Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This One Is for Diana (Because She Loves My Brother)

Let's cut straight to the point, okay?

Spring break sucked. It sucked ass. It sucked cock. It sucked dirty spring break ass cock.

Here's the breakdown:


6:00 AM:

Our plane out of Buffalo takes off on time and lifts us into the sky. We touch down in Cincinnati, have a snack, get on our connector, and fly down to Miami International. We are in Florida by noon.

12:15 PM:

There are no signs for the rental car agencies. We ask someone where we go, what we do. Our paperwork says there is a counter in the terminal and a shuttle to the place we get the car. Turns out there is no counter in the terminal, but there is a shuttle to the place we get the car. Someone points us to it, and we go and stand next to a small placard that says RENTAL SHUTTLE. A thousand buses whiz by us. Buses for Avis and National and Thrifty.

"Do they stop?" my mother asks because not one has. They haven't even slowed down to give us the time to identify whether or not they belong to us.

"Maybe they are buses for another terminal," I say.

When the bus for our rental agency comes by, I am unsure what to do. I give the driver the heads-up nod, and he slows and pulls to the curb. He comes out angry.

"WHY DIDN'T YOU FLAG ME DOWN?!" he demands.

"I nodded at you," I tell him.


"I'm sorry," I say. I start rolling my bag toward the bus. I motion for my mother and my brother.


I am shoving my bag on the rack. I want him to stop yelling at me in front of the other passengers, who look alarmed by the angry man. It doesn't help things that he has a thick accent, and it's sometimes difficult to understand what he's saying. Sometimes it's just loud noise instead of words. A little girl burrows into her mother's side. I sit. My brother sits. My mother sits.

"I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU DON'T FLAG ME DOWN!" he says and slams the door shut.

12:30 PM:

The man at the rental counter slides us the keys to our silver Dodge and tells us that it's in spot 206. He points vaguely at one of the doors on the side of the building and waves us away.

We walk out the back and roll our things own to space 206. It is empty. There is no car in space 206.

"Maybe they bring it to us?" my brother asks.

"Maybe," I say, doubtful.

"Maybe they're washing it and bringing it over," my mother says. She points to the detail shop, where a row of cars is being scrubbed down by very tan men.

A worker sees our confused faces and comes over. "Where's your papers?" he asks.

My mother hands him our invoice, which clearly marks our spot as 206.

"Here," the worker says. He points to the spot on which we are standing. "See?" he says. "Two-oh-six."

"There's no car," my brother says.

The worker looks down at the spot. He looks at our paperwork. He looks at the spot again. He looks at us. "Oh," he says.

Anothe worker is walking by. The first worker flags him down. "Hey!" he says. He hands the paper over.

"Two-oh-six," the second worker reads. He looks at us and then down at the empty spot. "Ha!" he says. He snorts and then shrugs. "How about you take that one?" he says, pointing to a different car in a different spot.

"We can just take one that we weren't given?" my mother asks.

The guy shrugs. "The keys should be in there," he says.

1:30 PM:

We are in the lobby of our hotel. We are surrounded by spring breakers who are wandering in and out with flip-flops and Mai Tais. It seems to be taking an awful long time to get checked in, and the woman behind the counter isn't saying anything.

Adam is over peering into the gift shop, planning the first of his many shopping bonanzas, and then he's over peering into the cages that hold parrots and other squawking, bright-colored birds.

"This is so awesome," he says. "I'm taking pictures of everything. Even the fans!"

Above us, there are old-fashioned paddle fans turning in the warm Miami air. Adam aims his camera at them.

Finally, the woman behind the counter turns to my mother and says, "I'm sorry, Ma'am. We don't have any record of your reservation in our computer."

Adam slumps against the counter. "WHAT?" he hisses.

"How is that possible?" my mother asks. She unfolds her thick packet of information from Expedia. We have confirmation numbers and everything. She points to them. "We were confirmed," she says.

The woman behind the counter shrugs. "Expedia must have made a mistake," she says.

2:15 PM:

We are sent to a inferior hotel three blocks down the road, where we will stay until the other hotel finds us a room--hopefully in a day.

We are told there's no way we're getting into a room at this substitute hotel for a few hours, so we better get comfortable in the lobby. We decide to get some lunch. The desk clerk suggests a few places and hands us a business card for a place that serves Mexican food.

FREE BEER WITH PURCHASE! the card reads.

