Christmas vacation: wet T-shirts, sunburn, nausea
As my wife Kara and I discussed regarding our Christmas “can’t-carry-over-our- vacation-to-2009” trip to Cancún, Mexico, with a group of friends over dinner, our friend Anna warned us against bringing anything over the Transportation Security Administration-regulated 3.5 ounces of sunscreen.
“My friend had a half-full four-ounce container, and they made her throw the whole thing away,” she said.
We all gasped in horror. Sunscreen protects all of us, but who will protect the sunscreen?
Eventually, the conversation made its way to more esoteric regulatory issues.
“Are you allowed to wear gel inserts in your shoes when you fly?” someone asked. “What if they have too much gel in them?”
This brought the mental image of a TSA agent holding up his hand before allowing you through the X-ray machine. “Hold on. Federal aviation regulations require me to ask,” the agent would say. “Are you gellin’?”
If you didn’t get that joke because you haven’t seen the annoying-by-design Dr. Scholl’s commercials for gel inserts, then you can consider yourself on the winning end of that particular bargain.
Before Kara settled on Cancún as a destination, thanks to one of those elusive last-minute travel deals, I’d been thinking that maybe we’d go somewhere closer, like a nearby truck stop to check out the jerky selection. The only thing I knew about Cancún was that we, as a nation, send all of our obnoxious college students there every spring to get rid of them for a week.
Apparently, though, people plan vacations to Cancún for reasons other than a proclivity towards wet T-shirt contests. Kara signed us up for tours of various natural and manmade attractions, including the ancient Mayan temple Chichen Itza, which I had heard of before, but always thought was some kind of snack cracker, like a distant relative of the Cheez-It.
So we pulled the trigger, and shortly after landing in Cancún, we found ourselves in an endlessly snaking line of tourists trying to sneak in a vacation before the holidays, creaking along with our roller bags and waiting to show our passports. Beside the line hung a huge and strategically placed billboard, which I had time to memorize down to the pixel, advertising the local Outback Steakhouse. Really, that’s why most people come to Mexico in the first place: to eat the authentic faux-Australian American food. Then they go to Switzerland to see if they can find any decent Hershey bars.
As of this writing (my deadline was hours ago, but an editor’s physical threats are not nearly as scary when viewed from behind a margarita glass), we’ve been in Cancún for just over 24 hours, and it didn’t take nearly that long to understand why so many people come here. The weather has been perfect, the people we’ve met have been welcoming and the natural surroundings are beautiful to the point of approaching surrealism. When traveling, though, I always try to find something to whine about, so that I can feel better about where I live after returning home. It’s a defense mechanism, like rationalization or a loaded gun.
If you need a reason to justify living in Philadelphia, to keep scraping your windshield when people in warmer climates are scraping the bottom of their piña coladas and worrying about whether they’ve evenly applied their sunscreen, let me offer you this phrase: year ‘round mosquitoes. Today, I’m pretty sure that I picked up a nice new coffee mug for the kitchen and a Mexican drugstore over-the-counter treatment for malaria.
Even so, a little fever, nausea and bowel revolution might be worth it. We’ve never before tried to fit a vacation in during the Christmas-to-New-Year week, but so far this one has been a great success. I’ve seen lots of great slogans on T-shirts like: “There are two theories to arguing with women; neither one works.” and “If you don’t ride a camel, then you ain’t Shiite.”
I have lots of sand in my bathing shorts; my sunburns are no higher than second-degree so I haven’t lost too many layers of skin from my face; it’s fun to watch the college girls bouncing up and down while playing volleyball on the beach; we have not had to see any of the extreme poverty for which Mexico is so famous; we get to see all those great American “reality shows” on TV, and we still do not exhibit any fatal traces of Montezuma’s Revenge. But I still think I deserved to place higher in the wet T-shirt contest. My nipples are prominent enough to see even underneath a dry T-shirt.
Ed. Note: In addition to suffering for his craft, Mike Todd enjoys words that get an entirely new definition with the addition of just one letter. For example, “Cashtration” is the act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time; “Hipatitis” is like being really cool, man; “Osterpornosis” is a degenerate disease, to put it mildly; “Glibido” is all talk and no action; “Sarchasm” is the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it; and “Caterpallor” is the color you turn after finding some bugs in the food you’re eating.