Before my husband and I learned that family vacations suck a bunch of balls because I come from a family that likes to drink a lot and then fight, we used to go on them annually. This is what happened a couple of years ago:
The first day of our extended family vacation included a 7-hour drive to get to our beach destination, followed by a 1-2 hour wait with all of our various 6 small, rambunctious children in the lobby of the hotel as the staff, who were “a little behind,” hurried to finish readying our rooms for check-in. I think they were rushing more for themselves than they were for us; our crazy kids, working as a sort of welcome wagon on crack as soon as unassuming potential customers walked into the sliding glass doors of the hotel, were surely driving away business.
My older sister was seething; she loves the beach and didn’t want to waste a moment of our trip anywhere but there. I, on the other hand, enjoy any moment that my kids are occupied by someone else, and during the long wait for our rooms, they were having fun fighting with their cousins over who got to ride and who got to push the luggage rack around the chairs in the room.
So my own wait for my room was spent sitting on my fat ass (even though I had just sat on it for 7 hours in the car), enjoying a complimentary bag of popcorn and cup of coffee, scrolling through Facebook on my phone after getting the hotel’s wifi password. I did have to look up once when there was a fight between the small cousins at the luggage rack, but I nodded with satisfaction when I saw that one of my sons had won. No need to get involved, then. Back to status updates.
When the rooms were finally ready and we had unloaded our luggage, changing into our swimsuits and keeping only the things we would need for the beach, we hopped into our cars and caravanned toward the sand, which was about 25 minutes away.
We arrived at about 5:45 PM, my husband and I first in line. We were stopped by a 16-year-old in a small brick building. I rolled down the driver’s side window.
“Are you residents of the state?” he asked.
“Why? Is it cheaper for those who are?” I replied.
“Do you check ID’s if we say we are?”
“Well, then, no,” I admitted reluctantly.
“Ten dollars,” he said, holding out his hand.
“Ten dollars! That’s double what state residents pay—I just saw it on a sign!”
“Yep,” he replied.
“Little shit,” I muttered under my breath, accepting a $20 bill from my husband and handing it to the kid.
But all was rectified when he handed me my change…$40! I stayed cool and accepted it, only widening my eyes when I turned to hand it to my husband, who was in charge of keeping our cash safe for this trip.
My husband, amazed, held the $40 in his hand for a few seconds while I sat there, jaw dropped, staring at it and enjoying the moment. Then we both snapped to at the same time. “Holy shit,” my husband whispered without moving his mouth. “Drive.”
Judge me if you must, peeps, but here’s how I look at it: I choose to visit public places that charge a fee to get in, and I choose to shop at big companies that are convenient for me, and I choose to pay the prices that they ask. But when the mistake is on them? I don’t mind benefitting. I’ll bet you, in fact, that I need the money more than they do. (Is that how common-law criminals justify their actions, too? Hmmm…)
If it makes you guys feel any better, I did say, “I hope he doesn’t lose his job,” as my husband stuffed the 20’s back into his wallet and I pressed down on the gas pedal.
See? I have a good heart.
We all parked our cars and began the long, arduous task of unloading beach chairs, towels, sand buckets and toys, snacks, bags of sunscreen and bug spray, iPhones for music and posting braggy beach pictures on Facebook, children, and, most importantly, coolers full of illegal beer. We’d heard that it wasn’t allowed but that if you weren’t flamboyant about it, swinging bottles in the air, they didn’t really care, so we were going to take our chances.
As we tripped down the boardwalk, adjusting coolers and chairs and bags that we were banging us in the knees, sweating with the exertion of it all, my husband and I made sure to brag loudly to everyone.
“Guess how much change we got back from the $20 we gave the guy at the entrance?” I asked my little sister.
“Oh, I don’t know, $10?” she answered, and I knew she was proud that she got the answer right since she’s kind of stupid.
“Nope!” I laughed. “Try FORTY BUCKS, dude!”
My little sister furrowed her brow in concentration. I could see that her little brain wheels were spinning, and she was mad at herself for not remembering that 20-10=40.
“He gave us too much back,” I said to her.
Her eyes lit up with understanding. Then she frowned. “And you didn’t give it back?” she asked, all self-righteous.
“Hell, no,” I responded. “We stepped on the gas and reveled in our good fortune!”
With all of the things weighing us down and the children staggering next to us picking at shells and rocks, it took us a good 15 minutes to walk the length of the boardwalk and find a good spot to plant ourselves on the shore.
