REFLECTIONS: The vacation from the strange side

I’m going to call this the vacation from the strange side.

It had all been arranged. Wife Susan, and longtime friend and skiing cohort, Renee Osgood, were going out west skiing this spring. Yours truly was going to spend a glorious week bach-ing it with Mutt Elsa.

Then, with nary a hint, the gals got a visit from the mischievous gremlin dwarf and all previous plans were scrapped and new ones were created with yours truly added into the mix.

“We’re going to go to Ft. Myers Beach for a quick five days instead — leave Monday and return on Saturday — so we can still spend Easter with the family,” I was told. “And you’re coming too,” said the soothsayer …

As I was being assured how “stress free” this last minute mini getaway would be, my mind started a journey back through time when I first took over ownership of the Manistee News Advocate from Brother Cris … and initially met Renee.

Now don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love Renee. BUT, as anyone can attest who either knows, skis or has worked with Renee, the idea of spending even a short week with Renee on a round-the-clock (that’s a 24 hour day, if you forgot), trip could be the furthest thing from stress free that one could imagine!

Renee is a VERY dynamic and intelligent person. BUT she has the same type A personality I do and when we worked together, it was always full-bore ahead and damn the torpedoes. And when the end of a ten or twelve hour day came near, we both knew it was time for us each to go our own way before we maimed one another.

We both loved the challenge and both reveled in our accomplishments, and we both loved to collaborate on a day-to-day editorial quest. But to say that ours was a “stress free” relationship, would be kinda like saying a wolverine in heat and a grizzly bear on steroids and just out of hibernation would make great mates.

Renee, now a teacher at Benzie Central and living in Honor, MI, came to our house on Sunday. We spent a nice quiet evening with wine and talk and finally came around to deciding what time we would have to leave for the 10 a.m. plane departure from Grand Rapids. We decided, or rather, the girls decided we should get up at 5 a.m. and leave no later than 6:30 a.m., as we should be at the airport no later than 8 a.m.

Right then, I decided I was in for it. Everything (of mine), had already been packed. It takes me 20 minutes to shower, brush my teeth, dress and be ready to rock and roll. And the trip to the airport is 50 minutes from our house — maximum … On the flip side, I reasoned to myself, I guess women need a bit longer. After all, they DO have hair. Hmmmm.

I won’t say what happened, but as I recall it, I was in the car, packed and waiting for them at the designated time. We left shortly after 7 a.m., only a half hour or so late by their schedule and still managed to make it to the airport at 8 a.m.

After a quick bite to eat, we headed for security and suddenly I got a mind slap and realized something. There IS a benefit to being 75!

You don’t have to take off your shoes anymore to go through security!  (Guess authorities feel once you’ve reached that austere age, you’re part of the geriatric group and could be easily zapped without a struggle if you created a disturbance.)

Anyway, we made it through security in a breeze and sat down, anxiously anticipating our call to embark. The call came. Bad news. The plane would be a half hour wait. Then the second call came. Another hour delay and people began to fidget.  The third call came at noon. The plane would be ready at 1:15 p.m.

“Whew”, someone said. Then the roof caved in. It was the final call. The plane just ain’t coming. “The flight’s been canceled,” said the attendant.

“And, oh yeah, there are no more flights to Fort Myers Beach until the day after Easter,” he said, “They’re all booked solid!”

Then bedlam broke out. I really felt sorry for the poor pups in the carry on cages that were panting and crossing their legs in hopes of getting out and finding a piece of green grass (or anything else) to visit.

Finally, shortly after 1 p.m., as the tales of woe sunk in, an Airtran rep cautiously came out and made one last announcement:

“IF, and just IF someone feels they could make it to Detroit by
4 p.m., there are still a few seats left on Airtran’s plane to Fort Myers.”  Wife Susan and Friend Renee were front and center of the mob yelling,

“We’ll take three!!!”

And then everything broke loose. I suddenly woke up from my iPad book, deluged with questions. “Can you take us?”

“How much room do you have?”

“Do you have a big … a REALLY BIG … car?”

Then, like a carnival hawker in the background, I heard my wife,

“Fifty bucks a ticket!!”

“What in Hades is going on?” I asked wife Susan. “I’m spinning gold from straw” she retorted.

“No, no, no,” I said, trying to gather my thoughts. “We don’t … we can’t … we still have the dog cage in the car!”

“That’s okay,” someone screamed in my ear, “I’ll ride in it if it isn’t too small!”

“You don’t understand,” I tried to explain, “It’s a barrier and that’s where all our luggage is!”

After a short talk with Renee and Susan (VERY short), we high tailed it for the parking lot with baggage in tow, along with two very happy females who were the first to ask if we could take them. And NO, I would NOT let anyone pay for the trip down. I’m NOT a public transportation vehicle and could just imagine the fun we would have had if we had been involved in an accident along the way. “NO, Judge, I did this as a favor. Did I make them pay for the ride? Ahhh, yeah, but that was different.”

“And just HOW was that different sir?” And on and on. I could visualize myself destitute and behind bars for contempt of court.

Anyway, much to all the girl’s relief (and mine as well) we made it to Detroit with time to spare and embarked our plane to head to a warmer climate!

We arrived in Ft. Myers right on schedule. After a hug and smooch fest with our two new found traveling companions, we parted ways, grabbed our rental car and sped to our final Holiday Inn destination, and for the record, the ONLY room(s) available at that late date.

As I pulled our vehicle into the resort, I found myself drifting along in dreamland, anxiously waiting to relax in our scrumptious location with libation in hand and luxuriating in a bath to steady my frayed nerves.

Ha!

Our room (which was now singular, not plural), was adjacent to the pool AND the beach bar.

And, as if cued to our arrival, there was a scrunchy attempt of a band playing amidst a host of gyrating bodies in ALL sizes and shapes.

I inserted our room key into the vibrating front door and stopped cold. Our luxury room consisted of two twin beds, adjoining bath (no door) and a minuscule bathroom with a shower and necessary toilet (with door, thank God) that if you REALLY stood in the middle and stretched, you could probably reach all four walls.

I did the only plausible thing I could think of -— I laughed long and hard until tears streamed down my face. Everyone (we had met Susan’s sister, husband and daughter there for a few days) probably thought I had lost it. I’m just thankful they couldn’t read my mind. At least no one could other than Susan’s sister, who is a full fledged practicing psychiatrist and seems to know me more than I know myself.

That evening we did a beach walk. It was a balmy 50 degrees or so with a gusting wind. I should have taken pictures. Susan’s sister was wearing a fleece lined coat and we were the only people on the beach. I wonder why?

What could have turned into a disaster, though, had a happy ending. I found Renee was an early riser like myself. She’d get up at 6 a.m. or so, do her bathroom stuff, saunter across the room where Susan and I slept and give me a poke, which told me it was my turn. We’d then meet at the lunch room for coffee and tea and hit the beach. After a four mile hike of taking photos and collecting various marine “stuff,” we’d head back to the room and get Susan, who by then had finally awakened and was craving nourishment. And we’d head out once again for a REAL breakfast and more beach wanderings.

The short stay ended up being fine. The band and bar were methodically closed down every evening at 10 p.m. sharp, the balmy weather finally reached the 70’s on the day prior to our departure (which much to brother in law Bob’s and my glee, brought out the bikinis in full force) and the trip home was totally uneventful, which was okay too.

So I highly recommend next spring, if you’re looking to get away from the Michigan “damps,” head south.

Just don’t forget to take your fleece!

 

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. Email him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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