The Cameron Column #54
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How to Go on Summer Vacation - Part 3

      This is the final installment in the horrifying series on "How to Take a Summer Vacation." It is based on a true story...

      The final leg of your cross country drive finds you curiously divided between stupor and rage. You sit in a layer of dried french fries and eviscerated taco innards and listen dispassionately to the ongoing intellectual debate between your children:

"Could you PLEASE stop doing that with your lips?"
"Stop doing what?"
"Making those gross wet noises. You keep LICKING YOUR LIPS."
"You mean like this?"
Though your "good parenting" training calls for you to urge upon your children the adult traits of reason and compromise, your impulse is to open the back door and fling everyone out onto the pavement. How can it possibly matter that your son is licking his lips when the dog is riding with its nose sticking into the jet stream outside the window, sneezing so explosively every two miles that everything in the car has become covered with dog mist? And if you roll the window up, the dog whines, sobs, and ultimately barfs.

      Your wife is no help in adjudicating the dispute: you've been having a raging argument with her for two days, though neither of you has spoken a single word to one another since East St. Louis.

      Okay: just how much farther can it possibly be? That damn Jefferson and his stupid Louisiana purchase, buying up all this land between your house and the ocean!

      "Dad, he licked his lips again!"

      The maniacal glint in your eye shocks them into silence as you twist in your seat. "Stop licking your lips or I'll rip them off!" you hiss. "And you, stop hitting your brother!"

      "I'm not!" she protests.

      "But you will, and when you do, stop it!" you snarl.

      "Wow, Dad's really lost it," your son admires.

      "Is Mr. Mugster in the car?" you demand for the hundredth time in the past hour. Mr. Mugster is a stuffed gorilla whose accidental abandonment at a Stuckey's restaurant forced you to backtrack two hundred miles. These were hard, Missouri miles, where corn has overtaken all other life forms on the planet. You have the feeling that had it been you at the Stuckey's, the vote would have been three to one to press ahead anyway.

      It is with a sense of unreality that you finally pull into the parking lot of Big Al's Beach Resort. After all these days of being propelled, your body can't quite adapt to being stopped.

      For some reason you were deluded into thinking that Big Al's hotel overlooked the ocean. Perhaps you were misled by the brochure, which depicted a smiling and attractive couple completely unlike yourselves holding little paper umbrella drinks as they admired the view of what you now discover was the back of an automobile dealership. The only way Big Al's will ever be on the beach is after three decades of global warming.

      Maybe by then your automobile will be fixed. You admitted it to intensive care shortly after arriving at Big Al's and from your room you can confirm that they haven't done anything to it since. In fact, it appears they are using parts from your engine to fix other cars.

      Should you be concerned that the name of the place is Jack Kevorkian Ford?

      Well, you're here. Time to relax, enjoy your vacation. Time to be spontaneous, to live for the moment. Naturally, this means you must immediately compile a list of Fun Things To Do.

      This is what Dad's do: make lists. No one reads the lists after they are made or listens to you as they are being written or notices that you are talking, or breathing, but that has never stopped you. When you pass on you would like your headstone to read like this:

  1. Live
  2. Die (Don't forget!)
  3. Get buried here

      Vacations make for particularly wonderful lists, but no one is listening except the dog, who has finished drinking out of the toilet and has come over to lick your legs. Your oldest daughter picks up the telephone to initiate what will become a six hour conversation with her best friend back home. She begins with the words, "you wouldn't believe how boring it is here." Your other daughter wants to go to the mall because, despite her three suitcases, she "brought nothing to wear." Your son plops down in front of HBO, a study in Flatline Response Syndrome. Your wife, muttering, tromps off to find a washing machine so she can tend to all the laundry that has piled up over the past three days. You tell her you'd like to help, but it's not "on the list." Her look indicates that you'd better add "celibacy" to the list of Fun Things To Do. The mechanic from the car dealership sends word that you need to hurry right over to look at your vehicle's transmission, "never seen anything like it since the war."

      You begin looking forward to going home.

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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1997
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