Sunday, August 08, 2004

Vacation stress

I have a bad track record with the administrative part of traveling. It's the check-ins and check-outs that get me. Probably my worst behavior in this area involved screaming at the top of my lungs one early morning in a London hotel when the slugs at the check-out desk kept holding us up until it appeared we would miss our cab to the airport. It was the end of a much-too-long trip to Europe following my sophomore year in college, and I wanted nothing more than to leave foreign soil and go home, and everything I had tried to do to expedite our exit was now being blocked by people who would ... not ... hurry ... up. I behaved badly, although probably in a way they expected from Americans.

Other times it has seemed very clear to me that the bad behavior was on the other side of the counter, and yet I got the blame. Like the time the car-rental agency did a blatant bait-and-switch, delivering a car so much smaller than the one we'd contracted for that our entire party wouldn't even fit in it, but the sarcastic remark an employee made to my husband on the way out indicated that standing up for one's rights as a consumer is the sort of thing that nice people don't do. Two years ago, the time share we visited in Virginia bopped us around from one unit (with a broken bed) to another unit (too far from our co-travelers); when we finally got settled, I realized that we'd left my son's stuffed animals in one of the rejected rooms, and I tried so hard to retrieve them so he wouldn't have a meltdown that I wound up having a meltdown myself. On the one hand, it was clearly a mess-up by the management to have given us so many rooms in the first place; but on the other hand, a friend who accompanied us on that trip hasn't spoken to me since, so my reputation for bad travel behavior has apparently grown.

All of which explains why I sometimes dread going on trips, and my dread increases with each level of bureaucracy: airports and limos and rental cars and hotels and activities. This year, we've kept it about as simple as can be, driving our own car to a resort a couple of hours away. If I can keep my cool through one check-in and one check-out, I should be pretty much home free. I'm certainly dreading it less than I do the trip to Orlando we have planned for next year; but you never know, I may find an opportunity to tick somebody off yet. We leave today. I hope the time-share folk don't already have a picture of me behind the desk, with a circle and a line over my face.

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