D is for Desperation and It Isn’t Pretty

English: Plane of Taca Airlines. Español: Avió...
English: Plane of Taca Airlines. Español: Avión de Taca Airlines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Desperation is begging either the Diners Club lounge or Dunkin Donuts to open early. This is what happened this morning at the Panama City Tocumen International Airport. We were up by 3:30 am and Monica, our Columbian hostess who is married to the American David, drove us to the airport. As we are driving, I am thinking, I don’t think I would want to do this drive for $30. That was until we arrived at the airport 15 minutes later and recalculated. Another 15 minutes, she will be home again, so that is $60 an hour. Now that is not bad money at all. 

BUT, who are the sadists that design these flights at such early hours, now of the stores, cafeterias, or airline lounges are even open. Our flight was scheduled for 6:47 am, but we had to be there by 4:47 am. Even then, we were earlier than we needed to be. TACA Airlines was right on the ball, the counters were already open when we arrived. With boarding passes already printed out, it was a breeze checking in. Then the hunt started.

We walked all over the terminal looking and sniffing for freshly brewed coffee. As we walked past coffee bars, cafes, snack bars, espresso bars, we only sniffed our tears, but no aroma of caffeine brewing; they were all closed. We found the Diners Club lounge and rang the bell repeatedly like some magic would occur, but no one appeared behind the door where magic could happen. 

As we roamed, we noticed a restaurant on the 2nd level and it had people walking around in it. Standing back farther, we could make out the fluorescent sign that showed Open 24 Hours. What eluded us was the way to get to it. There were no escalators or elevators visible. There were no signs showing the way to one or the other either. Finally, I asked someone working near security. He told me we had to go downstairs, through Immigration and then back up the stairs on the other side. This seems like a treasure hunt, but without others to confirm his story, we tried. Down we went and directly ahead were the sleepy surly looking women of Immigration. Yes, only women were working this shift and they put their nasty faces on as soon as they saw our confused white faces. 

Rather than provide helpful information, they only said “You don’t have enough time to go to the restaurant.” What do you mean? We have over an hour before the boarding even begins. They refused to let us through; the Panama version of the Berlin Wall. Back to wandering the halls. 

People were starting to arrive to work; there was some fluttering going on behind the cage screens that protect these establishments from wary tourists making their own coffee. Ron asked each what time they would open, but every response was a discouraging 6:30 am. This only gave us 15 minutes.

I spotted a man unlock and then walk into the Diners Club lounge so we leaped on him like a couple of hunting lions with a wildebeest. With sad eyes, he turned his head and said “Just give me five minutes.” It was the least we could do. He was prey to his word; the door opened five minutes later. We swallowed a cup of coffee in two gulps and returned to the gate for our flight. 

We are doing a farm stay with an American ex-pat. Mark was gracious enough to take us grocery shopping on the way to his place. He has a lovely four room accommodation that he built on acres of land that host sweet lemons, mangos, tangerines, pineapples, bananas, avocados and other fruits I cannot recall. We have the apartment with a bedroom, kitchen and dinette area. Right out our door is the swimming pool, where we indulged an hour after arrival. From our balcony, we can see the Mount Masaya, an inactive volcano. I never thought I would be the relaxing type, but I am starting to get the hang of it.

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