"Sweet!" Adam says and tucks the card into his pocket.

2:45 PM:

Adam hands the FREE BEER WITH PURCHASE! card to the waiter, and the waiter brings us all free beer--some Mexican variety with a red label and an exclamation point.

I don't like beer, but this is the best beer I've ever tasted--not because it is a tasty variety but because I am already stressed and irritated and feeling like I should've just booked us into an all-inclusive in Puerto Rico and been done with all this Build Your Own Vacation nonsense. Fat lot of good it has done us so far.

Adam and my mother get crab tostadas. They do not like them.

"These are gross," my brother says.

I have gotten shrimp and avacado tacos, and they are very good.

Adam tries them and likes them. "No fair," he says. "That's just not fair that you get the good stuff."

3:30 PM:

We are back in the hotel and inquire about our room. We wonder if it might be possible for us to get in it yet. We are tired and gross and irritable. The woman behind the desk--the one who told us we wouldn't be getting in for hours--tells us no, no way. There's no way we can get in there yet.

A minute later she disappears and a new man comes out.

"Do you think that was just a shift change?" my mother asks.

"Maybe," I say.

"Good," she says. She goes over to the man and asks if it might be possible for us to get in our room.

He smiles and slides her a packet of keys. "Of course!" he says. "It's been waiting for you!"

4:15 PM:

I am on the beach. I am on the beach! I am on my towel and listening to the thump-thump-thump of dance music coming from the group of hairy Russian boys who are sitting next to me.

My mother and brother discuss drink options.

"Mojito," I say.

"Maybe I'll get a Sex on the Beach," my brother says. "Or maybe I'll get a Mai Tai. Or a Fuzzy Navel."

"YOU ARE A GIRL," I tell him. "Go get me a mojito."

They leave. I flip. They come back. I flip again so I can take my mojito.

"I tried it," my brother says. "It's gross."

"It's refreshing," I say. "Leave me alone."

But he doesn't. Now that he has a pink girl drink in his hand, my brother is happy. He is chatty. He is stroking his nipples.

"STOP THAT!" I say.

"Do you like my nipple hair?" he asks. He wiggles his chest in my direction. "Nipple hair!" he sings. "Nipple hair, nipple hair, nipple hair!"

"Mo-om!" I say. "Make him stop."

My mother could care less about my brother and his nipple hair. She has a pink girl drink, too, and the weather is warm and she's not at work. At this second, she's pretty okay with everything. "You're strange," she tells my brother before taking another sip of her drink.

"Look at it," my brother says, leaning even closer with his nipple hair. "Watch it dance in the ocean breeze!"

"GET YOUR NIPPLE HAIR AWAY FROM ME!" I say, and I am ready to punch him in his nipple, but a fat rain drop falls onto my forehead.

"Jesus," my mother says.

7:15 PM

We are sitting at Le Tub--an "outdoor-seating saloon" in Hollywood Beach. It is dark, but we are sitting outside, under stars, with a cluster of palm trees vaulting over our heads. Our waitress is a gruff-voiced woman who clearly wished it was still 1985 and that she was on the back of her boyfriend's motorcycle on the way to a Motley Crue concert.

"I am now going to list my favorite light beers," my brother announces after we give our drink orders.

I stare at him. I wonder if this is what he and his girlfriend stay up late to talk about--their favorite light beer. I wonder if there are times my brother's girlfriend looks at him and thinks, I am dating the world's biggest dork.

"My favorite," my brother says, "is Miller Lite. I also like Bud Light. Blue Light is pretty great, too."

Later, after he's schooled us on beer and after we've eaten, I ask Adam to pose for a picture on some of the decor--tubs and toilets potted around the restaurant. He climbs on top of two toilets and grabs his crotch.

"Here you go," he says.


11:30 AM:

We pack up because our real hotel has found us room and told us to come on back. We go. We stand in the lobby with the parrots and spring breakers who are already (still?) drunk. The woman behind the counter tells us our room is ready and we can go on up. She says if there's anything else she can do for us, we shouldn't hesitate.

We won't hesitate long. When we get up to our room and open the door, we are staring at one bed. One. I look at my brother and my mother, and I look back at the one bed. There's no way in hell I am spending my spring break crammed between my mother and brother on a king bed.

My mother calls down to the lobby and tells them we need two beds, and that it's not negotiable. We get booked into another room. This room, they tell us, is a two bedroom suite.

