Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

My wife and I were awoken to a loud banging on our door. Upon answering it, we were given a piece of paper that instructed us to gather our belongings and to head to the lobby for evacuation. Literally overnight, a Class 5 hurricane had formed, and it was headed straight in our direction. We grabbed our things, raided our mini-fridge, took our blankets, and proceeded to head down six congested flights of stairs. Officially, our honeymoon in Puerto Vallerta was over.

While our honeymoon was far from perfect, we had just started enjoying the fruits of what the area had to offer. We had a beautiful dinner on a small island, we swam with dolphins, and took in a show. While we had some minor hiccups throughout our trip, we were content to spend our last day relaxing, not being be on the run from Hurricane Patricia on our last day.

The night before we had an activity canceled because the weather was forecasting an incoming storm. We thought the cancelation and the customer service fiasco that followed would’ve been the low point of the trip, but it proved to be a red herring, because the incoming storm wasn’t just a storm, but the greatest hurricane of all time in the Western Hemisphere.

The lobby was jam packed with people and there was no actual evacuating being done, which made things even more confusing, so I did what others were doing, and I ran down to pick up whatever food I could fit on a plate and ran it back up to the lobby knowing that this could be our last meal.

Finally, some buses pulled up, but we were informed that they weren’t buses for everyone, but only for people who booked their stay with a certain Canadian travel agency.  This went on for hours.  At this point, people were starting to get agitated as we rode a rollercoaster of emotional despair. Bus after bus would pull up, refuse us, allow others, and then subsequently leave.  Time was running out. The hurricane was coming. People were starting to cry. We needed to get out of there, so my wife and I started to push towards the front of the lobby.

Among this seemingly endless line of buses, a van drove up to the resort.  The driver called out for people who had booked their stay through Orbitz and a handful of people got in the van.  After a few more calls, he let it be known that he had room for 2 more people.  Before I could even react, my wife had pushed me forward and we got into the van.  We didn’t know we were going, but to my wife and me, it didn’t matter.

Our driver, Tomas, was a local, and he was actually not a part of Orbitz, but that was the easiest way for him to track down Erin, and Trevor, a couple from Vancouver, who had access to a relative’s villa in the hills. Tomas took care of those properties, and was planning to take them to the villa after he dropped us off at an evacuation point. We were glad he knew where a shelter was, because we were unclear on those details, even after hours of sitting around waiting to be evacuated. There were conflicting rumors of going to the Puerto Vallerta Convention Center, or to a University in the hills, and that uncertainty kept us tense.

I tried to bond with Erin and Trevor to keep my spirits up. In an attempt to not offend our new Canadian friends, I decided not to bring up hockey as my icebreaker topic, but I instead asked them about the general chaos of Vanouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. This gave me an opening to mention hockey, specifically how my friend loves Ryan Kessler, a former Vancouver player. Erin immediately responded with “Who doesn’t?”, and immediately recognized that I could get along with them. How long would that be for, I had no idea, but soon enough we pulled up to a horticultural university.

As the van stopped, we were greeted by a man in uniform. Tomas rolled down his window and there was a quick conversation in Spanish, which consisted mostly of the man doing a lot of hand gestures while speaking. It ended with Tomas rolling down his window and turning to us to tell us that the university was already at capacity and that we were being turned away. Collectively, our hearts sank. What were we going to do? Were we going to be brought back to the resort? Would he just drop us off on the side of the road? He had no reason to take us any further.

He may as well have been a saint.

Tomas turned his attention to Erin and Trevor and explained that there was plenty of room for all of us in the villa. Without a moment of hesitation, Erin agreed to let us stay with them and all of a sudden, for a moment, hope was restored. We still needed food, so we rushed to the nearest market, only to find it boarded up and closed. We headed to a 2nd store, only to find it also abandoned and boarded up.  With the clock ticking and our options dwindling, we finally found an open market near the villa. The market was clearly low on supplies since everyone was preparing for the worst but we were able to get our hands on some tortillas and cheese to hopefully hold us over until Hurricane Patricia had finished passing through.

The villa itself was beautiful and spacious, and most importantly, above sea level. There was a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom for each couple. It was a stark contrast to being confined to a gymnasium with hundred of strangers. We were fortunate that our strangers all spoke English and we were even more fortunate that they were easy to get along with. Along with our new friends from the North, we were also with a couple from Northern California. The husband worked as a brewer for Budweiser. He and I immediately hit it off, talking about our favorite beers, and as a collective we talked about a wide range of topics from our experience at the resort to how Canadians view American football. Between topics, someone would check to see if there was a weather update, and we would continue talking.

My wife and I cooked dinner with whatever we could find. We ended up making chorizo fried rice. We were able to find a half bottle of tequila lying around the house. We ate together, we drank together, and we enjoyed each other’s company. As the hours went by, and the rain started to pour down, we decided to call it a night. We didn’t know if this would be our last night on earth, but if it was, at least we were in the presence of our new friends.

We woke up the next morning to another loud banging on our door. This time it was Trevor, and he was alerting us of good news. The hurricane had re-directed itself and petered out. We were safe. Actually, everyone was safe. The hurricane took no casualties, and Tomas was ready to drop us off at the airport.

As we drove through the streets, we saw many of the shops still boarded up. Puerto Vallerta looked like a ghost town. To our surprise, the airport was fully staffed and fully operational, in fact, our flight was even scheduled to be on time. As we walked through the Duty Free shop and took free samples of tequila from vendors, it’s almost as if nothing had happened.  Somehow, in a mere matter of hours we went from facing impending doom to being safe enough to board an airplane. We sat down, waiting for our flight, and we checked the weather one last time. We had officially survived the hurricane. While no passengers in the airport seemed to be acknowledging what we had all gone through, I decided that I needed to, so I turned to my wife and quietly sang her the words “Here I am, rock you like a hurricane.”

 

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