Pandemic Vacation

My daughter has spent the last six months mentioning how we haven’t been to Disney World in “forever” which is the equivalent of three years. Every time she said this I mentioned that if she remembered going a few years ago that it clearly hasn’t been that long. But apparently I am highly susceptible to brainwashing because about two months ago I started feeling like we hadn’t been to Disney World in forever. I always knew I would make a great cult member. So I booked a trip for her birthday which just happened to fall on a Monday after a long weekend for parent-teacher conferences. It was like the universe was screaming at us to take this vacation, so we did.

We were getting ready to head out and people kept asking if I was worried about flying. I wasn’t worried. Not even a little. I am one of those people that doesn’t really worry about much. My husband on the other hand worries about everything, so between the two of us, we have a pretty healthy outlook, but it only works when we are thinking in sync. I also carry buckets of hand sanitizer and sprays when I travel. I may not worry, but I am disgusted by other people’s bodily fluids, skin and breath. I was trying to get my hands on a hazmat suit to wear on the plane. Not to protect me from germs, just because I thought it would be hilarious to board a plane dressed like an extra in Contagion. My husband had been texting me photos of the lunatics in China walking around with plastic bags over their heads or helmets made out of water bottles. I’m sure these are the same geniuses who don’t wash their hands before leaving the bathroom, and every one of them would be seated around us on a plane. I didn’t see any bubble helmets but I did see quite a few paper masks. One of those masks would have been helpful during the flight when the couple in front of us sat down. I’m fairly certain the man rolled around in dog shit before boarding and the woman had tried to set herself on fire. It’s bad enough when you have to spend several hours in a giant metal fart box hurdling through the air, but when your fellow passengers are not vacationers, but residents of the land of meth and hennessey returning to their swampland, it’s especially ripe.

We planned this trip prior to any worldwide health concerns. We are assholes, but not the kind who put other people in danger. Social distancing is actually something I can excel at. I don’t particularly like people, and I certainly don’t like having to spend too much time with others, so I have been social distancing for most of my life already. Unfortunately this is not something that can be accomplished in a theme park. The night we arrived was the night they made the announcement that the parks would be closing in three days. Since the point of no return was miles behind us, we pushed forward. We loaded up on hand sanitizer and sunscreen and headed to the parks for the three days they remained open. Not so surprisingly, the parks were still packed with overweight sweaty dads licking their fingers after consuming a half dozen churros and tiny booger machines wiping their filthy hands on every surface possible. The only difference was the moms occasionally squirted a dollop of cleaning product into everyone’s hands after screaming “stop touching things!” The whole place smelled of alcohol by the second day, which was nothing new for Epcot.

My daughter’s birthday was the day after they closed the parks. We had purchased after-hours park tickets and had reservations for the restaurant that you have to sell a kidney to get into, so needless to say, she was a little bummed out. Luckily I was able to move up our dinner reservation and my little princess was satisfied with being able to celebrate her birthday for several days instead of just one. We also realized after almost murdering each other after the first ten hours of stampeding from one ride to the next, that we would never have survived a late night together. It was probably for the best that our time at the parks was cut short by a day. We even made it over to the shopping district and to the pool, which never would have happened under normal circumstances. I even discovered a massage chair in the arcade that simultaneously squeezed your calves and skull in a death grip while punching you in the butthole. I’m not sure who designed this chair, but it may be the same guy who came up with waterboarding for the military. And I actually paid money to sit in this chair and then convinced my husband to do it as well. Apparently he could be a cult member too.

Shockingly, there were quite a few parents who either had no idea that we were at the beginning of a pandemic, or just didn’t care. I watched as children of all ages rubbed their hands all over every surface within a ten foot radius. They touched literally everything they could get their grubby little paws on while their parents stared at their phones. These parents obviously were not checking out CNN or they may have told their kids to keep their mitts to themselves. My husband watched one child pick his nose and eat it for a solid half hour. His mother was either immune to this behavior or just happy she didn’t have to worry about his lunch because she seemed not to notice that this kid was two knuckles deep trying to scratch his brain with his tiny fingernails that had just been submerged in a buckets of the seven dwarves fake plastic jewels. On the second day I offered my daughter $10 for every hour she managed to not touch anything. I explained that she could earn a cool $120 over the course of the day simply by keeping her hands germ free. She made $10 the entire day. She lasted the first hour and then never made it past 15 minutes after that. I must have poured two gallons of candy scented sanitizer on her hands that day.

