My lovely wife and I just returned from a much needed mini-vacation in which we toured the greater Buffalo region of New York State. I realize to some of you that sounds about as exciting as a double-feature of 2001: A Space Odyssey and C-SPAN Unplugged, but for me it was quite pleasurable due to the fact that I grew up just thirty minutes north of the Queen city, in the quaint municipality of Lockport, NY. (city motto: Our port is kept locked and we aren’t about to leave an environmentally unfriendly light on, so move it along.)
While on tour we visited the Naval Museum in Buffalo which consisted of two WWII-era ships, a submarine, and various other military vehicles including planes, helicopters, tanks, and the customary $700 hammers with matching toilets, also known as “heads” in the maritime world. We visited the Akron Museum, the Amherst Museum, and Old Fort Niagara which, in my opinion, would be an excellent venue for a Rolling Stones concert. They’re both about the same age, and their physical structures visually stimulating to the point that one is forced to ask, “What the heck was that?”
Now that my wife and I are older, and by “older” I mean we are no longer carting children around in a hot, sweaty mini-van for days on end, we have more time to relax and enjoy our vacations. Not that we didn’t enjoy the family vacations of old; we love our kids and the time spent with them. But the days of cramming five people in the same hotel room with only two beds, wandering around for the better part of the millennium searching for a restaurant everyone likes, and fighting with my bride to “just pick something” already are long gone. Now the kids watch with glee as we ride off into the vacation world and spend the next four days trying to find a decent place to eat.
We fought long and hard these past few years to make sure every vacation was a perfect one. Some we succeeded with, others exploded in the flames of failure followed by a free-fall to earth and a “thud” reminiscent of Al Gore’s presidential aspirations. So it is in that spirit of hope for a perfect vacation that I offer you my Top Ten List of Potential Vacation Killers, along with “expert” techniques to mitigate the risks. Enjoy!
Number 10 – Complimentary breakfast at the hotel.
Normally this is considered a benefit but it can be a risky proposition in some of your “budget” hotels, and by “budget” I mean a hotel that’s as unwilling to shell out a few bucks for extras like pest control, as you are for a clean and decent room. While some hotels offer a fairly modest buffet of culinary choices, I’ve been to places where breakfast consists of yellow-ish green egg-like substances, stale bagels, and coffee left over from the Eisenhower Administration.
Mitigation Technique: Always call the hotel at about three in the morning (that’s when you’ll get the truth about breakfast) and ask the phone answering person to describe, in his or her own words, what will be served to unsuspecting patrons at the crack of dawn. If you hear words like “delicious”, “lovely”, “tasty”, or “Cream of Wheat”, cancel your reservation immediately.
Number 9 – The available seating for the complimentary breakfast.
This can be a real vacation killer as limited seating can force one into a domestic war on terror every morning of your stay. There’s no better way to start off a fun-filled day of sightseeing and family joy than to put the smack-down on the little old lady who stole your chair while you were up getting a bowl of Loopy Fruitish Tasting Corn Rings. By the way, if a certain hotel in the greater Buffalo area has, let’s just say 200 rooms, and each room can hold an average of four disgruntled and hungry tourists, doesn’t it make sense to provide more than five tables and twenty chairs? Just a thought.
Mitigation Technique: Don’t Shower. For more on this, see my Number 1 Vacation Killer at the end of this brilliant piece.
Number 8 – In-room coffee with accompanying mini coffee maker.
Usually this “amenity” includes both regular and decaf versions of a nationally known brand such as Fogey’s “Stuff That Didn’t Pass Quality Inspection “Blend. Need I say more?
Mitigation Technique: As soon as you enter the room, flush the coffee down the toilet as though you were Al Pacino just cleaning the place up. Flush it before it’s too late.
Number 7 – Hotel room air conditioning.
If you’re like me, and you have an unrealistic aversion to preventing hypothermia and frostbite in early June, the over zealous housekeeper could cause you an untimely death from the heart attack you suffer when you open your room door only to be met with a polar blast of Arctic proportions. Then, if the heart attack doesn’t kill you, the penguins skating in the bathroom sink all night will drive you insane, at least until you become a solid block of ice lying on the bed.
Mitigation Technique: Travel in the winter when your room will then feel like the Gobi Desert. Either that or find a way to creatively employ a roll of duct tape and last year’s leftover firecrackers.
Number 6 – Sharing the hotel hot tub with complete strangers.
This is just gross. Case closed.
Mitigation Technique: Do you really need one?
Number 5 – Sharing the hotel’s pool chlorine with your sinuses.
I actually find the nuclear-grade chlorine fumes of the hotel pool to be quite refreshing. However, I can tell by the burning of the eyes and the soft cries of “mother”, that some people don’t like to have their cilia burned off by chlorine fumes. To each his own.
Mitigation Technique: Have your cilia and eyes surgically removed prior to your scheduled getaway.
Number 4 – Hotel beverage dispensing machines.
For some reason unbeknownst to moi (that’s a little French lingo in case you’re visiting gay Paris), hotels seem to price their beverage choices within the range of the total budget of some small South American nations. Perhaps they are donating the profits to quench the thirst of those poor kids on TV who get fed for just 5 cents a day but don’t get any water with their meal.
Mitigation Technique: When you’re done consuming your beverage, fill the bottle with water and leave it with the front desk. If you’re really feeling generous you could offer to pay for the shipping to eastern Chad.
Number 3 – GPS devices.
Do I really need two women telling me how to drive?
Mitigation Technique: There is none. Suck it up and live with it, Buster.
Number 2 – Your wife telling everyone she meets at Happy Land Amusement Park and Legal Extortion Complex that she no longer worries about getting lost because she has her GPS which she affectionately named “Abbey”.
Don’t get me started. It’s simply not true that men won’t ask for directions. I asked Abbey a number of times.
Mitigation Technique: Again, don’t get me started.
And the Number 1 Potential Vacation Killer – Unidentified hair in the hotel shower drain.
It’s not yours because you haven’t showered yet. Ditto for the wife. Single stray hairs clinging to the side of the shower aren’t so bad; you can shower “around” them, but the living, breathing, clump residing in the tub drain could potentially slow the outgoing flow of water, resulting in all kinds of disgusting microbial monsters playing nice-nice with your feet. If the hairy blob is big enough you may even end up taking a bath before its over. Yuck!!
Mitigation Technique: Don’t shower for the week. As an added bonus, it’ll help with the complimentary breakfast war on terror.