Vacations! from Hell

When I was growing up, summer vacations all followed pretty much the same pattern: The whole family packed into a station wagon and steamed itself into a bad mood for two days, arriving finally at some dreary motel near a beach or a park for four nights of bad mattresses and my father complaining about the price of everything ("Can you believe it? Two bucks for a cup of coffee?") before we packed ourselves back into the car for the return trip, which somehow always took three times as long as it did coming out. We sent postcards to friends so they would think we were having a grand time and were to be envied. " Wish you were here ," we'd write, as if having one more person jammed into a cramped, humid little room would somehow make the whole thing more bearable.

As delightful as that all sounds, people today apparently want more from their vacations. How else to explain the pamphlet that hit my desk the other day, promising a "Survival Training Camp Vacation!"? Apparently for several thousand dollars you and your friends are air-dropped into a remote area of Canada , where you will "learn to survive the bugs, rain, and cold on less than a thousand calories a day." Once you've completed the course, taught by a "survival expert," you'll know what to do if "you ever find yourself in the same circumstances."

I feel like I already know what to do, which is to avoid the same circumstances, starting by not going on this "Vacation!" in the first place! This is what people are doing for fun ? It doesn't sound like a vacation, it sounds more like a "diet." And what makes one a "survival expert" anyway-surviving? Isn't that sort of a low bar for an "expert?" Pick ten people at random and put them in a room, chances are they are all "surviving"-does that make them "experts?" I guess you could call me a "breathing" expert; maybe I should open up a camp!

In fact, after thinking about it for a minute, I've come up with several ideas which should be at least as enjoyable as this "Survival Training Camp Vacation!" thing.

Heart-Patient-Camp Vacation! Thrill to a real hospital experience! You'll be treated like a king, with three meals served you in bed, each one of them carefully prepared to taste the same as all the others. You'll be given a pair of pajamas that have no backside, so that everyone can see yours. And imagine the enjoyment of watching broadcast television again, without distraction from those pesky cable channels!

Fraternity-Boy Vacation! You'll drink as much beer as you can, then throw up. Later, you'll find that your roommate has locked you out of your room so he can be with his girlfriend, so you'll spend the night on a couch which smells as though it was once used as a place to cure salmon.

Witness-Protection-Camp Vacation! After dying your hair and being given a pair of really dark sun glasses, you'll operate a small pet store in Gary, Indiana.

Mother-in-Law-Camp Vacation! A self-improvement program like no other! Every single one of your faults will be discussed, in loving detail, while you do your best to practice non-violence. A chronology of your other half's former romances will be revealed, with helpful updates on their lives-every single one of them would apparently have been a better mate for your spouse, even the one on parole.

Luxury-Airport-Camp Vacation! Spend the nights in a beautiful airport, having your flights delayed and canceled without ever being told why. You'll be issued a breakfast coupon for Nick's All-You-Can-Eat Tacos, though it will turn out that once you've tasted them, you can't eat all you can eat. (The Luxury-Airport-Camp Vacation! can be combined with any of the other Vacation! packages.)

Computer-Camp Vacation! Spend an entire week trying to navigate a telephone tree in order to get to a live person!

And, of course, with all of these vacations, a free supply of post cards will be provided, so that you can write your friends and tell them "you wish they were here." (Even if you wish you weren't.)

~ Bruce Cameron ~

[ By: W. Bruce Cameron © 2005 -- { used with permission } ]


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