Saturday 03 Dec 2016

Summer Vacation
Matt Seinberg

Do you remember going back to school after your summer vacation? The teacher asked you to write an essay about your vacation. Half the class was happy to do it and the other half wasn't. The latter half, of the class, was the kids that had an awful summer or a bad experience of some sort. Here's my story, even though there isn't a teacher involved this time.

My wife Marcy and I first talked about taking another cruise. That would have made three in a row, and I didn't want to do that. We bought a new car this year, too, and I didn't feel like spending $5,000 on a family cruise, if I didn't have to. That was Plan A.

Plan B was a trip to Washington, DC. My objection to going there in the summer was that area was going to be hot. We were going to take Amtrak, so we wouldn't have a car. We had been told that the Metro in the Capital District was very good, and not too expensive.

My criteria therefore were the following; stay in a NICE hotel that hopefully included breakfast, and had a pool. It had to be close to a Metro station, and not be super expensive. It had to be centrally located to all the major sites, such as the Smithsonian museums, The White House, and The Capital.

After weeks of looking at hotels, and finding some that met most of the criteria, I decided I still didn't want to deal with the heat. A pool was nice, but a water park was even better.

Move on to Plan C. My wife suggested a trip to Hershey, PA. I immediately flashed back to about 15 years ago, when Marcy and I went there alone. This was before we had kids. I let Marcy plan that trip. Boy, did I learn my lesson from that.

The hotel Marcy picked was awful. I'll say that again, it was awful. After we checked in and walked to the room, we were stunned. There were gnats all over the front of the room. We wouldn't even go in. We went back to the front desk, and insisted on another room.

We arrive at the new room, and open the door. The odor of Raid, or some other spray hits us square in the face. We drop our bags and run to the front desk again. They tell us they have no more rooms. We insist they do something, as we are not going in that room, much less sleep in it. They say they will send someone to open the windows, and turn on the air conditioning and hopefully when we get back in a couple of hours, it should be fine.

We drove around to kill time, have lunch, do some shopping and then go back to the hotel. The room seemed okay, so we unpacked and went to Hersheypark.

So, on that fateful day 15 days ago, we got to the Main Gate at Hersheypark. Luckily, I had a two-for-one coupon from the Entertainment Book. Just as I'm handing over my credit card to pay, Marcy says, and I quote, "By the way, I don't go on rides." Just like that, in a very nonchalant way. The girl selling the tickets looked at me with a face that said she was sorry. I said to Marcy, "Are you kidding me?" I'm sure there was some other language involved, but I'll leave that out.

So we walk around the park, and since Marcy won't go on anything, there's not a lot to do. I'm not big on the roller coaster, but I'll take a ride or two.

Fast forward to Summer 2010.

You must be wondering why I ever agreed to go back to Hershey. It's because we now have kids. Melissa is nine, and Michelle is 14 and I thought they would enjoy it, and I could see the park through their eyes. Did I mention that I went with my mom, dad and younger sister when I was a teenager? That was a fun trip. Since I didn't recapture that feeling in 1995, I figured what the heck, let's try again.

I had a plan in my mind of what I wanted to do, and when I wanted to do it. That went to hell when the weather changed from nice to it could rain at anytime. I wanted to go to the Hersheypark Boardwalk Waterpark on Monday when we got there, and the amusement park on Tuesday. When we left on Wednesday, we would go to the Hershey Museum and Gardens, and maybe stop at the Hershey Hotel.

Crash is the sound of my plan splintering into millions of pieces. Nothing worked liked I hoped; nothing, nada and zilch.

We got to Hershey around 1 PM on Monday, and got a little lost going to the hotel. We checked in, relaxed a bit and got to the park. Since it was a little overcast, we didn't go to the Waterpark. Then it turns out Michelle really doesn't like rides as much as she claimed. Just like her mother. History does have a habit of repeating itself.

Melissa is a little more adventurous, but being only nine, she is still afraid to go on certain rides. I don't blame her. There are rides there I wouldn't even think of going on. Did I mention that I'm also afraid of heights? No? I will not go on any tall, loopy coasters: nope, no way and no how.

We go on The Falcon, which is a ride that not only goes up high in the air, but the cars spin around as well. Melissa is sitting in front of me, insisting that I hold on to her tightly. I do at first, but then have to hold onto the car. I am so scared I'm going to fall out. I know it can't happen, but I'm scared anyway. Again, I remember why I don't like heights.