By the time we checked out of our hotel and got ourselves to the airport they had announced that pretty much everything was closing down. All of the filthy little monsters licking their hands and then swinging on the railings were following their unaware parents to the beach. We watched the footage of swarms of bikini clad idiots storming the shores mistaking the word “pandemic” for “epic party”. All I could think is at least we are thinning the herd. If we had stayed any longer, we may have had to take out a loan to cover the tips I was handing out. I was throwing money around like a rapper in a strip club, knowing most of the workers were going to be sent home shortly. I was anxious to get home by this point as I knew we would need to quarantine ourselves for at least two weeks after having been exposed to so many people.

Once we got on the plane we were subjected to instructions on how to properly cough into our elbows and how to wash our hands in the bathroom. I was shocked that anyone would actually use the airplane bathroom, considering I will hold it for hours in normal circumstances before stepping foot in that petri dish. I guess I should have been more shocked that adults needed instructions on how to avoid spreading germs. The woman seated behind me proceeded to sneeze on the back of my seat for the next two hours and lean her head against the little airplane window. I don’t know if I have ever been so happy to get off a plane. Our vacations are always an adventure, but being home has never felt so good. Bring on the social distancing, it’s not often I actually get to show off my skills, and I could win a gold medal in this competition.

*I wrote this while trying not to kill my family and listening to X-Ray Spex!

Pretty Woman

There are few things I enjoy more than watching people feel uncomfortable. Strangely, I am often somehow connected to their uneasiness. So imagine my delight when I got to experience an old guy feeling very uncomfortable by my presence walking through a casino at 8 am! I don’t know how anyone can feel completely comfortable in a casino at that hour but when you think you are being propositioned by a woman in pajamas it’s probably super awkward.

I was walking back to our room through the casino after dropping off our towels at the pool this morning when I heard one of the interactive tables talking. “Come hither” it called. I had walked by earlier so I knew this little hussy’s sweet talk. The machine straight up flirts as guests pass by.As I was approaching the machine I heard it start in with its sweet talk. “Wanna play with me?” she called. I kept walking as the old dude in front of me turned around and eyed me suspiciously. Apparently he had not passed this talking electronic pickpocket and thought the voice was coming from an actual human near him. Unfortunately the woman in a skull and crossbones sweatshirt and flip flops was the only human nearby. I kept moving as the machine beckoned again “come sit with me.” Once again, the old guy in front of me turned around looking first at me and then all around him trying to decipher who was propositioning him. This time I kind of smiled and then looked away, increasing his uneasiness. I could have pointed at the machine he was standing in front of but that would have cleared everything up, ruining my amusement.

Finally, as the man passed, the machine whine yelled “SIT DOWN AND PLAY WITH ME!!” He finally realized the voice had been coming from the machine all along. He quickly put his head down and skittered away leaving me wondering who actually responds to being scolded by a talking slot machine. Then I remembered where I was.

I can only imagine the story he told his family when he got back to his room. It probably started “So, this hooker in pajamas propositioned me at the casino…”

Consequences

Family vacations are always a mix of pure joy and total exhaustion. Children don’t acclimate to new settings as quickly as adults so their reactions to pretty much everything are usually a little over the top. They are like little ping pong balls bouncing back and forth between bliss and terror. My mini-me is usually on the verge of wetting her pants with excitement or trying to find a safe place because the sky is falling. Also, once she is excited, there is very little slowing her down. She is like a tiny energizer bunny. Unfortunately, her recovery time from a walk into terror town is of similar length.

