Sheets of rain lashed the balcony of our condo, soaking our nearly dry swimsuits and towels. Day six of our week-long family vacation was being washed out, not by a stray afternoon Florida thunderstorm, but by a day-long, soaking tropical rain.
With the exception of a couple of forays to local restaurants, we had thus far been able to avoid human contact. We alternated hours at the beach and pool with cocooning in our condo unit to play Life, Skip-Bo and Monopoly. There were sibling squabbles and peach ice cream breakfasts. Carla had her escapist beach reads, and I had my sweltering morning runs along scenic highway 30A.
It was the vacation we all wanted and needed, largely devoid of interacting with other people. But the rain changed all that.
As the sniping and whining reached a fever pitch, we turned to an outing to Destin Commons in desperation to save our sanity.
An annual trip to the outdoor-configured mall, home to a Rave movie theater, Bass Pro Shops and the giant money vacuum known as Build-a-Bear Workshop, had been part of our vacation tradition. In past years we had seen such cinematic classics as “Despicable Me” and “Space Chimps” there, and had finally convinced our boys that a matinee of “Brave” would not turn them into princesses.
The problem with the seemingly fail-safe plan? People.
As it turns out, what I have come to value most about my vacation is time away from people. Now before you get all judgmental and mistakenly call me “antisocial” (as my friend Brian likes to say, the word you are looking for is “asocial” unless you want to kill people), you know what I’m talking about.
You see, I’m extraverted. People are my power source. The more time I spend with people, the more energy I have. Like a science fiction contraption, I absorb the interactions of others until I become an unstoppable talking and engaging machine, engulfing everyone in my path with wit, charm, clever sayings and humorous anecdotes.
But every machine has an off switch. Batteries need recharging. Vacation is the time when I put my figurative Wii remotes in the charger and turn off the console. I avoid people for a week and spend time with just those people I list on my tax return.
The realization of this truth hit me as I stood in the twisting queue at the Rave cinema, tangled in a mass of humanity. Like an apocalyptic daycare with children crying over dropped ice cream cones and wet pull-ups as their parents tried to salve their every whim with handfuls of cash, the scene sent me reeling.
Why had I come out of my cave? Why had I voluntarily left the confines of the condo and the serenity of my beach chair for this?
When I reached the kiosk and learned from the swearing parent in front of me that “Brave” was sold out, I texted Carla. She informed me that she was spending quality time with our boys at Build-a-Bear Workshop.
As if the movie line wasn’t enough, I casually flip-flopped over to the Build-a-Bear, still shaking the effects of the people out of my head like so much accumulated pool water in my ears. What I encountered when I strode into that, that place, was so overwhelming that I thought I seriously might faint.
Dragging myself to the entrance under the auspices of checking e-mail on my smartphone, I gulped in the moist air and began formulating our escape plan. I was relieved when Carla agreed that she’d had enough of the scene, too, and we could return to the condo.
The rain abated, and the traffic east out of Destin was flowing. In no time I was in my soggy swimming trunks, mindlessly splashing around in the pool with the boys, laughing at squishy noises and playing made up games of tapping out the “Andy Griffith Show” theme on the bottom of the pool.
Vacation means a lot of different things at different times. For me, at this stage of my life, vacation means avoiding people. After a week or so, I can re-enter society and continue my socially carnivorous behavior.
Here’s hoping you got the vacation you needed this summer. I know I did.
What’s vacation mean to you? Do you like to totally veg out or do you like to see new things and have new experiences? Do you need a break from people or do you like to hang out with friends? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.