By 6 PM, we are all tired, and Melissa says she isn't feeling well. She has the beginning of a cold. What a great way to start a family vacation, with a sick child.

We go to dinner at a chain restaurant near the hotel, Bob Evans. I heard of these restaurants, although I had never eaten at one. Bob Evans Restaurants are yet to expand into the New York City area. We had a nice dinner, and went back to hotel to relax and get ready for the next day.

The beds are hard. I'm not talking about a little hard, but almost as the floor. My back does not like hard beds. I constantly toss and turn trying to find a comfortable position. It's not possible. I wake up in the morning feeling like a hand-made Pennsylvania pretzels.

The weather is overcast, and Melissa is sick. We don't plan on the Waterpark that day either. We walk around the park, and I convince Melissa and Michelle to go on one of the wooden roller coasters with me, The Comet. This is the mildest of all the coasters in the park, and they are apprehensive the entire time we are waiting on line.

They sit together in front of me, holding hands very tightly. I'm laughing and screaming the entire time, enjoying the ride, but knowing I will not go on anything else. I am again thinking to myself why I don't like heights.

It's at this point that Melissa tells me that Michelle didn't go on any coasters when she went on a school trip to Great Adventure in New Jersey. Michelle had said she did go on some. Now she admits she didn't. I'm thinking, "What are we doing here?" I've been through this nightmare once already, why do I have to repeat it.

Michelle and Melissa go on The Music Express. We've all been on this ride. It's a bunch of cars on a 40 degree or so angle that goes around and around at different speeds. They get on, laugh, scream and get off. Melissa then pukes into a bush. A perfect end to a perfect day, I'd say.

We go back to the hotel and relax a bit before going to dinner. When we got lost the previous day, we passed a diner called "The Soda Jerk Diner" in a little strip mall. So after asking about it at the front desk, we decided to try it.

"The Soda Jerk Dinner" has a cool 1950's ambiance. The food was average and the service was good. Our server, Jay, had a bunch of tattoos that fascinated the girls. Of course, they asked him about them. He first told them not to get any unless they were sure they had to do it, and never get any when drunk. Thanks for the advice Jay.

His stories were funny, sad and all true. One date he had on his arm was especially significant. It was 25 February 2010. This was the date he broke up with his girlfriend of 15 years; the day his dog died and the anniversary of his mother finding out she had skin cancer. The lesson learned here is this; don't ask a stranger the meaning of tattooed dates.

We go back to the hotel and by 10 pm, the girls are ready for sleep. I'm not. Michelle doesn't want to sleep with Melissa because she's sick. Marcy is with Melissa and Michelle is with me. Joy. Michelle throws elbows and kicks when she sleeps. I learned this in 2005 and hoped never to have to go through that again.

The lights go off. I'm tossing and turning on that hard bed. At some point during the night, Michelle elbows me. It's painful. I swear to whatever deity that this will never happen again.

We check out on Wednesday morning and I'm not in a good mood. I'm tired, and just want to go home. Marcy wants to stop at Hotel Hershey and we all say NO. She wants to stop at a winery. Again, we say, "No!" Someone offers an alternative, "How about the Crayola factory tour." "No," we say, "we want to go home!"

I had printed out directions from MapQuest and Marcy had them. Silly me, I didn't put the GPS on, as well. We miss the exit. After a potty break at a Wendys, I put on the GPS to get us to where we should be. Debbie, the kids named the GPS, put us on a road for about 20 miles to get us back on the main highway we should have taken. That was a long 20 miles, with many traffic lights.

Luckily, we didn't hit much traffic. It did rain lightly for a little while, but no down pours. The ride took us about 5 hours, an hour more than it took going.

We get home, have lunch, quickly unpack, do laundry and collapse. Daphne the cat finally comes out, not looking to happy. She hates when we go away. She'll ignore us for an hour or two and then be loving and stuff. Another female I have to deal with.

I vow now, in front of all my loyal readers, to never, ever to go this type of trip again where I have to drive more than two hours with 3 females in the car. At least they didn't ask every five minutes, "Are we there yet?"

Update: After much discussion with my wife, I wrote an email on the Best Western website, on a Saturday night, to their customer service. An automated reply arrived Sunday morning. A phone call, from the hotel, came the same afternoon. The front-desk manager called to apologize for our problems, at the hotel. He offered to credit us $133, half of what we paid for both nights. The hotel did the right thing by making the customer happy and now we may stay at another Best Western, again, but not in Hershey, PA.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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