Adam starts giggling. "Woo-woo!" he sings out, all hoighty-toighty. "A two bedroom suite! Fancy! Aren't we fancy!"

After we roll our things downstairs, exchange keys, and roll them back upstairs, we open a door to a room that is terrifying. It looks as though Florida circa 1976 has exploded all over the walls. There are drooping plastic plants and clear lamps that had been stuffed with dyed sea shells.

"Uh..." my brother says.

We are no longer fancy.

2:00 PM

We drive to South Beach and take a self-guided tour of the art deco district. We are given iPods and giant, tattered headphones.

"We look sort of douchey, don't we?" my brother asks.

2:15 PM

"If we go by some stores, can we go in?" my brother asks.

2:20 PM

"There's a store," my brother says. "Can we go in? Let's just pause our iPods and go in."

I roll my eyes at my mother.

"It's his vacation, too," my mother reminds me.

I want to remind her it's only his vacation because I gave in and said, yeah, fine, okay, the kid can go, too, when I called her up and asked her if we could go on a girls' vacation over spring break.

The store he wants to go in to is called Surf Sport, and it's just what you'd expect: a horrible tourist trap. There are snow globes. There are T-shirts. There are keychains. There are hats. There are mugs shaped like nipples. There are thongs that say GOOD BOYS GO DOWN: SPRING BREAK 2009, SOUTH BEACH! or SHUT UP AND START LICKING.

I float through the store, far, far away from my brother, just so there is no chance he will wave one of those thongs in front of my face and say, "How about this for Carly, huh? Huh?"

2:45 PM

We are still in the store.

3:00 PM:

We are still in the store.

When I roll my eyes for the eighteenth time my brother asks me what my problem is.

"I didn't come to Miami to go shopping," I say.

"Suck it," he says.

3:15 PM:

We are out of the store. Adam has bought his girlfriend two shirts, a hat, and some postcards. He is second-guessing his decision to forgo the purchase of a "genuine" crocodile head.

"She loves crocodiles," he says. "She's crazy for them. I should've gotten it."

3:30 PM:

"Can we go into another store?" Adam asks.

I tell him no. No more stores.

"I get one?" he asks. "One store? One store forever? For, like, the whole trip?"

My brother likes to shop. He's a shopper. I have never met another person who likes to accumulate as much pointless shit as my brother. He will buy solar-powered keychains that blink his name--ADAM! ADAM! ADAM!--and fake Rolexes and mini water fountains. My brother is the happiest when he is spending money.

"No," I say, "not for the whole trip, but for the next hour at least. GOD."

3:35 PM:

"I'm still thinking about that crocodile head," Adam says.

4:45 PM:

We have finished the deco tour. We are hungry and thirsty. We decide to sit at one of the dozen restaurants that line Ocean Drive and maybe get ourselves some of the giant drinks other customers are sipping from.

Mom gets a Mai Tai. Adam gets a Hairy Navel--a twist on one of his favorites. I get a Hurricane.

They are as big as our heads.

"How much do you think these cost?" my brother asks.

"Fifteen," my mother says.

"Twenty," I say.

When our bill comes to the table, our total--for the three drinks and two half-price appetizers--is $110. (The drinks are $25 each.)

5:35 PM:

"Can we go into this store?" Adam asks. It is the same store--the exact. same. chain.--as the first store we'd gone to, but Adam doesn't realize this. The workers--seeing Adam's hungry eyes and itchy fingers--swarm him, bring him things, say, "Don't you love this? And this? Wouldn't your girlfriend like this?"

I spend time in the corner, examining those filthy thongs again. One says FUCK ME! Another says MAKE ME CUM! I want to know what type of girl walks in this store, buys those panties, and puts them on her body. I want to hit her. Hard.

The only thing I like about the store is the music it is playing. It sounds like the rest of Miami, which sounds precisely like this, at the loudest volume, all the time. I find the dance music with words I can't understand to be soothing. It makes me want to roll my hips in a very vulgar way.

My mother is dancing over by the check out.

"Woo-woo!" one of the workers says.

"I think this is the same song that has been playing for the last three hours," my mother says.

Adam picks up a crocodile head and holds it lovingly. "I'm getting it," he says. "I need to find just the right one."

"Just the right crocodile head?" I say. "How different can they be?"

Adam jabs its snout at my face. "They have different colored glass eyeballs," he says.

