I'm sipping a $10 hotel margarita, on the rocks, with salt, sitting cross-legged on a chaise longue. There's red vinyl as far as the eye can see, stretched taut across the rows and rows of painted-metal frames fanned out around the pool.
I've been chasing the sun as it drifts westward in the sky, trying to soak up every moment of the fleeting daylight before I leave Fort Lauderdale for Chicago.
When I arrived yesterday, the airport smelled like Cinnabons and sunscreen; everyone was wearing flip-flops and Tommy Bahamas, and I'd left even my sunglasses back home. (It's 8 degrees, and swimsuits and shorts aren't really top of mind.)
So, after checking in to my hotel, I set off down the A1A in search of a new pair of shades. I found a plaza filled with kiosks selling neon T-shirts covered in slogans:
BUY ME ANOTHER CASE OF BEER, YOU STILL UGLY
My new sunglasses were there, a pair of Jackie O–style Dolce & Gabbana knock-offs, and after taking the requisite arm-extension selfie, I made my way to the Drunken Taco, a beachfront Mexican joint with laminated menus and beer buckets full of condiments.
A Hispanic woman in an orange tunic passed me on the street and slowly circled back, telling me I had a beautiful aura. I thanked her but declined the offer for a personalized astrology reading. Actually, I've always wanted to get one, but my budget had already been earmarked for a massive frozen banana margarita with an extra shot of tequila. (Really, which would you choose?)
At the table behind me, a threesome squealed as a careless beach pigeon shat on their table. They moved under the awning, leaving me exposed to all the sidewalk characters Fort Lauderdale had to offer: Families, couples, drifters and grifters. After the first slurp of my margarita, a leathery beach bum with a distended belly barely covered by his tattered tank top walked up to my table. Politely, he asked, "I don't mean to be rude, but I'm homeless and really hungry, and I was wondering if you could spare anything for me to get a bite to eat."
So, I don't carry cash.
For specifically this reason, but also because I generally don't have enough money in my account to be blowing cash left and right. And you do blow it when it's burning a hole in your wallet. (Remember this article <USATODAY>?)
So I shook my head no and told him as much.
Hello, Mr. Homeless Hyde: "How do you live?" he spewed, flinging spittle on my sand-blown table. "You sit there with your cocktail then lie to my face saying you don't have any cash?" …Followed by an impressive string of expletives that would upset Google very much. Resisting the temptation to ask him whether he took credit cards, I apologized and wished his back a nice day as he stormed off.
Sheesh. The people you meet.
I also met a cab driver from Jersey who never looked back after he moved to South Florida 20 years ago. He drove us to dinner and back and kept offering to take us for a good time in Miami instead, which he described as "Beautiful people, good food, good drink, good tan line, good hangover, happy happy happy." He said he had a bottle of Patron in the trunk, too, but he never produced.
But the reason I was here, my real moment in the sun: a 5:30 a.m. wakeup call to prep for my presentation.
One of my clients, an organization whose mission revolves around providing employment for blind and visually impaired professionals, invited me to present at their sales summit on the content strategy I helped them develop.
I spent 45 minutes clicking through my PowerPoint in a dimly lit conference room that could have been anywhere, as long as you didn't look out the doors to the outside world. I explained the work we'd done to begin telling the company's story, the ways we want to help engage potential customers and ordinary people, through blogs and Facebook posts and YouTube videos. We talked about Google analytics and ROI and the relationships that really make me love what I do
Someone walked by on their way out and thanked me for my wisdom, and at that instant, I felt better than I did in my entire afternoon basking in the glow of a sun I haven't seen in what feels like months.
But not by much.
I waited until 3 p.m. to order myself that celebratory margarita, and my heart breaks to leave this place: I am warm and at ease and happily floating along on my second margarita since I sat down at the pool.
The sun has disappeared behind the jungle of private cabanas, and a fluorescent light just flickered on along the base of a planter. My flight home leaves in about two hours, and even though I know deep down I'll be happier back home, God, am I craving one more day in the sun.