Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Vacation from hell: can you top this?

(Please note: I lay no claim to this, except to say it's freakin' great. I include a link to the original piece at the end. Maybe this is not the way to do it. Probably not. But it's not going viral, folks, I'm lucky to get 18 views some days, and 16 of them are mine, so I hope I can "quote" this without getting into trouble. Anyway, it kicks ass.)

Greetings from Hell (A.K.A. Maui)

Grant Lawrence — Westender
Maui in December: Sounds awesome, right? But if it’s your friend / co-worker / neighbour / frienemy who’s taking the holiday, and boasting nonstop about it on social media while you shiver here in Vancouver, it can be more than a little annoying.

Well, here’s the flipside, for those of you with a taste for some sweet schadenfreude. Imagine, if you will, saving up for a Maui vacation for two years, booking the trip back in January, and making it extra special by taking three generations of family.

Now imagine being woken up by your jetlagged kids at 5:20am Hawaii time, then pulling back the curtains on the lanai to groggily stare out at palm trees bending in hurricane-force winds against a charcoal sky as sheets of rain pelt the windows. Then pretend you’re Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when it happens the next morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that.

If you can conjure such a thing, you’ll have a pretty good feel for our recent family vacation. Go ahead and revel in our bank-breaking sogginess, but you have to admit: There’s something downright cruel about Vancouverites spending thousands of dollars to fly 4,356 kilometres to escape the rain, only to arrive to much more of it.

Hey, we made the best of it. What choice did we have? Stay in the hotel room all day? I did that on a vacation in the Dominican Republic when, again, it rained the whole time. I ended up watching a five-day-marathon of Little House on the Prairie in Spanish.

The hot tub at our hotel was still fun in the rain. We even met someone in the tub who voted for Trump. She was very anti-Obama, saying, “Who is Obama, anyway? I mean, where does he even come from?” My wife responded, “Um… Hawaii, actually,” which was followed by the Trump supporter’s stunned silence.

Just as the weather was finally starting to clear up, a middle-aged couple from Minnesota arrived in the suite above us. Oddly, they kept their curtains drawn tight all day, emerging only at night. They were loud talkers, but we didn’t think much of it – that is, until the man, who resembled cartoonist Robert Crumb, got absolutely and repeatedly wasted. Drunk as a skunk, he’d slur abusive remarks at his wife at the top of his lungs, then beg for sex and “a baby,” all the while flicking his Marlboro butts down onto our lanai (in a non-smoking resort). His lunatic ravings and smashing and banging went on all night long, which thoroughly freaked us out: I barricaded the doors and my 11-year-old nephew cried. It was like a cross between National Lampoon’s Vacation and Cape Fear. When the couple finally checked out a few days later (after repeated run-ins with security), we were shocked to learn they were on their honeymoon.

My sister finally had enough of it, treating her family to a one-night stay in a big, fancy resort a little further south, in what is typically the sunnier part of Maui. Except it poured there, too, and the hotel’s deluxe pool was closed due to a Code Brown (that’s resort-speak for a kid taking a dump in the pool.) But their room had a lovely view of a gigantic construction site.

We did eventually manage to capture the “Aloha spirit” of the islands, and it was the time spent with each other that mattered most: snorkeling with my 15-year-old nephew, a sunset dinner with Mom, watching the cousins play in the sand, and hearing my 11-month-old daughter say “Mama” for the first time. All that, and listening to my three-year-old yelling, “It’s raining AGAIN?”

CODA. Do YOU have a vacation-from-hell story you'd like to see on this very blog? Didn't think so. I mean, if you have one, please send it to me, but somehow it doesn't seem likely. I don't get much response to this blog, though I am grateful for every scrap I get. No, I mean it!

My own vacation from hell came after the worst bout of flu I had ever experienced. I woke up in the night with such a high fever that I was afraid I would die. I had to crawl to the bathroom on my hands and knees to get the thermometer. My temperature was just under 105 degrees. The thermometer felt hot, like it had been dipped in boiling water. I kept thinking, bizarrely, of those cartoons where the mercury climbs and climbs until it bursts out the end.

I crawled into a tub full of cold water, afraid I would have convulsions. My husband was out of town and couldn't help me. I was just barely recovered - still felt shaky and had lost ten pounds - when it was time to go on our deluxe dream vacation to Hawaii - yes, Hawaii!, but everyone said, don't worry, you'll be fine once you get there.

I was not fine once I got there. At all. I was in agonizing pain all night, every night, for reasons I could not fathom, and barely slept. My legs felt like they were stuck in a fire. When someone describes a pain as "searing", I know just what that means. They jerked and twitched incessantly, and hurt insanely no matter what I did: heat, cold, moving, not moving, drugs, not drugs. All we had was Tylenol, and it didn't even put a dent in the pain.

Desperate for relief and sleep, I went to clinic after clinic, and they said helpful things like, "Just stretch your legs out like this. No?"  My husband went out in the middle of the night, lied in an Emergency room and said he needed codeine for his old football injury. They gave it to him. (This was a long time ago.)

The codeine also didn't put a dent in the pain. Towards dawn, the agony would fade to jelly-kneed weakness, but I still couldn't sleep. At all. I couldn't nap. I could barely walk. I was fried.

That was my holiday. I vaguely remember listening to Hawaiian public radio while lying in a codeine stupor. Finally we found a real doctor who said, "This isn't flu. I don't know what it is. You picked up a virus somewhere, a bad one. Maybe on the plane. Your immune system was wiped out, so it got its hooks in you." Or words to that effect.

By then it was time to go home, and I did not see how I would survive the flight, cope with the airport, or any of it. The real doctor gave me some drugs, something like oxycodone, and I took half a tablet and went into a coma. My husband had to push me in a wheelchair at the airport, and help me on to the plane like an invalid.

But I remember that the weather was nice.

Coda to the coda. I did go to my doctor after the trip to try to find out what the fuck happened to me. She said she didn't know what it was either. Ah, medicine! How is it that I keep hearing about all these modern miracles, such as head transplants (which are now a reality: so please, PLEASE can I have a new head now?), when doctors seem to do nothing except frown and say, "Uhmmmm -"

But something very weird happened. I was supposed to give a urine sample, a useless thing they do to keep patients busy and make it seem as if something is happening, and I was utterly shocked. My pee sample was dark brown. It looked like sludge. I asked my doctor about it and she said it was "normal". But what sort of tests did they do? This wasn't excess creatinine, folks, it was some sort of curse-of-the-volcano thing. It was a question left hanging. I never had anything like that happen to me again.

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