We took a trip down to Florida last month to test out the latest Harry Potter ride at Universal. This was not exactly the trip we were planning to take at the end of June, or really at all, but it happened. We had gone to Universal during Easter break and somehow when I planned the trip back in March, I bought two sets of tickets to the theme parks. This sounds ridiculous unless you know me. I buy duplicates of things all the time. In fact, I realized on this trip that I had packed a pair of shorts with a tag still on them that I had worn several times since May. I had not actually been wearing the pair with the tag on them, I had been sporting this pair’s doppelganger for a month prior to buying the shorts I took on vacation. I usually pretend that I intentionally bought duplicates because of my undying affection for whatever the item is, but this tactic was not a good one in the case of the duplicate tickets. I had to fess up that I accidentally bought two sets of tickets whilst confused about how many days and how many parks we planned on visiting. Needless to say, my husband was not thrilled about this trip but mini-me was over the moon, especially since a new ride had opened just two weeks before our arrival.

During our flight down to Orlando, my daughter talked of nothing other than the timing of our riding the new ride, where she most wanted to sit and how many times we should fly through the air strapped onto a metal track during our stay. She vacillated between titillation and crippling fear for the three hour trek. She loves all things Harry Potter but is nervous about roller coasters, so there was much ambivalence. She had watched several YouTube videos of the ride which were apparently replaying on the screen in her brain repeatedly.

Once we arrived, we could hardly hold her back while we checked into the hotel and grabbed lunch. As we headed toward the park (by foot since it was faster than the water taxi), she skipped ahead of us calling back for us to hurry up. When I finally barked at her to slow down and settle down she turned to me and said very earnestly “I know, having kids is hard. Maybe you two shouldn’t have gotten married.” Just like that – mom, these are the consequence of your actions, live with them. She stroked my arm while saying this, the same way I have touched her while doling out a punishment for the last several years. I couldn’t help but laugh. Proud of herself, she skipped off ahead of us again.

My husband and I spent the rest of the vacation blaming every minor disappointment on our marriage. Everything from long lines to the rain that arrived halfway through our third day was the result of our nuptials. Apparently the butterfly effect of all things can be traced back to our wedding fifteen years ago, even the decision for overweight women to wear short shorts. Who knew?! Luckily, the same rules applied to all things that went right. Riding the front car of the new roller coaster wasn’t luck, it was the direct result of my saying “I do” in 2004. If not for our marriage, the ride probably wouldn’t even exist. If nothing else, the recurring joke saved us our sanity while fighting crowds in the sweltering heat.

By the final night of our trip, my family was literally falling asleep at dinner. The fact that the seating at the restaurant was groups of couches did not help. We fought the sleepiness long enough to inhale some sushi before collapsing into our beds. My child’s sudden narcolepsy was of course blamed on her parents’ marriage. I had to point out that this was probably the most accurate assessment of the entire trip. This crew really does wear me out!

 

Holiday in the Sun

Since my daughter was thirteen months old we have vacationed in Atlantis. It’s been a few years since we have been here because my husband has this crazy idea that there should be a direct correlation between my income and the number of vacations we take. He worries about money more than anyone I know. Maybe it’s because I am capable of spending $1,000 while walking through the airport. There is a candy store in the resort that I have been known to spend upwards of $300 at. In my defense, the bulk rate is $5 per 1/4 pound. When the whole family tags along on vacation I go for a run every morning to pick out our spot by our favorite pool just so I can stop at the candy store and Starbucks on my way back to the room. I return sweaty, awake and ready for fun. My family, who are all eating breakfast, never questions why I’m not hungry. I am actually pretty proud of myself for only spending $90 at the candy store this week. You know you have a sugar problem when you can make that kind of statement.

