I recently found myself bound for the sunny state of Florida, but the reason wasn’t quite clear. I understood we were going on vacation. But something didn’t add up. “Your nephew is getting married,” my wife said. “He’s your God-son. We have to be there.”
I was supposed to be going on vacation. You know – time to get away, enjoy yourself, and relax. But I was traveling 1200 miles to get together with people who live 25 miles away from me. Plus, when I go on vacation I like to do what I want to do, not what some overpriced wedding planner tells me to do.
Things didn’t start out well. The main parking ramp at the airport was full. We had to park out in the boondocks and take a shuttle to the terminal.
After having traveled weekly, for years, and becoming accustomed to the perks of being a frequent flyer, e.g. first-class upgrades, I no longer have that status. SNOB status as my wife lovingly calls it. On top of that, the flight was delayed, and I was flying Southwest airlines for the first time, well known for their cattle-call boarding process – no assigned seats, just get on board, grab a seat, and go. I wasn’t happy. But, fortunately I had a few cocktails while waiting for the plane and I was quickly fast asleep in my coach-class seat with visions of warm beaches and sun dancing in my head; with my legs crammed to my chest.
We arrived in Florida, got our luggage and headed off to get our rental car. They didn’t have the sedan I requested – uh oh – blood starting to boil. But wait; “Sir, how about this canary-yellow Camaro SS instead?” With a Cheshire cat-like grin I agreed. Let’s hit it.
“So, where is our 6’ 3” son going to sit when we pick him up on Friday?” my wife implored, as we pulled out of the lot. Oooh… another bad decision on my part. Guess I’ll figure that one out as I cruise down the highway with the top down in our flashy sports car. The vacation was off to a rip-roaring start.
We arrived at the condo complex in Daytona Beach around 10pm. I went to the desk and gave them my name. “I’m sorry sir, what was that name again?” Oh great, so much for Vacation Rental by Owner.
Nope – no reservation. “Could it be under a different name?” she asks. Well let me think, maybe a stranger booked a reservation, put my name on it and cancelled the reservation I made. How likely is that? I simply told her no and waited.
Finally, she asked what unit I was in. I told her and was informed that I was in the south complex and that check-in was around the corner, but they were gone for the night. Wonderful, how about a cot, I thought. Or should I just curl up on your desk? She called security, and when they finally arrived I got a key, and instructions where to park and how to get to my room.
We completed the late check-in process – a process in dire need of improvement I might add – and headed to our room.
The next day, we spent a relatively uneventful but relaxing day at the pool and on Daytona Beach. We enjoyed the sun and the warmth and soaked up everything Florida has to offer in the middle of February when it’s freezing cold back home. Quite enjoyable, and I was looking forward to more of the same. Didn’t happen.
The next day, I was reminded of my poor decision at the car rental place when we drove to the airport and had to cram my son, myself, and my wife into a Camaro SS, along with his luggage, which you would think would fit in the trunk. Which it would if your luggage is the size of a Ziploc bag.
During the hour ride back to the condo, I tried to avoid making eye contact with my wife who was unceremoniously crammed into the backseat and, of course, with the top down, had absolutely no protection from the gale-force winds being generated during our ride. I felt her wrath with every knot she combed out of her hair upon our return. It took at least 30 minutes. Of course, we only had to make three more trips in the Camaro. How bad could it be – really? Don’t tell her I said that.
The next day was the wedding. We only had to go 20 miles and no highway driving, so the rat’s nest hair was not an issue. Of course, we arrived at the wedding location – a gated community with nobody to let us in, and we didn’t have a pass-card. I love it when a plan comes together.
After a while of making calls and scrambling around, we finally got into the facility. Fortunately, they warned us that parking was limited so when we had to park 8 miles away I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t surprised either.
What could be nicer than a beautiful wedding on a sunlit sandy beach. Oh, I don’t know, how about some shade? It was 90 degrees outside and 110% humidity. It is Florida for crying out loud. We were stuck in uncomfortable plastic chairs – crammed together in the blazing sun. Then, of course, the cute little flower girl decided she wasn’t quite ready to walk down the aisle. Who decided it was okay for the little four-year old to make her own decisions? She’s a kid. Get her moving. She was cute though – not dropping the flower petals down the aisle but rather flinging them over her shoulder where they landed on people’s heads. That was funny.
