Once again we come to a time of the year when we rush to get into an enclosed space with people who get on our nerves so we can spend money we don’t have, eat food we don’t like, and then visit places we’re not particularly interested in seeing. Yes it’s vacation time! Or, as some people might say, “I wonder if I need major surgery on anything?” In their defense it would be cheaper and there’s the added benefit of receiving some great drugs that will knock you out. Unfortunately if you’re like me, and are only a few surgeries away from needing an organ donor, this may not be your best option.
I have some wonderful childhood vacation memories! Kicking the back of the car seat while my dad drove us across the country. Reading Tiger Beat Magazine while my parents tried to get me to look at the Grand Canyon, the Redwood and Petrified Forests, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, etc. In my defense it was a special issue that told all about David Cassidy’s loves and losses so I think I can be forgiven.
I think you appreciate vacations more when you get to be an adult. For 51 weeks of the year you slave away at your job just waiting for that one golden week when you’re free. Free to pack the car and drive hundreds of miles while yelling at the kids to be quiet, or as my dad use to put it, “shut up dammit”. Of course you also have the added responsibility of finding a motel that doesn’t look like it’s holding a drug dealer's convention. My parents and I once stayed at a motel in Arizona that was raided by drug enforcement agents. Evidently there was more going on around the pool that night than some midnight swimming. I guess this sticks out in my mind because it was the first time I ever heard the word “marijuana”. I don’t remember much after that because by the next day I was deep into a special issue of 16 Magazine which told me all about Bobby Sherman’s loves and losses.
Fast forward a few years to the vacations I’ve taken with my kids. First of all you should know that I have a horrible sense of direction. I have never been able to get through South Carolina without getting lost in Florence. Florence is a nice enough town and considering I’ve only been through it about a hundred times I should know how to get out of it but I can’t. One year I got lost in Florence and ended up in Fayetteville, N.C. This wouldn’t have been a problem except I was aiming for Charlotte, N.C. which is about 3 hours in the other direction. I blame my nose. I read an article a couple of years ago that said people have a compass in their nose. I’m not sure how many of these compasses are natural or are just remnants left over from childhood but if I have one it no longer works. I think my compass may have popped out when I broke my nose in the 4th grade but that’s another painful story. Let’s just say I was playing catch and didn’t. When I’m not getting lost in Florence I’m getting a speeding ticket from one of South Carolina’s finest. I’ve had three speeding tickets in my life and every one of them came from South Carolina. My dad still holds the record for tickets though. He’s had a ticket in almost every state he’s ever been in. He was ticketed in Georgia a few months ago for failure to acknowledge a traffic light. Neither one of us is sure how you acknowledge a traffic light so now we just wave and say “hey” whenever we go under one. Just to be safe you understand. I have many fond memories of sitting on the side of the road while my dad asked a highway patrolman when he last had his radar gun calibrated. By the way, this never works so don’t bother even trying to get out of a ticket by asking this. It also has a tendency to make the highway patrolman mad.
My vacation experiences didn’t get any better after I got older. My kids and I spent a week in Myrtle Beach, S.C. several years ago. I think it was a week. It felt much longer. The day we arrived it was bright and sunny. We rushed down to the ocean and played around for a while. Little did we know this would be the last sunshine we would see until the day we packed to go back home. It didn’t just rain it poured. Myrtle Beach is a great place to visit when the weather is nice. Not so much when the weather is bad and you’re on a budget. We went to the mall, Walmart, souvenir shops, Walmart, out to eat and then back to Walmart etc. Did I mention we were staying in a camper with my parents? There we were, three adults, one small bratty kid, and two teenagers stuck together in a small space with nothing to do. It did clear up enough at night so we could hear the renderings of a Jimmy Buffet wannabe band. Their favorite song to play was “Cheeseburgers In Paradise” and did they ever play it! I still don’t like that song. One night it cleared up for a few hours so we all went to play Putt-Putt. My youngest daughter, aka small bratty kid, loved Putt-Putt and played it like a pro. Unfortunately she also liked to swing her club around after she made a great shot. After one particularly great putt she swung her club back and broke my middle finger. If you ever want to get a lot of attention try wearing a splint on your middle finger for a few weeks. Yes, it was a wonderful vacation. I’m still having nightmares about it. The only thing that saved me was a small recreation center on the campground that had a good selection of paperback books. I think I read every book they had. I should have known better than to go back to Myrtle Beach considering that the year before my son and his cousin somehow managed to run into a campground police car with a golf cart. There I was sitting in the campground laundromat, minding my own business while waiting for a load of clothes to dry. I looked up to see both of them running towards me yelling, “Mom”. I was a little alarmed for a couple of reasons. The first one being I was pretty sure I had only given birth to one of them. The second reason was the policeman that was running behind them. I had to do some fast talking and apologizing but we got through it. I did pay them both back later that afternoon. I was watching them through the camper window and noticed they were holding signs up in the direction of a large hotel that was next to our camper. When I went outside to investigate I saw they were trying to get a date with a couple of hot numbers in very small bikinis that were leaning over the hotel balcony railings. That’s when I made my own sign. It said, “They’re 14 years old”. I don’t think either one of them has ever really forgiven me.
I asked some of my fellow pundits to tell me their worst vacation memories. I should probably mention that most of these wonderful people are also Dave Barry bloggers. I’m only mentioning this because a couple of them had booger related incidents on their vacations. Some were their personal boogers and the others were boogers inflicted on them by someone else. I got some great responses plus a wonderful recipe for “Peachy Almond Shortcakes”. I’m still not sure how that happened but a lot of our talks end with deep discussions about food. We once spent two weeks discussing Geoduck! It was a long two weeks. I heard about weddings where they were required to wear a hoop skirt while being chased by a hairspray brandishing maniac. There were also a couple of stories where fire was involved. One where the hotel room caught on fire and another one where their rental car caught on fire only her husband didn’t notice because he was busy looking under the hood to see what was wrong with the car. It was on fire! There were also a few near death experiences and another one involving nudity. I’m still waiting to hear the end of that story. One thing I did notice about their stories was for the most part they are able to laugh at the memories now. Isn’t that what vacations are all about? We don’t go because we have a burning desire to drive five hundred miles just to see where George Washington slept a couple of hundred years ago. It’s all about the memories good and bad.
If you don’t mind I’d like to offer a few vacation tips. First of all, stay out of Florence, S.C. unless you’re absolutely sure you can find your way out. Secondly keep your hands in your pockets when you’re playing Putt-Putt with a bratty little kid. Always have a good book on hand and then pack it carefully away so you can see the beauty around you. You should also enjoy your family and savor your time with them. Lastly, are you sure you’ve already had your appendix removed?
Thanks to the following wonderful people for sharing their vacation memories with me. Jim Maiwurm, Beatrice McNew, Tammy Tushman, Jennifer Mendenhall, Amy Dobek, Diane Ochoa Slusarek, Becky Miller, Anne Morton August, Angie Feazel Mattke, Clay Steiner, and anyone else I’ve forgotten.