Over the years our activities have changed based on the age of my daughter and if the old folks are traveling with us. Six years ago we started at the shallow, zero entry pools and beaches. We worked our way up to the kids pools, smaller slides and beaches with bigger waves. We have finally graduated to the big slides and dangerously rough waves. My little adrenaline junkie was running out on the closed beach demanding to jump in the waves and dragging me up the power tower to fly air born down a slide on a two person tube. We literally were air born for the first drop. The two of us combined weigh about as much as the average male so we bounce around like a pinball down most of the slides. Fortunately for me her favorite slide is the one that spits you out into a tube in the shark tank. You get to float through as sharks swim all around you. To me, that shark tank is one of the happiest places on earth. My husband joked that if I were super rich I would be one of those lunatics that buys exotic animals. Instead of tigers and llamas I would have an enormous tank of sharks. I would be at parties where people like Kanye West and his giant-assed wife talk about their Ferraris and Maseradis and I would be like “Yeah, that’s cool. I have a nurse shark, a reef shark, two blacktips and a hammerhead”. Thank God I’m not super rich because I am enough of an asshole already.

Speaking of assholes, I never encounter as many as I do on vacation. I remember the very first time my husband and I traveled to Atlantis and a group of twenty-somethings came walking through the aquarium with a boom box playing something awful like Pitbul or Lil’ somebody or other. I thought it was the cast of Jersey Shore but nobody was falling down drunk or taking their clothes off so I think it was just some other random idiots. I also thought this was a one time thing that I would never again see in my life. Sadly, I was very wrong. We encountered several groups of people walking around playing music on their phones. Strangely, they all had the same hair as the guys on that Jersey Shore show. I am beginning to think maybe this is a New Jersey thing. It must be loud with everyone walking around with their phones blaring. My husband overheard one of the women in one of these groups talking about being somewhere that was too classy for them so they had to come over to this pool where it was more relaxed. She was wearing a bathing suit that said “Barbie” on the front. I have far too many things to say about this, so I will just not say anything.

The second type of asshole we encounter on vacation is the woman who feels the need to wear full makeup and false eyelashes to ride on water slides.Seriously, who does this? At least a few dozen women from what I saw this week. My favorite part about watching these women is seeing them at the bottom of the slide with their makeup running and eyelashes hanging half off one eye like a little caterpillar jumped on their face as their tube made it’s way down the slide. One woman stood out even among these clowns. She wore hot pink eye shadow with gold polka dots, false eyelashes that looked like two barbers combs taped to her eyelids and a red swimming cap. Yes, a red swimming cap. My seven year old couldn’t stop laughing when she saw this woman standing a few stairs ahead of us getting ready for the tallest slide at the place. When children are laughing at you it might be time to evaluate how you have become a caricature of yourself. I never saw if she actually made it onto a slide. Somehow I think she is probably still standing there talking about her weave getting wet and asking the attendant why she can’t wear her thirteen bangle bracelets and layers of gold necklaces down the slide. Some people just want to be seen. Others want to be seen from space.

My all time favorite of the vacation assholes is the drunken train wreck. I don’t know what it is about water that can turn your average heavy drinker into a total shit show but it happens. There are a lot of people sitting around the pool enjoying fruity cocktails of the alcoholic variety. They are relaxing on vacation and having a drink or two while they watch their kids play in the water. Then there is the middle aged woman who can hardly keep herself upright making a spectacle of herself. A few days ago my husband came back from a slide with my daughter trailing behind him. He told me a drunk woman almost fell on top of our daughter. My only response to this was it was probably best that he was the one with her when it happened or the woman may have quickly become a toothless drunken mess. I don’t care what you do to yourself, but don’t put my child in danger. An hour later we were standing in line at the bar behind a couple of women ordering drinks very loudly and promptly spilling half of them when they arrived. I pointed at one of the women and asked my husband if it was the woman and he laughed that I could pick her out so easily. It wasn’t that hard considering she was having difficulty holding herself upright at the bar. As we ordered our virgin pina coladas she slurred loudly “Virgin? No, you need alcohol!” to which I loudly replied “You clearly don’t need any more alcohol. You are already embarrassing yourself”. Had she not almost taken my kid out I probably wouldn’t have said anything but I really couldn’t help myself. I don’t think she heard me, but her friend did. I watched as she danced off to a group of cabana boys and started high fiving them. I was mentally preparing myself for when she started stripping because it looked like she might start taking off her clothes any minute. As we walked away, a guy walking behind us commented on how trashed the woman was. He said he watched her almost fall in a pool earlier. When he said he hoped she didn’t hurt herself or anyone else my response was that I hoped she didn’t hurt anyone else, but her hurting herself wouldn’t be the worst thing. Knocking out her front teeth or almost drowning could be the rock bottom she needed to get herself some help. But who am I to say? I’m just happy she was the only person we encountered in our week stay that was that drunk. I don’t drink and I don’t have a lot of patience for people who are too drunk to take care of themselves. That probably makes me an asshole, but I’m okay with that. I’m sure I made someone else’s list of vacation assholes.

