Hawaii Va-cay. Hawaii Dismay.

Or How I Wish I Spent My Summer Vacation

Hawaii vacation spot: White sandy shore with calm waves

Dear Middle-Aged Muddlers,

I hate to complain, but I just got back from my so-called vacation and I cannot tell you how much I wish I had followed my instincts and opted for that restful, peaceful stay-cation I so dreamed of.

As you may recall, Handsome Hubby (HH) had invited me to join him on a business trip to Hawaii. I was reluctant, but you know me, always the good wife. So, off I went.

“Oh, Hawaii. How fun,” enthused everyone I told about the upcoming trip to our nation’s 50th state. “Wait – you’re not excited?”

“Nope, not a bit,” I’d politely replied. “I’m more a desert rat than a sea and sand fan.”

I understand that the idea of a Hawaiian getaway sounds great to most people, but I’m from Las Vegas. My idea of a watery retreat is a mega-resort and swimming pool, lightly chlorinated, with me floating on a pink raft with a Diet Coke in the drink holder.

As for the ocean? I don’t snorkel. I don’t scuba dive. I don’t surf. I’m afraid of the water. Of rip tides. Strong tides. Big waves. Any waves.

I’m scared of sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, even random tiny fish that swim by. I don’t like sand in my swimsuit and I hate the stink of salt water in my eyes and its taste in my mouth.

Then, there’s the chubby-thigh issue and the extended walk of shame from the unfurled beach towel to the water’s concealing, albeit treacherous, waves. No itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini for me. No way.

In short, I was apprehensive about a vacation to Hawaii. It turned out, I was right – but not for any of the aforementioned reasons.

All Work, No Play

To start with, the Hawaiian trip wasn’t even a true vacation. As I mentioned, my Aloha State opportunity came as an add-on to HH’s business trip.

Now, some people, admirable people in my mind, go on business trips for the sole purpose of free travel and hotel rooms. Those people attend one meeting and then skip the rest of their work obligations to have fun and relax.

Not HH. He actually works on work trips. And just like when he’s home, he works non-stop. It’s exhausting just watching him being super-productive.

True to form, HH dropped his bag immediately after checking into our hotel and ran off to give a speech. As the door closed behind him, I thought back wistfully to the days when the first thing he’d drop was his pants when we entered a hotel room.

The Sights and Smells of My Hawaii Vacation

Moving to the window, I opened the curtain and was struck dumb by the view. Here I was in Maui, one of the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands. Except I wasn’t looking at beaches and swaying palm trees. I was staring at one of the island’s newest attractions: Costco and its massive asphalt parking lot. Clearly, the hotel had been picked for its convenience to the airport and downtown convention center, not its proximity to the island’s splendors.

I dipped into my tiny reservoir of calm befitting a mature, albeit muddled, middle-ager and decided I could deal with it.

Yanking the curtains closed, I started unpacking. That’s when I noticed a distinct odor wafting through the room. It wasn’t tropical breezes or coconut suntan lotion. No, the smell was coming from the bathroom and bore the unmistakable stink of hair rotting in the bottom of a drain.

I called the hotel front desk and presto – four hours later – a maintenance worker knocked on the door. I let him in and returned to my laptop.

Fifteen minutes later, I walked by the bathroom and was horrified, no, make that nauseated by what I saw. The worker was using a plunger, a toilet plunger, in the sink to clear the pipes. This creative use of a plunger was happening inches away from my toothbrush and makeup. I gagged, grabbed those items, and retreated to the desk and my laptop. “That should fix it,” he reported a few minutes later and left.

Fine Dining Par Excellence

Fleeing the room in search of something to eat and drink, I discovered our elegant hotel didn’t have a 24-hour restaurant (or even a 12-hour restaurant). Ever resourceful, also starving, I bought a soggy sandwich and an over-priced Pepsi at the so-called Island Café – it was a cooler case – in the hotel lobby and retreated to a chair in the corner. Cable news blaring gloom and doom; the AC set to arctic blast; a perfect setting for snacking and relaxing reading.

Teeth chattering, I reluctantly returned to the room to grab a sweater, stopping briefly to buy a new toothbrush. The room still smelled.

I was diverted by a text from HH saying he and a business associate were on their way to pick me up for an early dinner. Off we went. It was pleasant enough – if you like talking non-stop about Hawaiian energy politics. I mean, really, who doesn’t?

When the waiter started to hand us dessert menus, HH’s colleague looked at his watch. It seemed we didn’t have time for dessert. Why? you ask. “Why?” I asked. They had to go to a second dinner with a group of Hawaiian governmental and business leaders, to talk about, you guessed, island energy issues.

“You can join us,” the colleague generously offered.

A second dinner with energy geeks or a smelly hotel room with a nighttime view of the Costco parking lot?

No contest. Back to the hotel, I went.

Good Night Moon, Good Night Room

Up in the room, I tried watching TV. Of course, the TV didn’t work. I tried reading, but it was hard to turn the pages while holding a pillow over my nose to muffle the smell coming from the bathroom. Finally, lulled by the hallway sounds of a celebratory group of high schoolers in town for a sports tournament, I fell asleep at about 10.

An exhausted HH returned at 10:45. He kindly did not turn on any lights but did manage to bump into every piece of furniture possible, cursing under his breath. I then stayed awake till 5 a.m., listening to his snoring, trying to shield my eyes from the brightly lit Costco sign, and contemplating divorce.

Day 2: Can this Vacation Be Saved?

Harried, hardworking HH left early for a breakfast meeting. “Why don’t you rent a car and drive around and see the sights?” he sweetly suggested. “Why don’t you go …?” I muttered before falling back asleep.

Forty-five minutes later I was jolted awake by the sound and sight of the maid opening the door and scooping up the “Do Not Disturb” sign that had slipped to the ground.

“Stay, stay, stay,” I told her, rushing to throw clothes on and grab some breakfast before the Island Café shut down until lunch.

Fortified by coffee, I decided to get over myself and cheer up. After all, it’s not every day I get to be in Hawaii. I would find a beach to explore – just the sand part not the water. But first, I needed to get some work done.

I sat down at a computer in the hotel’s business center, a bank of three outdated computers facing the lobby’s big screen TV. While the TV blared the latest bad news from the Mainland and abroad, I downloaded an essay I’d been working on.

Four hours later, I pushed “save” and stood up to find a restroom. Returning minutes later, I discovered my document had vanished.

A sympathetic front desk clerk explained that the hotel computers don’t allow users to “save” documents.

There was no way to restore the draft, no way to save my hours of effort. As for the rest of the trip, I will spare you the details, but let’s just say, there was no saving it either.

Home, Sweet Home

What can I say? Only that we returned home two days later. I was exhausted, but joyous – joyous to face the chores, the laundry, my work, the household clutter and chaos, the supermarket, and the nightly challenge of what to cook.

Aloha, Hawaii. Hallelujah, I’m home. Berkeley summer fog, morning chill and all. There really is no place like home.

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3 replies
  1. cmreid
    cmreid says:

    You are such a better sport than me – the food would have been my tipping point! Oh and I hate it when I stay awake all night as Rory sleeps soundly:(.

  2. Shannon Verser
    Shannon Verser says:

    I would have been out looking for a burger or something. I’ve never been and don’t feel too badly about it


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