Some of my friends have heard this story, but it's a doozy so you can suffer through it again.
Most of you know that booking accommodation is a big stress point for me when organising any holiday. So this story causes me all kinds of pain. Because I didn't get it right. See, I've admitted it. I could give you all kinds of excuses about how I booked it through Trip Advisor (which I did), and how it seemed almost legit at the time (because I'd booked it through Trip Advisor), but truth was, there were already alarm bells ringing before I left Sydney for the States.
So we arrive in Miami airport after an overnight flight from Vegas, all feeling very, very tired and shabby. I find a pay phone and call the guy who is meeting us to let us into the condo. He's arranged for his brother to meet us instead, and directs us to a parking lot near the condo complex. We arrive, hotter and more tired. And wait. Then wait some more. At this stage, we are siting in a parking lot of a takeaway food place on our suitcases. Classy. Eventually a car speeds into the carpark. It is small, beat up with no back window, only plastic and tape covering it. "Oh man, what a lot of bags" says Omar (and why should I use fake names, the world needs to know this man). Omar and The Husband squeeze the bags into the car and he says he'll be back for us soon. They disappear, the Husband looking worriedly at us as he pulls away. The kids look at me as is "WTF?". I'm thinking the same. Apparently Omar has "lost" his key to his unit and has to borrow a card off a friend and then takes The Husband in through the back way past the rubbish bins and the back of apartment blocks you never want to see. 20 minutes or so later, Omar reappears for us. Walking. We pick up our backpacks and our tired selves and walk the 4 or 5 blocks to the condo complex. As we walk he explains that if Security ask, we need to say that we are his friends and we are staying with him, and never to say that we have hired the place of him as "they wouldn't understand" Riiiiggghht. A family of australians friends with a 20 something latino? Riggghht! The kids are lagging and Will is looking worried. I'm beside myself. This is not what I signed up for. The condo is fine, although we can't get the shower working
We had left a pre-agreed Damage Deposit of $500USD with Omar. But when we tried to arrange a time to get our money back, he said he'd put it back in our account via Paypal. No sirreee, we want the folding stuff we told him. So a day and time was agreed when he'd come back and meet us before we left. Thursday 9pm. 9pm rolls around, then 10pm and no sign of him. I am beside myself with stress. Poor Will can't sleep, Miami is tainted for him. His 11 year old self is wise enough to know that something ain't quite right here. I head out with a pocket full of coins to walk the streets looking for a phone box. Nice. I find one and call Omar, no reply. I call his brother, and leave a less than friendly message where I may or may not have threatened to dob them into security. I call Omar again. He answers and sounds like he is either enjoying illegal substances or is very, very sleepy. I am blunt and straightforward. As in "where the f@#$k are you Omar and where is our money?". Thankfully either the illegal substances or his extreme sleepiness mellows his reaction to my forthrightness and he promises to be there in 40 minutes. I can't do this anymore, I tell the Husband, Security are going to bust me for going in and out too often. You do the switch.
And so into the dark streets of Miami The Husband disappears to meet a young, shifty Latino to get our money back.
In life there are many learnings, this has been one of them.