Part of the fun of a vacation is telling about it when you get home. Yet, “We went there, we had a nice time, here are our pictures” is usually a recipe for stupefied boredom on the part of the listeners. The best traveller’s tales always seem to involve something that went wrong: when you ask the villagers the way to your host’s castle, they cross themselves and mumble, and your host has a strange aversion to daylight; you come back from a long journey with tales of giants twelve times the size of a man and sheep the size of mice and everyone believes you have gone mad; you go off to hunt a whale and the whale wins; you get to Mordor with the ring and the gates are locked and guarded; you go down from Jerusalem to Jericho and you are set upon by thieves and left for dead until a stranger befriends you; you come home from war and your wife is fending off suitors, your son is a grown man with a beard, and everyone thinks you are dead; you hastily get on a boat to avoid being sent to Nineveh and after a contretemps with some sailors and a disgusting encounter with a huge fish, you finally find safety - in Nineveh. Those are the compelling and oft told stories.
Some of my vacation mishap stories I have told before. There’s the one when our flight from Japan to Bangkok got postponed because of a malfunctioning plane, and the one when I found out a week before we were due to leave that I had a broken foot.
I may not have told the story of the trip to Hungary on which our luggage got lost both coming and going. On the bright side, I did learn a new Hungarian word, divat (fashion), as I shopped for a few new things to wear. Coming home, one of our suitcases, bought in Hungary to bring home gifts from our hosts, turned up well over a month later, with a torn strap and a mysteriously missing Christmas ornament I had bought at a tidy sum as a souvenir.
John and I swore never to travel on Lackadaisical Airlines again, but I didn’t have any control over the reservations made for me on a business trip to Miami a year later. The three of us from the speech department went there for the ASHA convention. When we arrived at our hotel, one of my companions discovered she had lost her purse, and went back to the airport to look for it. So I was a little distracted as we checked in and did not notice that the hotel listed our departure date as a day later then it actually was. We checked out early the day we did leave, in time to get to the airport so my now ID-less colleague could go through extra security clearance, but the front desk was still crowded. I noticed something odd about the receipt, but with all the people at the desk there was no time to go back and ask questions.
When I got home, I found a charge on my credit card account for an extra night. I called the hotel, expecting a quick resolution to the problem, but they insisted I fax a copy of the receipt, and then told me the receipt showed I had paid for the first four nights of my stay, but not that I hadn’t stayed another night. The front desk clerk checked with housekeeping and housekeeping said the room had been occupied that night. I knew we were all back in Louisiana by then, so the only way that room could have been occupied is if the hotel had rented the room out again, and they would only have done that if they knew we were gone. At this point I went from thinking the charge was a mere oversight to thinking I was dealing with something more sinister. As a last resort, I called Lackadaisical Airlines to find out if there was any way I could get proof that I had flown from Miami to Baton Rouge on the day I said I had. Lackadaisical Airlines came through, even though it wasn’t really their problem, and won themselves back into my good graces. I was told how to print PDF’s of all of our boarding passes from their websites, and I faxed them to the hotel (only to be told that the only person who could reverse the charges wouldn’t be back for three days.)
If you ever go to Miami, don’t stay at the Wyndham Hotel. No reason, just saying.
This vacation should be the most fascinating one I ever took. From the missed flight that led to us looking for a beach cottage in the woods in the dead of night to the cryptic message left for me on my front door by a process server, found when we got back, it was chock full of disaster adventure. I may tell one or two of those tales, like the one about the hailstorms. Mostly, though, my traveler’s tales will sound like, ““We went there, we had a nice time, here are our pictures.” Many, many, many pictures.