The entire way down, my husband and I bragged about our $40.
“LOSERS!” I kept shouting breathlessly as I juggled the chairs and sand toys in my left hand and our beach bag and younger child in my right. “You pay to go to the beach? HA. We’re so awesome that we get paid to go to the beach.”
Everyone was always either too annoyed or too out of breath to respond, which I understood, because with the amount of energy I was using to carry shit, I hardly had any left to speak. But I kept at it, because it was fun.
“We should teach classes on being awesome to you fools,” my husband said at one point. We both burst into juvenile giggles, nudging our kids so they’d join us, too.
When we finally reached a spot that my older sister deemed acceptable, we threw down our stuff. After the very long day of travel we’d just had and the long, sweaty, cumbersome walk to the shore, all we wanted to do was get into the cool, refreshing ocean.
We were pulling cover-ups and t-shirts over our heads at the edge of the water when we heard a booming voice over the loudspeaker: “ATTENTION, VISITORS. THE WATER IS NOW CLOSED. THE WATER IS CLOSED. MAKE YOUR WAY BACK TO SHORE, BECAUSE THE WATER IS NOW CLOSED.”
My younger brother-in-law looked at me. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he asked, his shirt halfway over his head.
“I guess I shouldn’t have made that joke about Wally World,” I said, feeling guilty. If only I’d known how prophetic it would turn out to be when I’d said, “Watch us get all the way there and the beach’ll be closed. I wonder if there’s a moose Dad will be able to punch.”
We came to find out from a few locals, however, that the lifeguards had to make that announcement because they were going off-duty and heading home. Once they were gone, nobody cared if people swam or not—you simply did it at your own risk.
Which we did. We had a blast that first evening, swimming, having a few drinks, listening to music, and just generally enjoying each other’s company for a couple of hours until it began to get dark.
That’s when the first signs of my conscience crept in, and as we were packing up to go, I said to my husband, “Seriously, what if that kid loses his job because he gave us back too much change? Maybe we should tape the extra money with a note on the window explaining things so that he doesn’t get into trouble.” My husband agreed, and that’s what we did. We both felt a whole lot better about the entire situation.
Okay, that last paragraph was a total lie. It didn’t happen. I just made it up to make myself look better on this blog.
What really happened was this: I said to my husband, “Seriously, you don’t think that kid will lose his job for giving us way too much change, do you? Because I used to work in retail, and if the drawer was off, meaning the money left didn’t match what the transaction report said, the checker would get into trouble.”
Then I pondered the issue for a second. “Then again, the drawer had to be off, like, 5 times before they’d fire someone. In which case, either the person really was stealing or he was totally incompetent—and in either case, he should get fired. And if that happens here because of our extra change, then the state should actually thank us. We’re saving them a lot of money on that kid’s future mistakes.”
Now I was on a roll. “You know, I think it’s our civic duty to keep this money. It would be irresponsible to let it continue happening. The taxpayers would probably have to make up for it, and that goes against everything we believe in as fiscal conservatives.”
My eyes were shining; I had the most distinct feeling that I should go into politics, maybe someday running for President on the "Extra Change" platform. But then, my husband burst my bubble with just 5 small words:
“I handed him a fifty.”
I stopped short and looked at him. “Wait—what?”
“I didn’t realize that I’d handed him a fifty, but when I looked in my wallet, the one I had was gone, so obviously that’s what happened.”
“SHIT!” I said. “DAMMIT!” All of my dreams of the Oval Office went straight down the toilet, along with our “extra” $40. And then I had another thought. I leaned toward my husband and whispered harshly. “You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”
As soon as the words had left my mouth, one of my brothers-in-law sauntered by, his half-empty cooler sloshing with ice as he lugged it back toward his car. “Hey you guys,” he called snidely. “What time do the awesome classes start? And when I pay you, will I get the exact amount of correct change, just like you guys did today?”
All of my family members started laughing, and there were a couple of calls of “dumbasses” from somewhere ahead of us.
“So you told them, then,” I said to my husband. It came in the form of a defeated statement as opposed to a question.
He shrugged his shoulders and nodded.
“So the signup sheet for awesome classes that we were going to have the boys draw up and hang on everyone’s doors tonight while they were sleeping won’t be necessary?” I asked, grasping at straws.
My husband shook his head firmly. “No signup sheet.”
I sighed, accepting defeat, and trudged the rest of the way to the car.