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Chapter XXIX - A New Experience

I asked John to get a reservation on the plane for me for Saturday. At night when he came home he informed me that there were no planes leaving for New York on Saturday and that I would have to leave on Sunday. I was skeptical and couldn't understand why there were no planes on Saturday. I told him I wanted to visit Caracas for about three days before leaving for New York and that he should make reservations accordingly. Thus it was arranged that I would leave Maracaibo on Thursday and leave for home from Caracas on Sunday.

On Thursday Helen left the children with Lena and she and John came to the airport to see me off. Helen gave me instructions about what to do when I reached Caracas. She had spent a month there studying the Spanish language, a requirement to fill when she accepted the teaching job. A reservation had been placed for me at the newest and best motel.

Helen took a lot of pictures in front of the airport, which was beautifully landscaped with flowers and palm trees and tropical plants.

A plane came in, a very noisy one. I said to Helen, "I hope I won't go on this one. It looks as though it's coming apart."

She said, "No, you will go on the other one being warmed up." My name was not called when the plane took off and I became apprehensive. I still thought the last plane that came in was not in good repair or it wouldn't have been so noisy. There were no other planes departing, and, sure enough, my name was called for the noisy one.

Helen had told me that I would arrive in Caracas about 12:15 p.m. The plane was a little rough taking off but inside it was a beautiful new plane. It was aquamarine in color and very soothing for upset nerves. The ride itself was very smooth but it was a little rough as it descended. I was very confused. The clock at the airport showed it to be 11:00 a.m. and I had no wrist watch to check the time. How could that be? Helen said I would arrive at 12:15 p.m. and it was only 11:00 a.m. Oh well, maybe she was mistaken. It wasn't until later that I found out I had been on a jet plane, one of the fastest planes of the times!

A taxi took me to the hotel. It had picked up and discharged some other passengers on the way, and because of that, I had a good look at the city. When the taxi stopped at my hotel I was puzzled. I had been told by my son-in-law that the hotel was the newest and finest in Caracas with beautifully landscaped grounds. When I stopped at the hotel it did not seem new or beautiful but mediocre. There were only a few plants around the building and no grounds to speak of. When I presented my reservation at the desk I was told I was in the wrong place. The name I had given the driver of the taxi sounded like this one but it was not the hotel where I had a reservation. I was asked by the clerk if I wanted to stay or go. I decided to stay since I didn't want to take the chance of getting lost in a city that was strange to me and where I could not speak the language. A telephone call canceled the reservation.

I was assigned to a room where I showered and changed my clothes. Then I decided to look around since I intended to stay three days. I wanted to get acquainted with the surroundings.

Upon my return around 6:00 p.m. I entered the dining room. There were many tables beautifully set but not one person was dining. I was approached by a waiter and I asked him how come the dining room was empty. He said it was too early but if I wished to eat they would accommodate me. I said, "Yes," and he brought me a menu. I chose my dinner and had a long wait before I was served. It was embarrassing for me to sit at a table alone with three waiters at my command. The water in my glass was always full to the brim. I consumed my dinner and sat in the lobby. People began to arrive and most of them were headed for the upper floor. I had noticed a sign and I became curious. I wanted to find out where those people were going. I read the sign and it indicated that on the roof there was entertainment, games of Bingo, and refreshments so I followed the crowd. The roof of the hotel was fenced in by a low wall. The edge was covered overhead and tables were set to accommodate customers. Music began to play and couples danced. Then the music stopped and a couple of games of Bingo were played.

A couple sat at my table with me. They were Americans and the husband was an industrialist who was in Venezuela to set up a new plant. He would translate Bingo numbers for me when they were called. Although the numbers were in Spanish I was able to understand most of them, even without his help.

It was wonderful to sit there under the star-studded sky listening to the tempo of the music. Below us the lights of the beautiful city were a lovely sight. The city seemed to open up like a rose with a low center encircled by high hills. There seemed to be magic in the sight when one looked up and saw the dome of the sky studded with golden shining stars and then looked down to see the beauty of the city.

The next day I shopped for gifts and somehow I managed to be understood. I took long walks and enjoyed the poinsettias of red and white gracing the fronts of the houses in the hills.

Three days passed quickly and I was back at the airport waiting for the plane to take me home. It was a nine hour non-stop flight to New York City and I reached there around 6:00 p.m. My son Richard was waiting for me. The first thing he said was, "How come you were not here last night?"

I said, "There weren't any flights coming here."

He said, "Practically everyone was here to meet you and a plane arrived and you weren't on it." Then he remarked, "How come you came on the president's plane?" I didn't understand what he meant but that explained the lushness I had experienced on the plane. The food was the most exquisite I had ever eaten. There was a bottle of champagne with every meal and the most delicious pastries and liqueur with the coffee. I had never seen such extravagance in my life.

Then it dawned on me that when my son-in-law had tried to make a reservation for me on the Saturday flight, he was told there was no deluxe flight at the time. Mine had been a deluxe flight and that explained the luxuries.

The whole trip was a new experience for me and was very enjoyable and very instructive.

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