Now get out there and make some memories.
I feel like a lot of truly horrifying stories begin with the words, “So we were all relaxing in the Jacuzzi, when… ”
But I’ll come back to that later.
Vacationing is like travelling to a parallel universe. Everything is just ever so slightly off. Sure, everybody looks human, but in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way.
These are not your people. They talk funny. Their news anchors are not your news anchors, and you feel the stirrings of a vague hostility towards them, watching them on the TV in the motel lounge with their weird backdrops and their unfamiliar in-jokes. Who do you think you are, Frosty Snow (if that is your real name)? My hometown weather guy could forecast you straight into the ground, and he’s 200 years old.
Not to mention the sheer out-of-body experience of watching the Weather Channel ANYPLACE but in the safety of your own home. The confusion. The bewilderment. You stare dumbly at the television. What- what am I looking at? Where in the hell are we? Those lines — is that even a state? What do you mean, “It’s Colorado.” I thought we were in Arizona. Four Corners? Four corners of what? NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.
People fail to take advantage of this strangeness, this otherworldliness that takes hold as soon as you cross the state line.
Nobody knows you here. You can be anyone you want to be.
Whenever we went on field trips in high school, I would pretend to be blind (yes, I know, I’m a horrible person, blah blah blah. It was the ’80s, ok? Much worse things were going on). Did anyone believe me? Probably not. But who cares? Nobody knew who I was. I was never going to see (or not see) any of these people ever again. Who’s going to complain to a parent or guardian that some insane teenager was probably pretending to be blind… but what if she wasn’t pretending? What if it was one of those “When’s the baby due?”*-type situations?
You’re on vacation. Speak with a German accent. Do everything with your left hand, and then loudly say, “Well, I am left-handed” every time somebody is in earshot. Tell people you’re a twin. Tell people you’re an architect (nobody knows anything about architecture). This is your Pat Healy moment.
Anywhere you go on vacation can be a land of magic and wonder. Even Ohio**.
The worst part of my divorce was “losing” my wedding pictures (i.e. dramatically dumping them into a garbage can). Somewhere in there was a picture of me in my wedding gown standing next to the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. That was a once-in-a-lifetime photo op. I am gesturing towards the… cab? cockpit?… like Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune, my veil billowing gently in the wind. What was the OSWM even doing in the hotel parking lot? Who knows, but I should probably have taken it as a sign of some kind, because I hate hot dogs.
So, as I was saying, we were all in the hotel Jacuzzi, crammed together like Vienna sausages. I think it was me, my then-husband, his daughters, and 12 or 15 of their kids. Timmy***, who was probably five or six at the time, was my favorite.
Speaking of which, where was Timmy? He was here just a second ago.
A bolt of terror shot through me. And then, like something in a Marvel movie, I reached down into the murky human soup and pulled Timmy — who was, by the way, drowning — out of the water by his wrist and held him up in the air like a prize salmon.
This act of heroism solicited barely an eye flicker from his mother, who had six more on standby.
I think if we look hard enough, we’ll find that all vacations are pretty hazardous affairs. The only thing that kept me from dying in the Grand Canyon was the giant sign that said “If we have to airlift your stupid ass out of here, you’re paying the bill,” or words to that effect. Otherwise, I had every intention of traipsing blithely down the donkey trail with a thimbleful of tepid water and nothing between me and the remorseless desert sun except the translucent, almost jellyfish-like skin bestowed upon me by my Irish ancestors.
In the end, we know that the real point of a vacation is to post on Instagram and Facebook about WHAT A GREAT TIME WE HAD #BLESSED #HAPPYFAMILY, praying hands emoji, heart emoji.
Only you will remember the entire afternoon when you and your spouse weren’t speaking because you insisted that you knew enough Spanish to get directions, and ended up in an abandoned industrial park with only one-way streets and what looked like the cast of The Hills Have Eyes.
Repetir after me: You do not speak Spanish. You are never going to speak Spanish. You need to let that dream morir.
Only you will remember your absolute conviction that you were going to die in five lanes of rush-hour traffic outside Chicago, or the food poisoning that had you crouched in a poison-ivy infested ditch in Montana (the sheep were not impressed).
I once spent three months in Italy. The only crystal-clear memory I retain is careening down a narrow country road with several drunk Italians in a tiny car… and something about a pig.
It’s probably best I don’t remember.
*Never ask this question unless you can see the head crowning.
**I can say this because I live there.
*** Not his real name. Duh.