We survived the wedding, able to hide any wedding tears with the sweat pouring down our faces. The saving grace was that there was an open-bar and it was only 100 feet away. Just had to get through the who do’s and the I do’s and the kiss the bride, so we could partake in the cool refreshing beverages.
Shortly after the ceremony I was able to grab a cold one and sit down in the air-conditioned clubhouse. It wasn’t long though before all the talk of how cute and beautiful everything was got old and I had to sneak out. I went to the pool and was chatting with some friends when, suddenly, the man next to me, fell forward. He hit his face on the fence, cutting his lip, then fell backward unconscious. It was the father-of-the-bride. Having been in health care I am prevented from discussing the details of his health scare due to HIPAA laws, but suffice it to say, following a call to 9-1-1 and an ambulance ride to the hospital, the father-of-the-bride was later able to return to the reception and celebrate with his daughter. You may want to rethink the tuxedo and vest dress-code when holding a wedding in sauna-like conditions.
Following the reception, we returned to the condo of a family member; a great opportunity to sit and catch up with folks who we don’t see very often. A perfect plan if you’re comfortable yelling at the top of your lungs to talk about jobs, family and how everybody is doing. It seems like everybody from the reception was at the condo and several of them, who had partaken in quite a few of the open-bar cocktails at the reception, felt the need to yell at the top of their lungs to be heard from six inches away. After a short while, and experiencing a few violations of the local noise ordinance, we decided it best to return to our condo and call it a night.
The next day was another ride in the Camaro day – complete with top-down and – well you know the rest. We were returning to Orlando where we would be dropping our son off at the airport, and my wife and I were going to spend a couple days alone visiting some of the Disney locations – Animal Kingdom and Epcot. At the condo complex, I quickly informed the desk staff I would not be attending their informational presentation where they try to get you to buy a timeshare. Coincidentally, of course, my room was unavailable and remained unavailable for three hours – go figure. Once we got in, the room was great.
We were looking forward to spending some time together at Disney the next couple of days. We hadn’t been for several years. Apparently, every other person on the face of the planet decided to spend the next day at Animal Kingdom. Interestingly, we were in the minority in that everybody had either a wheelchair, a scooter, or a stroller the size of a mini-SUV, making traversing the park like walking across the track at the Daytona Speedway during the Daytona 500. Wait times at some of the attractions exceeded three hours. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my day at Disney than standing in the hot sun in the middle of the day – FOREVER. We finally made it back to the room after 13 hours at the park and collapsed in bed – preparing to repeat our experience the next day at Epcot.
The next day arrived and we were hoping to grab a bite to eat before going to the park. Apparently, Disney prevents any other food outlet from existing within 100 miles of the park. We wound up at a McDonalds on the edge of the Disney property and spent $20 dollars for a couple of Egg McMuffins – more Disney influence I presume. Epcot wasn’t as crowded as Animal Kingdom. I believe some of the guests were still waiting in line to get into the Animal Kingdom attractions. We survived another long, hot day at a Disney park with minimal adventure. Our so-called vacation was winding down. It was time to pack and get ready to leave.
The next day we headed to the airport and traversed the road construction that was underway on every single road in Orlando. We said goodbye to our little yellow Camaro – never to be seen again. My wife will make sure of that. We made it through the 2.5 mile-long security line and once again crammed ourselves into the Southwest airplane for our ride home. We waited for a shuttle to the overflow parking and eventually made it back to our vehicle. We were on our way home.
Once home, I realized the actual purpose of my trip wasn’t a wedding, it wasn’t to relax, and it wasn’t to have fun…it was so I could send a postcard to my colleagues at netlogx – making them jealous of my vacation – did it work?
Shortly after returning home I decided – I need a vacation. A real vacation. Maybe next time.
To be honest – the vacation was wonderful. We had a great time. The Father-of-the-bride did pass out but was okay and the issue with the Camaro – well that was real. And the knots in the hair – all too real.
But, besides that, everything was great – the weather, the wedding, the beach, even our Disney trips. I recommend it to you all – just make sure you rent an SUV.