked for three days (Saturday through Monday). However, if her plan backfired, we were prepared to crash in my in-law’s room the first night. Larry bought pizza, so I helped myself to a slice. The four of us chatted for a few minutes before Glenda went to the lobby to execute her plan for early check-in, and Larry accompanied her. Cherrise and I chit-chatted and waited patiently while watching entertained by a Fresh Prince of Bel Air marathon, and hopefully, day one of our trip would end on a positive note.