Kindness Wins Again

My daughter is a very kind child. It’s one of her greatest attributes and I hope she is always able to reach into that place in herself and remain kind as she grows up and learns that others in the world are not often like her. She displayed some of this kindness while we were on a family vacation this weekend, and as always I was impressed with her ability to be compassionate at such a young age.

We go to a Great Wolf Lodge a few times a year for little weekend getaways. It’s a hotel with a water park and other fun stuff for kids to do. My parents love spending time with Riley and they decided since we hadn’t gotten away for a little while as a family, we should all go. So the five of us jumped in the car and took a little three hour trip up north. I have to say, my parents are great sports when it comes to doing things for their grandchild. We stayed in a suite that had a little log cabin in one room with bunk beds. My husband and I slept in there with our daughter the first night and it was like sleeping on a medieval torture device. When she declared she wanted her grandparents to sleep in there the second night they gladly agreed. They had seen the beds and my husband and myself after a night in the beds, but they slept there anyway. They also dragged their elderly butts up 57 steps to the top of a three person raft water slide repeatedly over the course of the weekend just to be able to bounce around and hear their grandchild laugh firsthand. I know it was 57 steps because my mother counted them on her first trip up.

One of the other activities that my daughter likes to do at the hotel is called Magic Quest. It’s basically a bunch of scavenger hunts in the hotel to earn badges. If you complete all of the quests you are named a master magi, a title which is highly revered by seven year olds. My daughter spent many hours in between playing in the water park, pumping half of my dad’s paycheck into arcade games and stuffing all form of sugar in her mouth running around the hotel gathering runes to complete her quests. Her favorite person to do this with was of course her grandpa. We all got to play at some point, but by the end of the trip she was grabbing his hand and sneaking out the door to go adventuring with her favorite playmate.

On our day of departure she had one more quest to complete to become a quest master. She and her grandpa were working diligently to complete the job before we had to leave. With only about fifteen minutes to go they ran across a little boy who was struggling to complete the quest he was working on. They stopped to help and my dad explained to her that if she helped the little boy she would not have time to finish her own quest and become a master. She thought about it for a few moments and said “that’s okay, he needs help. I want to help him.” So she did. She abandoned her own journey to help him finish his quest with no complaints. I came in after loading the car and started to round up the troops when my dad shared this story with me. He said “You created a good one there.” I would have to agree.

We all gathered together and helped our little magi who had to go back to the beginning of her quest and start over because there was a time limit. She ran around the hotel and with a little help from her dad and myself, she was able to find all of the runes and become a master magi. It’s funny the things you learn from your kids. Earlier in the trip my daughter had stopped to pick up a pair of wolf ears that a little girl dropped on the floor. She handed them back to the little girl who was in a panic because at first she thought that my daughter was picking up the ears for herself. The girl turned to her mother and said “Mama, that little girl just gave me back my ears. She picked them up for me!” She was surprised by my daughter’s kindness. I watched lots of other kids pushing and shoving their way through lines, knocking down smaller kids over the weekend. I even watched a dad leave his kid behind on the steps to make it to the front of the line for a raft. I am grateful that my daughter isn’t making her way through life like that. I’m proud of her for stopping to pick up the ears for another kid, and for abandoning her mission to help someone else because it was the right thing to do. We did create a pretty good little human being. I am so grateful that I get to learn from her every day.

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