Summer is winding down, and for those lucky enough to have travelled this season, that means carrying memories of tropical, exotic, and/or relaxing destinations.
But, are those memories always good ones? Not for one-fifth of Americans. That’s the proportion of residents nationwide who say they have been on a disaster vacation at some point in their lives. Most — 80% — however, report they have not experienced a “disaster” trip.
What caused those miserable memories? 23% blame the weather, and the same proportion cites the people with whom they went. With 15%, illness is named as the number three reason. And, rounding out the top five are accommodations with 10% and transportation with 9%. Destination, crime, and food follow with 7%, 6%, and 1%, respectively.
Disaster? Disaster doesn’t even come close.
Dateline: Summer 1999. Destination: Hilton Head, South Carolina. Twelve family members embark on a mini-family reunion. How could a long weekend of fun in the sun go so awry? A cacophony of events so unforeseen it rivals a Hollywood screenplay.
Lowlight Number 1: Scorching heat & oppressive humidity.
The upside: The backdrop for our trip was beautiful sunny skies. The downside: Those sunny skies were coupled with mercury-rising heat and choking humidity. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with sweltering temperatures. When the hotel’s bathtub sized pool with bath warm water was taken into consideration, there was little relief. In fact, my uncle tried to get in a round of golf at 7 A.M. and returned dripping in sweat.
Lowlight Number 2: Not being evacuated from a restaurant with a gas leak.
Yes, you read that correctly. My mom’s cousin, Loretta, is a seafood lover and was looking forward to a good, lobster dinner. So, on either the second or third night of the vacation, we received a restaurant recommendation, and off we went. The night started off great! The décor was wonderful, and we were in a semi-private room upstairs. We ordered a ton of appetizers and drinks, but when it came time for the entrees to arrive, we waited close to an hour and a half for them to reach our table. My family’s patience wore thin, and we couldn’t even find a member of the wait staff to ask what was going on. Then, Loretta decided to go outside and have a cigarette. As she stepped into the humid air, she noticed a number of fire engines. Not thinking anything was wrong with the restaurant we were in, she went to light up. Then, a firefighter came rushing towards her! The restaurant had a gas leak, he informed her, and had been evacuated! That is, everyone inside the restaurant except for the twelve members of my family seated in a now-private, upstairs room. When Loretta returned, our meals had arrived – ice cold. We hypothesized that the restaurant chose not to sacrifice the hefty tab my family ran at the risk of our lives. Infuriated, Loretta’s husband went to the manager who still insisted that we pay our bill. A minor argument ensued, and the only compensation we received was having the drinks knocked off of our check.
Lowlight Number 3: Physical injury while on a wave runner.
After our culinary fiasco, we didn’t think the trip could get much worse. Were we ever wrong! The more adventurous members of the family (the men) hit the ocean by renting a few wave runners. Unfortunately, for one, the term “hit the ocean” was all too literal. You see, my godfather’s nephew (who was visiting from Lebanon) was thrust into the air while doing quick turns on the wave runner. On his way back down, he fell on top of the watercraft injuring his lower back. The problem: Poor William didn’t have medical coverage in the states. He suffered great pain, in silence, for the remaining couple of days of our trip. It was only upon our return to New York did he discover the true extent of his injury – a broken tailbone — after a family friend who is a nurse examined him.
Lowlight Number 4: Shower collapse, leaky air conditioner, and, yes, a roach.
I’m not a snob when it comes to hotel accommodations. I can rough it with the best of them. However, three strikes, and you’re out. When I first got to our room (a well-known chain which shall remain nameless), the air conditioner was leaking and left a puddle all over the floor. No big deal, it happens. We went to the front desk and got a new room. However, the conditions in the inn quickly deteriorated. Forget that the room number placard of our old room was adhered outside our new room. (A quirk, we thought.) But, about midway through the vacation, my mom and I swung by our cousins’ room. When we got there, we were informed that their shower fixtures had caved in. And, to top it all off, on the last night of our stay, we found a palmetto bug (a.k.a. roach) in one of the rooms.
That was the last straw! My mom and her cousins stormed off to the front desk to complain. In the midst of the hubbub, my mother turned to a security guard who was less than alert at the front door and asked what his purpose was. His response was short and ridiculous, “Stealin’.” That was the end. Loretta flew back to her room and began calling other hotels to see if we could find rooms – even if for the night. No luck. We were stuck for the evening and happily escaped the next morning.
With all of the vacation’s insanity, there were some good moments like parasailing and knocking a volleyball around on the beach. To this day, none of us who were there can believe the events of that trip. Yet, we just laugh it all off!