Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hey Pool Losers, Your Kids Aren’t That Cute

Photo by littlegraypixel, via Flickr
On the last official weekend of summer, I went to my family’s summer home in a small town in Pennsylvania (a place I call Buttcrack because of it’s vicinity to…nothing) for what I foolishly thought would be a weekend of relaxation. Oh how wrong I was.

The small lakefront cottage is inside a “gated community.” This means nobody can get in or out without a key or checking in with security, though somehow this never stops vandals from throwing garden statues into the lake, untying people’s docks, drawing penises on the dock, or other such mischief. But in Buttcrack, PA, what else is there for the punk ass teens to do?

The community shares two swimming pools, tennis courts and a community center. Last summer I made the mistake of going to one of the pools on a holiday weekend, where I witnessed an embarrassing display of ignorance as a morbidly obese woman yelled to a Russian man to go back to his country, that “This is America!” The argument started because the woman, with her skinhead looking husband and two equally obese neo-naziesque children, tried to bugger into the pool and hoard some lounge chairs, cutting other people in line, resulting in the Russian man calling her ignorant. Her subsequent display only proved his point. Later, the man tried to apologize, but the woman's red-faced husband actually stood up and chased the poor speedo-clad Russian away.

This year, seeking a little fresh air and reading time, I decided to try again. It was a cloudy day, so the pool was empty. No sooner had I sat down with my family, a bee began to buzz around me annoyingly, while I swatted and tried to remain calm. Relentlessly, it returned, getting right in my ear and buzzing uncontrollably. Do what I might, the bee pursued me with the reckless abandon of a stalker pursuing a stalkee, until I had to jump into the cold water to escape its hostile attack.

I finally stormed over to the opposite side of the pool and sat down. I was already annoyed by the bee incident and the lifeguards (because they were young, dumb, and not manning their posts. And let’s face it, because I was jealous over the loss of my youth, when I too had been such a lifeguard). That’s when the Pool Losers came in.

The family consisted of a mother, aunt, father and three small children. As they entered, they made the huge empty space seem like a crowded Walmart at Christmas. Their screaming loud voices pierced through my peace and quiet like Jon Bon Jovi and Bret Michaels had pierced through my heart in middle school.

Next thing you know, the kids got it in their head to have a talent show of sorts. The game went like this:

1) Stand as close to our lounge chairs as humanly possible without actually sitting on our laps.
2) The mother and aunt, who planted themselves about 25 feet away from the kids and therefore had to shout across us to converse, would call out a topic, e.g., “THE OLYMPICS!”
3) The kids would do a rendition of “THE OLYMPICS!” while walking towards the water and jumping in.
4) The mother and aunt would clap, guffaw and shout, scoring the child from 1 to 10. That’s IF they were paying attention. If not, the children would screech, as if their young lives depended on it: “MOMMMM watch MEEEE. WATCH MEEEE. MOOOMMMM!!!”
5) The cycle would repeat itself, endlessly.

Now I know a pool is a place for kids to have fun and not even I can begrudge the children their fun (after all, they are the future). But this pool was the size of two Olympic pools and nobody was there but my family, and theirs. So why did these Pool Losers feel the need to get up in our grill? Shout across us? Scream at the top of their lungs? Laugh over their children’s painfully silly renditions? Allow their kids to stand a millimeter away from where others were trying to read? Because they, like most parents and family members, thought their kids were cute. And so should everyone.

After about 20 such renditions, when even my ever-patient stepfather was about to go postal, I contemplated shouting out “LIBRARY!” or “DROWNING VICTIM!” to the kids. Instead we passively aggressively decided to get up and move, all the while huffing and puffing under our breath. As we walked past the mom and aunt, I heard the mother say, “OK kids, time to pack up and go!”

“Are ya kidding? Now you’re leaving?” burst forth from my lips, as we headed around the corner, where the monsters’ father, sitting peacefully with a book and noise cancellation headphones, had the right idea.

So, to end this rant, I’d just like to give the Pool Losers a helpful FYI: Your kids really aren’t that freaking cute. OK? Thanks.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Cruise Collector*

So sorry I haven’t written sooner, my dear Reader(s). It seems I’ve been lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Or something. To my dismay, summer is over, having only just started. Wasn’t I just on a cruise to Bermuda a few days ago? Or has it already been a month?

