By Mark E. Smith
I’m not a formal vacation kind of guy. My career in complex rehab technology and serving my peers is a ’round-the-clock lifestyle that I’m more passionate than ever about after 15 years – and true vacations get in the way of that. In fact, I sold my boat because it was taking up too much time on the weekends during the summer. I just don’t have the desire to be off the grid long enough to truly disconnect in the way that others do, footloose and fancy free. When you come from nothing, work your way up the hard way, and know that you can go back to where you came from at any time, there’s an instinctive drive and work ethic that keeps you focused and dedicated, possibly to an obsessive degree.
However, in my latter years, especially with my daughter now 16, and wanting to give her life experiences that we all should be blessed enough to provide our children, I’ve done a fair amount of recreational travel in recent years. Even that, though, often ties into my career. I love Vegas, and, fortunately, my company has a manufacturing facility there, so on my own dime and time, I can spend, say, three days in Vegas, but still get to see colleagues as wished. Or, I was recently in Washington D.C. for a day relating to my daughter, and was able to drop by a disability-related conference, and visit with close peers. And, with an iPhone and iPad, I’m connected virtually anywhere, any time, so accessibility to work is always there.
Again, though, I do try to balance life a bit, so my one “vacation” this summer was a three-day stay at a self-proclaimed “luxury resort” in the Poconos, an hour from my house, focused on “world-class products and service that exceed expectations of the most experienced traveler.” My plan was peace and quiet, the ability to sleep, eat, check my online communications, and do it all over again – and based on the resort’s marketing, it seemed like the perfect place to do that. But, alas, not so.
See, it turns out that very wealthy people do a great job at making money, and a terrible job at picking where to take their completely ill-behaved kids on vacation. I hate to sound like a crotchety, old man, but my 16-year-old handles herself with the poise and grace of a socialite – and we live in a ranch house and drive a seven-year-old van. How come when your family flies into a resort via helicopter, you have everything but appropriately-behaved children? Heck, I’ve seen the TV show, Super Nanny, and reckon that if you can afford a helicopter, you can afford to hire someone to teach your kids discipline. Mom brought her collection of Prada purses, but apparently there wasn’t room to pack the kids’ manners!
So, I ended up at the so-called prestigious resort, with a quaint room and, in the dining room, a beautifully-reserved table for my included five-star meals – all the while surrounded by screaming, running kids, who had no parental guidance and nothing to do but bother me and others looking for tranquil elegance in a vacation.
Jasper was my favorite, and when I say favorite, I mean the kid that I most wanted to see trip and get rug burns on his knees. I only knew his name because his mom – who was admittedly smoking hot in her tennis skirts – constantly badgered him in an annoyingly-passive voice. Jasper, honey, please come sit with mommy and daddy, and eat your dinner, she said as Jasper played freakin’ airplane around the formal dinning room.
“Whatcha eatin’?” Jasper asked me, his head barely taller than my table.
“It’s deep-fried kid,” I replied. “And if you don’t get away from my table, you’ll be my desert.”
But, Jasper didn’t care what I said, or what his mom said, or what anyone said. It was his world, and we were just living in it.
And, so, there I was, at among supposedly the most exclusive resorts in the country, just wanting peace and quiet, and I ended up in the middle of dozens of preschoolers in Ralph Lauren polos – lead by Mommy’s little Jasper – acting like perpetual-motion pogo sticks, bouncing around the lodge like it was a barrel of monkeys.
So, I went to the one place that the terrible tykes couldn’t go: the bar. However, within minutes, there’s five-year-old Jasper starring at me again.
“Whatcha drinkin’?” he asked, his hands gripping the edge of my table.
“Boar’s blood,” I said.
“What’s that?” he asked, bouncing up and down on his invisible pogo stick.
“Why are you wearing girl’s shoes?” I asked, and he stopped bouncing, looking down at his Docksiders. “See that lady over there – she has the same shoes on. Girl shoes, just like you.”
I’m very observant, and just happen to notice that Jasper and a woman from Italy I’d met earlier wore identical boat shoes.
“These aren’t girl shoes,” he says, crossing his arms. “They’re boy shoes.”
“Now you’re crossing your arms like a girl,” I say. “First you dress like a girl, and now you gesture like one. I see a pattern here.”
Jasper just stared at me, stumped.
“Cat got your tongue?” I asked.
“I’m going to tell my mom on you,” Jasper retorted, pouting.
“Dude, you’re the one wearing girl’s shoes and crossing your arms,” I shouted as Jasper ran away.
Ultimately, Jasper and I became really good friends. I even laughed when he fell running across the lodge one afternoon, burning the tip of his nose as his face slid across an area rug.