We dig through the bin of crocodile heads to find one with green glass eyes. Carly's favorite.

8:15 PM:

It's late by the time we get back to the hotel, and we haven't had dinner. We decide to order a pizza. We get mushrooms on half. This may not be the best decision we've ever made.

10:30 PM:

My brother wants to go down to the hotel bar for a drink. The hotel bar is actually very nice and surprisingly swanky. I'm not against checking it out, so I tell him I'll go, too.

It's ladies' night down there, which means the girls have been drinking for two hours for free. It shows. The girls outnumber the guys by a staggering amount--and this is good news for the guys, who are being grinded against by two, three, four girls at a time.

Everyone looks really, really happy.

10:45 PM:

I buy my brother a drink. (Light beer. His favorite type.) I get mine free. We find a spot against the wall to watch the show that's going on up on the stage. The spring breakers are doing a version of The Dating Game, and one of the contestants--a guy who reminds me so much of one of the students in my very first class--sings each of his answers into the microphone.

He has a good voice and is clearly the crowd favorite. When asked to say his A-B-Cs and make them sound sexy, he falls to his knees and does the song Boyz-II-Men style.

"I sort of love him," I tell my brother. I take my first sip of my drink--a vodka-cranberry--and choke. There is no cranberry. "Jesus!" I say.

My brother takes my glass, sniffs it, holds it up the light and we finally see that there's just the slightest wisp of pink in the glass, like the color could be, might be pink, if you really wanted to stretch the truth. I was drinking a tall glass of straight vodka.

"Ladies' night is AWESOME!" Adam says.


12:45 AM:

We stay for a few rounds of The Dating Game and for some dancing in between rounds. We sit at a table in the middle of the action. I make Adam play the game Who Would I Date If I Didn't Have a Girlfriend?

We go upstairs when we get tired of all the spring breakers, who walk by smelling of sex and sun and coconut.

"You know," I tell my brother on our way into the room, "I'll never be one of those girls. The really pretty-perfect-tan ones."

"Oh stop it," my brother says. "You're pretty." He pauses. "I'm so setting my alarm for real early tomorrow morning. I'm going to walk across the street and go shopping."

4:00 AM:

Mom is awake. I can hear her. She's in the bathroom. She is puking.

9:45 AM:

My mother is sitting on the edge of the bed, drying her hair. "I threw up all night," she says. "I was so sick."

I ask her how she feels now, and she says she feels sort of okay, but not all the way okay. "I don't want to eat breakfast really," she says.

11:00 AM:

Adam gets back from shopping with more T-shirts and hats and postcards. He's gotten a mug for Carly's grandma.

"She likes coffee," he says. "Can we go in the hot tub now?"

11:30 AM:

Mom sits at a table under a thatched hut and reads I'm Sorry You Feel That Way.

Adam and I go and sit in the hot tub with a spring breaker who has severe chest acne and a hangover.

11:50 AM:

Adam and I move to the pool. When he comes up from a deep dive with snot hanging out his nose, I tell him so. He hooks it out of his nose and flicks it into the water.

Mom is fanning a magazine at her face. "It smells like grease," she says. The tiki bar is making fish and chips. "It's making me sick."

I suggest we go for a walk to take her mind off it. Adam says like hell he's going for a walk. He wants to know why I'd even think he'd like to take a walk.

"I don't walk down beaches," he says. "I'll stay here and get a few drinks."

The lifeguards have hung out flags for rip tide conditions and dangerous marine life.

"You'd think they'd narrow that down a little more," I say. "You know, so we'd know what to look for."

12:00 PM:

Half way through our walk, my mother and I see several wobbly, gelatinous-looking blue things sprawled across the sand.

Jellyfish. Man-o-War jellyfish. They are everywhere. They look like water-logged novelty condoms. People are bending to examine them, take pictures.

“I feel a little gross,” I say. “Nauseous, sort of.”

1:00 PM:

We get back to our hotel, to our tiki bar, and find that Adam has ordered a beer.

"Next I'm getting something different," he says. "I'm going to have a cocktail. I'm going to have a Tom Collins."

"A Tom Collins?" I say. "Are you eighty?"

"A Tom Collins with Grey Goose!" he says. "That's what I'm having!"

1:45 PM:

Mom--who is nauseous again--has gone up to the room.

