Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Inside the mini-bar!

The last sales incentive trip I got to tag along on with Jeff was in Mexico and I have two words for you--All Inclusive. This tropical paradise came with everything included food, drinks, snacks EVERYTHING!

On the first day we gathered with Jeff's co-workers to marvel at all the perks of our temporary home. Scott remarked that it was amazing that even the MINI BAR was included! This was especially attractive to us because it was not stocked with those tiny little airplane bottles of booze but with full fifths, turned upside down in one of those in-the-door dispenser dealies with a spigot. And it was INCLUDED! No extra mini-bar charges! Scott admitted he had been so giddy at the sight of it that he'd stuck his head under it and had a shot.

I have been traveling with this crowd now for about five years and I've gotten to know them pretty well. Well enough that talk often turns to past trips. So on that first night, as we convened around the palapa bar the conversation turned to THAT night on the last trip to Mexico. You know the night. The night when the most fun was had by the most number of people. Unfortunately, I had missed THAT NIGHT as I was in Chicago for a family wedding. So the crowd was eager to tell me what I had missed.

I had heard most of the stories--how they'd decided to go out after the corporate events had ended for the night; how some band members from the evening's entertainment joined them; how one spouse neglected to tell her spouse she was going out and he had to search the beach for her body at 4:00 am. Good times.

Scott picked up the story here: He was at the club having a swell time when Kimberly, his fiance said she'd like to leave. As it was only 2:00 am he was reluctant to call it a night. At 3:00 am, Jeff realized he had to catch a plane in a few hours and maybe should go back to the hotel to pack. Kimberly, seized the opportunity and asked Jeff to see her safely back to the hotel. About a half hour after this, Scott decided that maybe he should go back too.

As he got closer to the hotel he grew apprenhensive. Perhaps Kimberly would be mad that he hadn't taken her home earlier. Maybe he was in big trouble (again). As he walked down the hotel corridor he was really worried until he got close enough to the room to hear voices. Jeff was in the room with Kimberly.

Now, Scott is not naive--he knows what can happen when a man escorts a woman back to her hotel room after too many drinks. He flung the door open only to have his worst suspicions confirmed--there were his fiance and his boss on the floor rooting through the mini-bar!

Oh they tried to deny it and say they'd just opened it up but Jeff was still clutching the nearly empty bag of $18 Kettle Chips and Kimberly was popping the last of the $12 Peanut M&M's into her mouth and worst of all, there was an empty Macadamia Nut can on the table. It was true. They had eaten their way through the mini-bar like Brittney through a 7-11.

Scott finished telling the story and shook his head ruefully, "I was really hoping they were just having sex."

So let this be a cautionary tale to you all. If your fiance wants to leave Coco Bongo at 3:00 am you'd better take her home. Otherwise you might find yourself stuck with a $400 mini-bar bill.

Or you can take the easy way out--go All Inclusive where the mini-bar is included and you can order a BLT from room service 24/7.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Something a roommom who takes her job seriously might make. Not me.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the local craft store in search of Valentine's Day craft crap. There was nothing there. Of course not--it was two days before Valentine's Day why would I expect to find anything for that holiday? They were already on to Fourth of July. I was there because, for some reason I cannot remember, I volunteered to be a room parent again this year and it was my turn to run the Valentine's Day party.

I stood at a sale bin of half a dozen red foam thingies with two other slacker roommoms picking through the stuff listlessly. They looked as disinterested as I did so I suspect they are old hags like me who have been at this a little too long.

It doesn't help that this year I am paired with one of those annoying uber-roommoms who wants to do everything to the nth degree. She is not familiar with the saying "less is more". In fact, she may not be familiar with the word "less". If a few snacks are good for our kids then ten snacks are better. If two games and two crafts are fun then 12 of each must be that much more fun, fun,fun!!!

I worked the holiday party with her. She was in the corner overseeing a craft project in which the kids made necklaces out of jingle bells (actually, a pretty good, low-key project). Before long I heard her voice rise sharply, "No, you need to stop now! You have TOO MANY JINGLE BELLS!" she was saying to a girl who was rather maniacally stringing a few thousand bells on her vinyl lanyard rope. A few more minutes passed and she came over to get help.

"What. Am. I. Supposed to do about this!" she hissed at me with barely contained fury.

"Excuse me?" I said.