Amazing how fast vacation bliss wears off once one is back in reality. As I sat on the train the other day, listening to yet another moronic conversation, I couldn’t help but feel like I was stuck in a version of the movie Groundhog Day:

Annoying commuter #1 (girl donning rock the size of Jupiter on finger): So, how's your new house? What have you done so far?
Annoying Commuter#2 (socially awkward guy who most likely works in IT): Nothing yet. But I have a plan. Electronics first. Then furniture. Rugs will be last.
AC #1: What about Curtains?
AC #2: Curtains will be last.
AC #1: What about art and stuff for your walls?
AC #2: Art will be last.

What?! So I closed my eyes and let the rocking of the train lull me back to the rocking of the ship I was recently on, sailing towards sun, crystal blue waters and cotton candy sand. I picture myself lounging on the coveted lounge chairs, a cool drink in hand. I'm already feeling better when another annoying commuter interrupts. But it's NOT the train commuter–oh no, it's a species far worse and more bewildering. The Cruise Collector.

“How many have you been on?” someone barks in my ear.

I adjust my sunglasses and open my eyes to the dizzying sun. “Excuse me?”

“This is my 15th. This boat has nothing on Princess. And Norwegian is much bigger. I mean, where are all the pools?”

I decide not to tell the collector that this was, in fact, my first. Instead I excuse myself to dip into the hot tub, in other words, the cesspool of human germs.

It doesn't stop here. On the beach in Bermuda, where one goes to escape the other passengers, three women frolick in the sand like a couple of sea lions, mysteriously rubbing sand up and down their legs with fervor.

“What are you guys doing?” My stepmother asks them.

“We’re giving ourselves a spa treatment,” one says in a thick Jersey accent. “Cheapa than on the boat.” We nod, trying not to cringe, while the other demands: “Which are you on?”

“Holland,” we reply.

“Oh, I went on that last year. Too small. The best is Royal, but Princess isn’t bad either. This is our 10th.”

And so it goes. At dinner:

“How many has it been?” (The Cruise Collector never has to define “it.”)

“Um…my first?”

An embarrassed glance as if I'd just admitted to being the 40-year-old cruise virgin. “Oh really? We've been 'cruising' for years." (The Cruise Collector uses 'cruising' as if it's an activity such as running or hiking, when in fact, it's really just 'slothing.') "This is our 25th. Not so much food on this one. On Royal (the cruise collector never has to give the full name of the ship) you could ask for TWO entrees. Here they only let you have one.”

Glancing around at the predominately obese passengers, it’s no surprise to me that most are here for one thing: the abundant food.

“One entree is usually good enough for me!” I say cheerfully.

At the disco:

"Have you 'done' Carnival? It's much more lively."

By the end of the week, I had classified the collectors into the following categories:

The Food Collector: racks up multiple cruises for one thing only: eatfest. These collectors not only gorge on the breakfast and lunch buffets and three-course dinners, but attend the midnight buffet and hoard food in their room.
The Cheap Collector: likes to "cruise" because the price of a cruise is cheaper than getting a hotel and buying meals separately.
The Fearful Flyer Collector: Or, me. Those who want to travel but are at risk of getting stun-gunned by an air marshall as they run down the airplane aisle screaming 'we're all gonna die!'
The 'I Have a Boring Marriage' Collector: These couples spend the entire trip separately whether it be in the pool or at the casino, and are the ones most likely to lean into your personal space and say "So, how many?"
The Priveleged Collector: Thinks cruises are a luxury (when in reality they're kind of cheesy) and has no problem shouting at the already stressed waiter "Put me some more mustard, would ya?" or "Get this wine OUT of my face, it's terrible!"
The Geriatric Collector: My personal favorite, and omnipresent on my ship, these golden oldies throw all shame to the wind, boogie on the dance floor like tweens and are probably poppin Viagra more than Dramamine.

By the end of the week, if one more person asked about my sad collection, I was going to say "It's my 500th! The last one I took was Apollo. You haven't heard of it? I mean, how often do you cruise? It goes to the moon!"

But, we all need to start somewhere. Next year, I'll be able to say I'm on my second cruise. In time, I too will become a collector. In fact, one day you may find yourself on a cruise (Royal, of course). I will sit down next to you at the pool, staring probingly while you pretend to read. But the intensity of my gaze will be too much. You will make eye contact. And when you do, I will pounce, and say:

"So, how many has it been?"

*Dedicated to my father, who has been waiting with bated breath for this post.