The Cameron Column #52
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How to Go on Summer Vacation - Part 2

      America's highways are bejeweled with sagging, dilapidated motels where rooms can be had for a reasonable price if you're willing to forgo certain luxuries(like, towels.) The first of these will lie just past the edge of exhaustion on your trip, so that you'll groan with relief as you pull up to the front doors. You'll tiredly inform the clerk of your last name and announce that you have a reservation. He'll nod from behind his bulletproof glass and pass you over a registration form, scratching out the words "per hour" and circling "all night." You are asked for your car license plate, which is a laugh because your rear bumper has been forced so low to the ground by all your baggage that the plate was worn down to a nub somewhere near the Kansas border.

      The room is on the second floor, toward the back. Inside, the two beds have a distinctive concave shape, designed to roll their occupants together in the middle and keep them there until autopsy. Your children turn on the television set and stare at a rerun of "The Dukes of Hazard" as if receiving a rescue message from their home planet. "No," you warn them, "first we have to get the Hotel Suitcase!"

      The Hotel Suitcase is a mythical creature said to have the magic power to deliver from within itself all of a single night's needs, so that it and it alone is the only bag which needs to be brought into the hotel room at night. Fathers believe fervently in the Hotel Suitcase, even though none of them have ever seen one. It turns out that despite careful instruction, the rest of the family has somehow failed to grasp the concept of the Hotel Suitcase, the result being that nearly every item from your car must be unloaded and carried up the two flights of cement steps to your room and dumped out on the floor.

      This is the time when you realize that your son has packed his ant farm(though not the lid), that your oldest daughter has brought along her ankle, wrist, and hand weights even though she's never used them before (I'm going to start while on vacation!) and that your middle child didn't bring any underwear (on the plus side, she did remember to bring her fur-lined boots in case there is snow on the beach.)

      You grit your teeth and invite everyone to change into swimsuits--this is a vacation and we Will Have Fun. Sensing that you are not willing to negotiate, the television is turned off and the entire family troops out to the pool. A trip to the hot tub seems like a good idea until, upon closer inspection, it looks to be full of something similar to turkey gravy. Your oldest daughter, wearing a swimsuit which must have been bought at a store called "Breasts on Display," saunters over to talk to a group of young men who appear to be out on parole violation. Your son asks you to rate his backdive. Five hundred times. Your own dip below the surface fills your eyes, nose and mouth with Clorox.

      When your daughter announces that the criminals she's encountered want to take her "for a ride" you decide you've had enough and head back to the room. Everyone wrestles around in the tiny bathroom for a couple of hours and then gets into bed. The air conditioner wheezes like a walrus with asthma and produces a mist so humid you're wondering if it will soon be raining inside. No one sleeps, particularly the couple in the room next door, who sound like yodelers in love. Directly over head, professional wrestlers practice for the world championship. A murder or two in the parking lot, several trains, a chorus of trucks firing up at five a.m., and it's morning.

      No one speaks as you load the car, which has had enough of your nonsense and refuses to take back all the stuff you removed the night before. No matter how you pack it, there doesn't seem to be adequate room for everything and everybody. You contemplate strapping one of your children across your hood like a dead deer. Eventually, you get the job done, but it means that your daughter has to hold a Coleman stove in her lap.

      "Only three more days until we get there!" you trumpet cheerfully as you steer out onto the highway. The expressions you receive in return look like the Manson Family at their arraignment. If you had any sense at all, you would turn around and head home immediately. Nonetheless, drawn on by pre-paid hotel rooms in front of you, you press ahead.

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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1997
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