I am sitting across from Adam, and Adam is looped off his Grey Goose Tom Collins and two beers. He cannot keep his voice at a normal volume to save his life.

"Fucking fuckers!" he yells about some idiots near the pool. "Shitty assholes!"

"Ssssh," I hiss.

"Fuck that!" he says. "Fuck ssssh! I'm fine! I'm great!"

"Oh my God," I say. "You are completely drunk! You are a lightweight! You are shameful!"

"Shut up!" he says. "SHUT UP!" He swallows the last of his drink and slams it down on the table. "I'm hungry!" he says.

2:00 PM:

Adam and I walk to the gourmet deli across the street from our hotel. It's a little like Wegman's, a little like Premier Gourmet, a little like Dean & Deluca. I wander the aisles and get jealous that I don't have any of these fabulous foods in my grocery store back in Maine.

Adam is stumbling and running into things. He has been stumbling and running into things for the last fifteen minutes. ("You're going to have to make sure I don't run out into the middle of the road," he insisted as he jostled from one foot to the next as we waited at the crosswalk.)

When we get up to the panini counter, I have to order for him because he can't get the words "egg salad sandwich" out without dissolving into giggles.

"You are a drunk fool," I tell him. "A total pansy. I could drink you under the table!"

"I know," he says. "I've always been a lightweight. But you know what?" He leans against the deli case, and I have to yank him off it. "I've always liked it," he says. "I'm a cheap date."

There are samples up on the deli counter--samples for their turkey salad. Adam takes one, eats it, giggles.

"It's good!" he says and reaches for another.

"Adam!" I say. "You already had one!"

"It's really good!" he says. "No one here knows I already had one."

"We are the only ones standing here," I say. "They are LOOKING at you."

He reaches for a third, but I clamp his hand onto the counter and don't release it until his sandwich has been delivered.

2:30 PM:

I have been feeling sort of nauseous, so I only got soup and chips for lunch. I eat them and watch an episode of some show about a little boy who was possessed by a demon that lived in a well outside his family’s rental house.

“Is this real?” my brother asks. He is sitting next to me on the couch. He is sitting up very straight. He is not moving. He is already coming down from his Grey Goose Tom Collins and two light beers. He is hungover and feeling like he might just puke.

“Well, these are real people,” I say. “I mean, this isn’t an acted story. It’s some kind of documentary.”

“And a demon lived in their well?” Adam asks. He is probably thinking of the well at my father’s house. It sits in the front garden, hidden underneath some shrubs. It’s not too far outside my brother’s window.

“Yeah,” I say.

“That’s fucked up,” my brother says. “I think I’m going to puke.”

5:15 PM:

Adam doesn’t puke. Adam sleeps and sleeps and sleeps.

I puke. In between my trips to the bathroom, I lie on the bed—on the thin comforter that is probably coated with spring break sperm—and moan.

“I’m siiiiick,” I say.

My mother turns on the television. What Not to Wear is on.

“This helps,” I say, but that’s sort of a lie. Even Clinton Kelly and his beautiful sweaters and shining shoes and tender disposition can’t make my stomach right.

5:30 PM:

Adam wakes up from his post-Tom Collins nap. He is refreshed. His hair—which he’s been styling in a Zach Braff/Wolverine-type style—is dented on one side.

“I,” he says, “am going shopping. I’m going to find a mall!”

6:15 PM:

Outside, spring breakers are shrieking and giggling and tossing each other into the pool.

I am in the bathroom, hunched over the bathtub, throwing up. When I finish, I have to scoop my vomit out of the tub and put it into the toilet because I was on the toilet when I threw up, and it had to go somewhere. Now it has to go somewhere else because our bathtub is clogged and the water I tried to run into it to dissolve the puke won’t drain.

I am on spring break, kneeling in front of a bathtub, and scooping vomit up with the palms of my hands.

9:00 PM:

Adam comes back with three new shopping bags. He has hats and T-shirts and postcards and keychains and mugs.

I am on spring break, and I go to bed at 9:00 PM.


9:00 AM:

For our trouble, the hotel has given us three coupons for free breakfast at one of their restaurants.

Adam has been looking forward to it.

“Want an omelet?” he asks me. He sits on the edge of my bed. “Some eggs? Some bacon?”

The thought of it is enough to send me running for the bathroom.

10:00 AM:

Mom and Adam come back from breakfast to find me in bed, watching Election.

“How was it?” I ask.