"That girl!" she said speaking of a tiny fourth-grader as if she had just knocked over a liquor store. "She's using too many jingle bells!"

"Ask her to stop?" I suggested.

"I did and she won't!"

"Alright," I sighed, "I'll play bad-cop." I walked over and tapped the little felon on the shoulder. She looked up at me with Ritalin-laced-googley-eyes and I knew there would be no reasoning with her. "That's your last jingle bell," I said.

"I just have to finish this," she said, without malice. She was not naughty, she was crazy.

I went back to break the bad news to the roommom. "She doesn't mean to hog them, she's just fixated."

"Well!" she harumphed, "What will I tell the other children when they come to make a necklace and we're out of jingle bells!" she demanded to know. I looked around the room. There was a karaoke machine in the corner, snacks on the table, gifts from the gift exchange in a pile, Nerf football in another corner, and a rockin' game of Twister out in the hall. I looked at the clock. There was maybe 10 minutes left before clean-up time.

I shrugged. "I don't know what you'll tell them. They'll be heartbroken if they can't make a jingle bell necklace."

Later the crazed roommom sidled up to me and asked if she could help at the upcoming Valentine's Day party. No, I assured her, I had it all taken care of. She looked crestfallen and I was confused.

"You mean you actually WANT to attend?" I asked incredulously. I would rather try to wrestle a toddler into a snowsuit (the fourth level of hell) than attend a class holiday party.

"Yes, of course I want to attend!" and she looked at me strangely. "Why did you even volunteer to be a roommom?" she asked.

Well, that stung a little. But she's right. Why am I a roommom? And why am I making fun of someone who's doing her job well and taking it seriously? I'll tell you why! I have roommom burnout--big time. I've been doing this for years and frankly, I wasn't that good at it when I was ten years younger and gave a shit. I don't like coming up with crafts, I don't think kids need more treats, and actually, now that I think of it, I don't really like kids.

So I've decided to move on. Much to the relief of the roommoms and children everywhere, I bid you adieu. I'm passing the torch. Hanging up my brownie pan. Retiring my glue gun. You get the idea.

Good luck and remember, when it comes to room parties, more is probably more.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Leaving Mexico to head back into the frigid nastiness of a Chicago February, it ocurred to me just how much a vacation is like a metaphor for life itself.

It starts when you arrive. You are walking through the terminal, pasty and happy and you notice the tan and sad faces walking toward their planes to take them back to somewhere grey and brown like Pittsburgh and you feel self-righteous with a conceit similar to that of youth. They're so stupid to have planned their vacation earlier than yours. You are superior to them because just as their journey ends your journey is beginning.

When you arrive at the hotel, everyone is glad to see you. Happy you are here, in their world to remind them of the circle of life. Out with the old, in with the new. The bell-hop, the desk-clerk, the concierge, and yes the timeshare salespeople are all so very happy to see your pasty white, newborn face.

Things go well at first, time does not go too quickly, and you are enjoying this new place so much. Delighted to find the little soaps and shampoos, the various charms of the resort (ooh, look swings instead of stools at the bar!), the pool is so big!

Midway through the vacation a small depression sets in. You realize that your time here is half over--no matter how you look at it you are getting closer to the end of your vacation and a slight shadow falls over you.

By the last evening, you are nearly gloomy. You try to make it your "best night yet" but in your heart and the hearts of your traveling companions you all know that this is indeed the last supper.

The next morning as you pack your bags and leave your final tips and wait for hospice, I mean the shuttle bus, you are much more quiet than when you arrived. You and your traveling mate will make an attepmt to recall the good times but you are already focused on the transition into the next world. Will you go peacefully or will you go painfully with airport delays and no coffee?

As you walk through the airport, you see the pasty faces of the new arrivals and you are resentful. How dare they be starting their vacation as yours ends? Your feet, after a week in flip-flops, now weighed down by mid-western, winter shoes, are dragging and you imagine that one of the new arrivals just shouted, "Dead man walking!"

But wait, never fear, all is not lost. As you board the plane and settle into your seat crammed next to the large man from Elgin who is about to tell you why he hates Hilary Clinton, you notice the in-flight magazine and pull it from your pocket. You turn to your spouse as you flip through the pages and you say, "Okay, where are we taking our next vacation."

For all of life, even vacation life, is a circle my friend.

Keep the flip-flops handy.