Terrible trips can make the best stories
Trip horror stories better in retelling
"It was the worst trip ever," my daughter told me after she got back from a long weekend with her boyfriend. "Everything went wrong."
In four days, they got locked out of their hotel room. Their favorite restaurant was closed. A night at a friend's house was so cold that they were shivering. A stone cracked the windshield. He got feverishly sick. A police officer thought their car looked like a stolen vehicle and blocked them in at a gas station. Rain poured for days.
And they were in coastal California, usually the most beautiful, mellow place in the world.
"We must have done something really bad to deserve such terrible luck," my daughter, 26, said, sounding like a medieval villager looking for the reason she got the plague.
But it got me wondering.
Are some trips truly doomed from the start? Epic lines at the airport? Canceled trains or cruises? Missed connections or lost baggage?
Do you ever feel like a trip is cursed?
Does it seem as if some trips are payback in bad karma for that test you flunked, that dope you smoked, that pen you stole, that swear word you uttered?
I don't scan my karma before a trip. But I do rely on three factors when making a decision about whether to go.
First, if I am sick enough to be in bed, I go home or cancel the trip right away.
Years ago, I came down with strep throat and a 105-degree fever the first day of vacation in Fort Lauderdale. I tried to pretend everything was fine – until I fainted at breakfast and had to be taken by ambulance to Broward County Memorial Hospital, where they monitored me anxiously until a far more interesting case came in the door – a diver with the bends – and they released me with a stash of antibiotics.
I should have flown home immediately. Instead, my husband dragged me around for the next five days, pretending he was having a jolly time, which he was not. And I kept trying to act healthy, which I was not.
Being a good sport is not the best policy when you're battling a 105-degree fever.
The second factor is weather. It doesn't matter if you are museum-hopping, but if you're supposed to be at the beach, which my daughter was, and the forecast is for 50 degrees and nonstop rain, which it was, cut the trip short. Call it a day.
The third factor is, well, your gut. Sometimes, you just get a feeling that things are about to go haywire – then they do.
If you feel as if this is the day the police will mistake the family car for a stolen vehicle, trust your instinct.
Of course, a vacation where everything goes horribly wrong can be hilarious in retrospect and bond a couple for decades – if it doesn't break them up first.
In fact, I did try the line on my daughter that someday, she would laugh about her bad trip.
"Remember the time we stayed at the 'sugar shack' in Cape Cod?" I prodded her, remembering a horrible shack in a dumpy neighborhood our family had to endure one year while the rest of the relatives stayed in a mansion-like spread on the ocean.
"Remember that time in Paradise?" she said, brightening a bit, recalling four teenage girls swatting giant Upper Peninsula black flies at the beach, feuding among themselves and wishing they were anywhere except with Mom and Dad. "Oh my God, that was a terrible trip."
"Yep," I said, smiling at the memory.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org