“Disgusting,” Adam says. “Sick. Gross.”

“Everything was cold,” my mother says. “Good thing we didn’t pay for that.” She brings a yogurt out from behind her back. “We brought you something,” she says.

“Please get that away from me,” I say and bury my face in the pillow.

10:30 AM:

Checkout is nearing, and I need to get up and ready for the day, for the trip back to Buffalo.

I trudge into the bathroom, which smells vaguely of tomato-based soup and parmesan cheese. I lean against the shower wall, which I am sure is crawling with sexually transmitted diseases, and try to feel better.

2:00 PM:

We are in the airport now. We have returned the rental car without incident. We have taken the shuttle without being yelled at. We have checked in, gone through security, and found our gate.

It is then that Adam announces he doesn’t feel so hot. He feels nauseous.

I am starving. I am hungry but I know better than to eat something. I haven’t eaten a real meal since Wednesday night. I feel light-headed and loopy.

“I think I’m going to get sick,” my brother says.

3:30 PM:

The man at our gate comes on over the loudspeaker to announce there has been a gate change, that our flight is now leaving from gate 37.

We roll our things down to gate 37, where we see that there has been a little more than a simple gate change. Our plane is going to be an hour late.

We are going to miss our connecting flight out of LaGuardia.

3:40 PM:

We go to the desk and talk to a tall American Airlines agent with a sexy accent.

“We’re going to miss our connector,” I say. I point to our tickets.

“Yes,” he says, “you certainly are. Let’s get you on the next flight out of LaGuardia, okay?”

“Okay,” I say.

The next flight leaves an hour and a half after our original flight would’ve left. We should have plenty of time, even though we will have to switch terminals because we are taking an American Airlines flight into LGA to catch a US Air flight to Buffalo.

The agent puts our information into the computer, changes our flight. He writes down our new flight number, the takeoff time, the terminal information.

“You’re all set,” he says and smiles before sending us on our way.

5:45 PM:

Our plane is late.

When it finally gets in, Adam is sick. While we stand in line on the jetway, he shifts his weight from one leg to the next.

“Can I use the bathroom as soon as we get on?” he asks. “Is that against the rules? Do I have to wait until we get into the air and to a cruising altitude? I NEED TO GO.”

“Just go,” I say. “If you’ve got to go, you go.”

He asks a flight attendant anyway. She gives him the go-ahead and he spends the next fifteen minutes locked in the bathroom.

When he comes out, he looks pale and winded. “Oh God,” he says. “Gross.”

He’ll go several more times over the course of our flight.

8:55 PM:

We land in New York. Our new flight to Buffalo is slated to leave at 9:55. This means it’s boarding at 9:30, which, after we deplane, gives us about half an hour to get from one terminal to the next, go through security again, and find our gate.

It turns out this is not enough time.

Although I’ve flown to and from New York City a ton of times in my life, I have usually flown through JFK, which is an airport I understand, which is an airport I am familiar with.

LaGuardia and I are not nearly as chummy. LaGuardia and my mother and brother are complete strangers.

We need to find a green-line bus, which will take us to the US Air terminal, and then we need to start the whole check-in process over again.

We run and run and run. We wait for a bus. It does not come, does not come, does not come. When it does come, the driver gets off at one stop and has a leisurely conversation with the other driver who will be replacing him.

I am starving, nauseous, and panicked. It is all I can do to keep myself from launching off the bus and dragging the driver back on by his ear.

9:25 PM:

We go through security. There’s some hold-up with Adam, who’s been held back by the metal detector agent.

I have been cleared, so I run around the corner to check the board about our gate information. I see that our flight has been delayed by twenty minutes. This is good news.

“It’s okay,” I tell my mother and brother. “Don’t rush. We’re okay. It’s delayed.”

9:35 PM:

At the gate, the three of us go up to see the agents so that we can double-check our status. We hand them the information the American Airlines agent handed us.

The woman behind the desk types in our names and shrugs. “You’re not on this flight,” she says.

You can hear the sound of our hearts falling down to our knees.

“What do you mean?” my mother asks. “We watched him change our information.”

“What you probably saw,” the woman says, “is a man pretending to change your information.”

“What?” I ask. I am having trouble keeping my voice calm.

“Happens all the time,” the woman says. “They lie all the time.”

“They lie,” my mother says.

“Yes,” the woman says. “Look, you’re not getting on this flight. It’s full.”

