Saturday, July 4, 2009

Well, despite the fact that I am one of the most positive and optimistic people I know, even I have to admit that this was a sad day. Yes, despite my best efforts to stave it off, the end has come. The world just seemed darker and colder when I woke up today because it was immediately thrust upon me that vacation was completely over except for the packing and the driving and the travel that I hate so very, very much.


Or, it could have been the fact that it was 3:37 AM which made it so dark and cold. Yeah, that was probably it. It is days like today that I don’t like being a morning person. If I were a night owl, perhaps I might have slept through a few more hours of the drudgery of The Last Day. If I could have done this like so many slacker night owls I know, the day might have been so much better. But, alas, sleep was just not what I was destined to do.

So, I drank some coffee instead. You’ll note that I have not mentioned coffee very much in my notes about this vacation. This does not mean that I have not had it all week. One thing that I have noticed every time we have come here is that the water here is not good for making coffee. I never remember this and so I don’t bring water filters or buy bottled water. Instead, I just suffer in silence as I make do with sub-par coffee for a week. It’s weird how bad the coffee ends up being with the water here. I mean, the water’s not bad to drink or anything. It’s not terrible in tea. It’s just horrible in the coffee.

Anyway, even the sub-par coffee couldn’t bring me down this week. That’s partly because I am not a coffee addict, despite what some folks might say. Seriously, I can stop drinking this heavenly swill any time I want. Mostly, though, this is because I am such an extraordinarily positive and upbeat person. I get knocked down, but I get up again and you’re never gonna bring me down! That, my friends, is how positive I am. You should strive to be more like me.


Where was I?

Oh. I was describing the agony, the disgusting nastiness, the horrifying terror of The Last Day of vacation. We have already discussed the fact that I have a very positive personality, so it should come as no surprise that I am 100% positive that The Last Day of vacation sucks.

Getting past the fact that I woke up early, The Last Day of vacation starts with a frantic rush through breakfast (for the grownups) and a leisurely fight with the kids to try to get them to finish their breakfast before it is time to check out. Today’s breakfast included a mix of fibery and sugary cereals for me, just to finish things off. It was yummy in a weird and creepy sort of way.

Next up on The Last Day of Vacation’s positively evil agenda – the frantic race to pack everything up into the same bags and suitcases that brought it to the villa on the first day of vacation. This, of course, never works. Even if the treasures that were acquired during the vacation are kept separate, it always seems that things are just larger when it is time to go home. Not only do things not fit into the bags the same way, the bags don’t fit into the car the same way, either! Then, when you factor in whatever got purchased on the trip, sometimes there’s a chance that I may have to leave behind one of the kids, or more likely the wife, and let them find their own way home. As it turned out, I was able to fit everything into the car with little trouble. I still considered leaving one of them behind but it was only for a brief moment. Probably best if you don’t mention that to any of them, I suppose. While I was fighting to get everything into the car, the family busied themselves with following the checkout activities checklist. They put the towels and linens on the floor near the entrance, checked under the beds and in all the drawers to make sure we had everything and closed curtains. They left the trash for me to take out because they just love me that much.

Packed up, we headed down the mountain for The Last Time, thirty minutes before our required checkout time. I sent the wife and kids over for one last encounter with the pool and its magic mushroom and then I went to check out with my envelope of key cards in my hand. In the check out line I found a family that apparently didn’t realize that "check out" and "check in" are different things. They also, apparently, needed all nine of them to be in line for their out-of-bounds check in process. Luckily, a kind-hearted help desk person took puty on me and called me over. I went over despite being distracted by the mayhem at the other desk.

"Checking me out?" I heard her say.

"Um, no," I said. "I’m married. I’m just checking out."

"Okay," she said. "Just put your thing down and you can be on your way."

So, I put my thing down and walked back to the car where my next duty was to attach the laptop to the back of the driver’s seat so that it could once again serve as a portable, hands free entertainment device for my children’s viewing pleasure. As simple as this may sound, it is never easy. I have to tie it up as high as possible for the optimal viewing angle. I have to tie it up tightly enough that the nasty work zones and potholes don’t bounce it around too much. I have to attach the external speakers so that they don’t have to strain their precious little ears to hear their stories in mock surround sound. And doing this inside a car that’s sitting in the hot sun is, of course, priceless.

This chore done, I went to meet my loving family at the pool. I was already wet from sweating like a beer that was as cold as the Rockies until it sat inside a hot, glass-encased oven, so the transition to being wet in the pool was a piece of cake.

Well, I wanted a piece of cake. But there wasn’t one. And if there had been one, I certainly would not have been putting it into the pool because, clearly, that would be wasting and wasting is totally something I wouldn’t do.

Well, normally, I wouldn’t. Apparently, I am wasting your time with this little digression about dunking pieces of cake into the pool before I got into it on The Last Day of vacation. It is especially a waste since there was no cake. The cake, it seems, is a lie. My point was simply that I was hot and sweaty and I wanted a pice of cake. After I got in the pool, I was cool and not sweaty and I still wanted a piece of cake. And that, my friends, is not a lie.

