For years, my vacations have consisted of me taking a 3-day weekend here, a 4-day weekend there. I haven’t been on a week-long vacation in over five years! I haven’t traveled out of the country since before passports were required to enter Canada and Mexico. So I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of travel companion I would be on a trip to Aruba.
I’m not the most patient person, and I’ve been known to be sarcastic and judgmental at times. I’m so spoiled as an American living a suburban, middle class, life. I find it easy to laugh at the odd people around me, knowing that being “average” gives you half the population to make fun of. Actually, it gives you all the population to make fun of! No one makes fun of boring, average people. Now take that attitude to a Caribbean island and see what happens! When I want something, I can usually get it when I want it. Island life is so laid back, they don’t give a shit what you want or when you want it!
“You want breakfast at 11:31? We stopped serving breakfast at 11:30 and you can’t have lunch until 12:00. Here’s a menu for you to study for the next 30 minutes while I ignore you and do what I want.”
“Oh, you finished your meal? I’ll have your check to you when I damn well please! Enjoy the view.”
“You want draft beer? Here’s a 10 ounce bottle of Balashi Beer instead. It tastes like piss, but at least it’s local!”
It’s people like me who create the image of the “Rude American.” I tried my best, but sometimes I just couldn’t help myself. The last straw was at the end of the week when they brought pancakes without syrup. I went kinda nuts on them, but it still didn’t hurry them up. They brought it when they wanted to!
It’s a good thing it was so easy to decompress by walking across the street and putting my toes in the sand as I walked into the ocean. I can get rude service at home, but I can’t have the ocean! It’s also a great people watching place. Do you have body image issues? Go to the beach! There are women who should have stopped wearing a bikini decades ago and men who are clearly 12 months pregnant, walking the beach and frolicking in the ocean like they’re invisible! I guess it’s that feeling you get when you don’t care what you look like because you’re on vacation. With that being said, those same people go to the water parks around Cincinnati! I have a flabby belly and the muscle tone of a 14-year-old boy, but I was walking the beach without a shirt anyway! I wonder how many people looked at me and thought, “Damn, please put your shirt back on!” Having a tan reduces the glare coming off a beer belly, so I did some preëmptive tanning at Palm Beach Tan before going on vacation. I’m all about the optical illusion of the tan.
Going on vacation makes you feel like you have to be doing something all the time or you’ll waste it. When I’m at home, I watch TV and read and generally sit on my ass. I try to do stuff on the weekends, but I’m content with being a couch potato Monday through Thursday. I woke up every day on vacation not wanting to waste any time. I ran, then I jumped into the ocean to cool off. By the time noon rolled around, it was time to do something! Laying on a beach chair entertains me for about 30 minutes at best. I had to have something to do. So we did stuff you don’t normally do at home and spent money you don’t normally spend at home. Being exhausted at the end of each day meant I succeeded in my quest to do something.
My favorite night was Monday night. Earlier in the day, we rented a car and drove to the tip of the island where the lighthouse was. We took a few pictures, then made a reservation for dinner at the restaurant next to the lighthouse. I was trying to figure out how and when to ask Alana to marry me and I thought that a romantic restaurant with a beautiful sunset would be ideal. We arrived at 6:30 as did 30 other people! We ended up with a good table with a decent view of the sunset, but it wasn’t the time or place to ask. I needed to improvise. After dinner, with only about a crescent moon shining in the sky, I convinced Alana to take a walk on the beach. Since the beach near our hotel was fairly deserted during the day, I thought that would be a good place to find some privacy. We get to the beach and everyone was outside sitting on beach chairs in the dark! I was thinking what the fuck is going on?!? This is really weird! I found a patch of large rocks on the shore away from the people. I sat her down and worked my magic and she said yes. As we were hugging, fireworks erupted in the sky! Of course, I took credit for this and said it was all part of my plan. She didn’t believe me and reminded me it was the 4th of July. So, Aruba puts on a display of fireworks for the American tourists on the 4th. I still say it was all planned out by me!
What made the night even more special was the guy who tried to sell us weed for $20 while we were walking back to the room. He said, “Hey man, you want some weed for $20?” I said, “No thanks.” Then he said, “I have coke too.” My immediate thought was, he would never make it as a salesman of any kind in America! If I refused the “Gateway Drug” that’s supposed to lead to the hard stuff, why would he think I’d buy some cocaine instead? I imagined him trying to sell cars. “Hey man, you want to buy this Chevy? No? How about this Bentley?” I admired his tenacity. He should have gone to the airport and said, “Hey man, you want some weed? It’s duty-free!” He would have had a line out the door! Americans love putting one over on the man by buying duty-free!
I came home with a fresh perspective on how great my life is. I was able to see the poverty that exists on the island paradise. Living there would be awful. I guess that’s why people always say “It’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.” I’ll still be annoyed by everything from traffic to rude restaurant servers here at home. Knowing that it could be so much worse doesn’t stop me from telling the asshole who needs me to tell him how big of an asshole he really is. I’ll try to keep the island way of life for as long as I can. No worries, no hurries, it’s one happy island!