“I don’t understand any of this,” my mother says.

The woman types some things into her computer. “All the flights out to Buffalo are full tomorrow,” she says. “We might be able to get you back Sunday night.”

I am filled with murderous thoughts. “We could drive home faster than that,” I say.

My brother is starting mutter fucking bullshit, fucking assholes under his breath.

“Sssh,” I tell him. “Stop it. Don’t make a scene.”

“What about Rochester?” my mother asks. It is a brilliant idea. We could be picked up from Rochester, no problem. It’s only a short ride down the thruway. It wouldn’t be that big of a disaster.

“You’d be our hero if you could get us to Rochester,” I say.

“Okay,” the woman says, and she starts typing. “Yes, alright. I have a flight out to Rochester leaving at 9:35.”

Simultaneously, we all glance down at my mother’s watch. It is 9:35.

“…and that flight has just pulled away from the gate,” the woman says.

10:00 PM:

We have been moved to a flight to Rochester that doesn’t leave until the next day, but none of us want to wait around to catch a plane to Rochester so we can then drive the rest of the way home.

“Let’s just drive,” my mother says.

“Okay,” my brother says.

“Okay,” I say.

We can cut across state in seven hours. We can be in Buffalo just as the sun rises.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. There is the question of baggage. (No one knows where it is.) Of the rental car. (None of the agencies are picking up their phone.) Of how much this all going to cost. (Two hundred and fifty dollars for a one-way rental.)

11:00 PM:

We are on the road. We are on the Tri-Borough Bridge, and the Chrysler Building is a ghostly shimmer to our left. I am starving and tired and angry, but seeing the city lit up against the sky makes me feel a little better. There is a part of me that wants to suggest that we abandon our plan, take the car back, and spend a few days holed up in some hotel not far from Magnolia, where we can go each morning for red velvet cupcakes and coffee.

There is a part of me that wants to fall asleep in the backseat so that the ride will go faster, so that when I open my eyes I will be in Buffalo.

But there’s no time for that. We all have to do our part. We have to do our share. We split the drive into three sections and spend time trying to keep awake, trying to keep each other awake, and trying not to drive off the road outside Syracuse. In a few hours, I will turn around and make this drive again, the opposite way, on my trip back to Maine. It is not a cheery thought.

We will get into Buffalo at 6:02 AM, and I will have to drive an extra half an hour back to my father’s house so I don’t have to sleep on a bunk bed atop my brother and his girlfriend.

We will get our luggage the next day, around 3:00. It made the flight to Buffalo that we weren’t allowed on.

It will be the first time in my life that I am jealous of my luggage.


Diana said...

Egg salad sandwich!

Oh, Jess, what a nightmare of a vacation, but I hope it's okay that I giggled the whole time reading this. This is a fantastic piece of prose--my lord, girl, you can write funny!

Though it helps that you've got Adam for material. I would like for Adam to come live with me. Maybe after Clayton moves away to college and I've got empty nest. I'm going to need a boy in the house to cook for and look after, and I was thinking either a foreign exchange student or Adam would fit the bill.

Jason said...

I'm sure this was a terrible vacation, but it's a hysterical read.

Also: Your brother is a girl, and "light beer" is an oxymoron.

Jess said...

Well, he's going to need a place to stay. Right now, he doesn't have much of a plan for his life--he's trying to become a lab tech, but he's taking only one class per semester, so at this rate he might be in school until he's 55. The kid has no money, won't be able to afford an apartment, and has crazy ideas about spending.

He's going to need you to make him a turkey sandwich or red beans and rice or chocolate chip cookies.

Jess said...

My brother IS a girl!

Diana said...

But maybe if I fostered him he'd bring me awesome junky touristy stuff from vacation.

You would not like vacation with me. I'd want to go to all the junky touristy shops with Adam. I love that kind of kitschy stuff.

Kristin said...

Even though I was amused, I felt horrible...HORRIBLE...for you the entire time. I'm sorry it sucked so bad Jess. :( Definitely entertaining to read though. Sorry:)

Nathan said...

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles anyone?

It's interesting how shitty events make great stories but fun events often make boring stories.

Chatty Cathy said...

What a nightmare! So, did you all have food poisoning, or what? Is Florida a "Don't Drink The Water" type of place? My brother wants me to visit him in FL and now I'm terrified at the thought. haha