I can’t honestly say that I’ve had one single “worst vacation ever,” one that would put me off airplanes or camping in the wilderness or certain inexpensive motel chains forever, but there were bits and pieces of individual trips that, if cobbled together, could add up to one nightmarish trip. A trip birthed in the loins of Beelzebub himself. (Or Dane Cook. Either way.)
Incident #1: Arriving at the 1996 Olympics the night the bomb exploded. Later, being seated next to the most obnoxious person ever to breathe oxygen on the first leg of the flight home. A person who would not stop talking. Not ever. The plane could have been spiraling to the earth, belching flames and black smoke, oxygen masks dangling and passengers screaming, but he would have simply kept rambling about his high school reunion, the myriad auto repairs he recently paid for, the way a crack in his favorite coffee mug looked like two happy lesbians. Would you like some gum? How about now? How about a breath mint? How about I tell you another story about my family tree, how my family can trace its roots all the way back to….CRASH!!!!!!
And guess who sat next to him again on the second leg of the flight home? On an entirely new airplane? Here’s a hint: it wasn’t Donald Trump.
Incident #2: Celebrating Thanksgiving with chain-smoking relatives in a very small, very airtight home. The smoke was so thick you had to slice through the toxic cloud with a chainsaw to form a window large enough to see the head attached to the disembodied voice talking to you from somewhere in the fog. I aged six years over that long weekend. My lips didn’t turn pink again until we boarded the plane home. We did take a nice, long walk through a nearby cemetery to clear our phlegmy lungs, however. That was relaxing and not at all creepy.
Later, at the same house: being accosted by a very hostile, very Goth seventeen year-old I had exchanged maybe two words with since arriving: “So that’s your Tom’s of Maine toothpaste in the bathroom, huh. Did you know that stuff really doesn’t clean your teeth? I heard it gives you cancer. I bet you eat organic food, too. Did you know that organic food is crawling with fecal matter? (She didn’t say ‘fecal matter;’ try a word that rhymes with ‘zit.’) People who eat organic are idiots. I bet you voted for Al Gore. Loser.”
Incident #3: Breaking down in the Utah desert during a hot summer road trip. And then waiting for six hours in a combination Dairy Queen / Gas Station / Auto Repair shop for the car to be fixed. Six hours. In a Dairy Queen. Let me tell you something: once you’ve eaten your ersatz ice cream, being forced to linger in that same chain restaurant for six hours is the kind of torture that might lead anyone to spill sensitive military secrets.
I still remember the wallpaper pattern in that Dairy Queen. Vividly.
Incident #4: Biking down a long, hilly, forested trail while gypsy moth caterpillars were literally raining from the trees: landing on our backs, on our hats, in our hair, being squished beneath our bike tires. It sounded like hail beating the grass. Squirmy, moving, black, fuzzy hail.
There are more ugly vacation incidents in my arsenal, of course—lost luggage, bumped flights, disgusting motel rooms—but these are the sprinkles on my bad trip cupcake.
What are some of your not-so-fun vacation tidbits?