So, we swam for a while, nearly an hour. Some kid left a ball in the pool, one of those foam things that soaks up water and splashes it all over the place when you throw it. My daughter was appalled when I picked it up and started playing with it with my son. Her displeasure went away once we started playing monkey in the middle. She really likes monkeys.

Finally, the reality and gravity of our situation set in and we had to admit that the pleasant good times of our vacation were done. We crawled out of the pool and changed. I then got to use the extractor for the first time in my life as I spun the water out of the suits. So, okay, there was still at least a little fun left on this trip. But after that little bit of excitement, all that was left on the resort was for me to wait for the family to be ready to go.

While I waited for the slower people in our party to get ready, I called over to the Ruby Tuesdays to see if anyone had turned in the Mets visor that got left there the other night (or so we think). The nice lady who answered the phone put me on hold to go check with the manager. Of course, having been in the business, I know that she really went back into the kitchen to have a smoke, flirt with the dishwasher and/or the busboy and make fun of the person who ordered the special sauce without realizing what it is that makes the sauce special. All of that completed, she eventually came back onto the phone and told me that no one had turned the Mets visor in. Clearly, this means that she was a Phillies fan, or perhaps a Yankees fan and she simply had no sympathy for the pathetic but lovable Mets fan that was on her phone that morning. Typical.

Anyway, next up was the trek down the rest of the mountain. Thirteen minutes later, we arrived at the gas station that the other day had the happy bean picker. Today, there was no bean picker, happy or otherwise. In fact, there were no bean plants. It made me consider taking my business elsewhere. But I was in a hurry and I had a long drive ahead of me, so I decided to just stay there. At least the Cheerwine vending machine was still there. Seeing its bright, cheery light made me feel good and made pumping my own gas almost fun!

Well, I’ll be honest – anyone watching me pump my own gas would have a fantastic time. It’s always funny to watch me as I try to figure out how to pay, how to tell the stupid machine what kind of gas I want and how to make it stop pumping when the tank is full. My distrust of technology is healthy and it extends to the automatic stop feature of these awful machines. It might have something to do with the time that it didn’t stop and gas went all over the place. I felt awful, until the next guy to use the pump did the same thing and he was a native of a self-serve state. It only made me feel marginally better that at the worst I was as bad at pumping my own gas as perhaps the worst native gas pumper, what with the massive fuel spill that might have rivaled the Exxon Valdez disaster had it not been for the quick action of a real life super hero. That’s right, I saw the fuel spilling and turned it off quickly. I am a hero.

But I digress. Again. What is it about you, dear readers, that makes me go off on all of these tangents? You are such a bad influence on me. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Where was I? Oh, yes. I filled my gas tank with the explosive liquid that is popular these days and we set off on our way. The trip itself was reasonably uneventful. We ate, we drank and we were merry, at least to a degree. The kids watched some movies. We visited some restrooms.

Oh, that was probably the most exciting part of the voyage home – in West Virginia, the Welcome Center was advertising free coffee. Apparently the Boy Scouts were organizing it. I think each scout brought their own car, though, perhaps two cars per scout, because every spot was full. We had to park next to the big, smelly dumpster, near the entrance back onto the highway. By the time we finished with the restroom inspection, I was angry enough at the scouts that I went without the coffee they were offering. See? I can stop any time I want and as evidence I present the Boy Scouts in West Virginia and their scorned coffee temptation. I beat temptation a second time, later, when there was a Starbucks at a rest area on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I am strong, I am invincible and I don’t need coffee to define me. Well, mostly. In any event, there really isn’t much else to tell about the trip itself. The drive was thoroughly uneventful, which is the best kind of travel there is.

We got home to find that the people who live somewhat behind us, who we affectionately call "The Noisy Neighbors" decided to start their Fourth of July celebrations early. They were shooting fireworks off of their deck and over our house and garden. I love that. I especially love cleaning up the debris from it after it lands all over my yard. There are bonus points when the debris doesn’t explode completely before it lands in my yard. So, as you can tell, I am looking forward to tomorrow and its obligatory cleanup effort. Perhaps I should throw it all in a bag and toss it into their pool with a note that says "You left this in my yard and I’m sure you were missing it."

Or maybe not.

Anyway, after unloading the car, we headed over to my in-laws’ house to pick up our beloved Doolittle and to mooch some dinner. IT was good to see everyone again and Doolittle seemed happy to see us, too. We headed back home and got the kids ready for bed. This effort exposed our biggest flaw of the day: we forgot The Boy’s night light in our villa. The one with the $10 high efficiency bulb in it. How exciting. Luckily, we had another night light for him to use. Of course, it has ballerinas on it, but any port in a storm I guess. Potential crisis averted, the kids went to bed and the adults plopped down in front of some more episodes of "Lost" season one.

All-in-all, it was a great vacation. We had a great time and have lots of memories. But it sure is good to be home.


Addendum: As an anniversary gift, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law surprised us by thoroughly cleaning and re-grouting the bathroom as well as cleaning the hardwood floor in the living room. This was a wonderful surprise and we are very grateful. Thanks Lu & Chip!