Spring break. It neither happens during spring (if one goes by the vernal equinox), nor is it a break. Yet, each year, I vainly expect both.
I want a warm respite that leaves me fulfilled and rested, a vacation for my body and soul where I somehow manage to finish the rest of my work for the semester. So each year, I pack sunglasses and a back of books with the best intentions: I will sit on the beach reading “Faust.” Really. I will drink pina coladas while analyzing Proust. No problem.
Surprisingly, I have yet to get a tan or get ahead. I call it the “Spring Break Curse” — the weather gods unite to dash the hopes of drunk college kids (at least those who were too cheap to go to Jamaica) by causing 60 degree cloudy weather on the beaches of America. For three years now, I’ve traveled to South Padre Island, Texas, a popular beach destination close to my hometown, expecting an island paradise of sin. And in fact, it is Sin City — just the grainy black-and-white Frank Miller film where it rains all the time (though thankfully, no one’s body parts got eaten by Elijah Wood).
My dreams of soaking up the sun at home, a mere hour from the beach, are interrupted by words like “unexpected cold front,” “tropical storm,” or “America’s Next Top Model Marathon.” (Why sit outside shivering in a swimsuit when I can sit inside laughing at girls in swimsuits?)
Even with a meteorological impetus towards academic pursuits, I avoid schoolwork like the plague. I find every possible excuse to avoid the few tasks I’ve brought home. My dogs have never been walked more, and by the end of break scurry away with a whimper whenever they see me coming with a leash.
I play dress-up.
I basically become a half-rate Stepford Wife just to avoid any type of actual thought. My mother is impressed with my meringues, but continually asks if I have any “school work.” I pretend not to hear her by vacuuming my carpet in heels.
I shoulder the blame for accomplishing nothing, but I place the blame for needing a break after break on another set of shoulders: those of the airline industry. I am trapped in those gleaming capsules of intolerance we call airplanes for what seems like days. Every flight is delayed. At the beginning and end of my so-called vacation, I am surrounded by people whom I would normally not be within 500 yards of. Yet I am strapped in next to them, for hours on end, held hostage by the “fasten seat belt” sign and threats of turbulence. Crying babies and screaming children are the least of my worries — I have an iPod and a decent capacity for shrill noise (thank you, fellow Theater Studies majors).
I am talking about those seemingly innocuous folks who turn out to be the spawn of Satan halfway through the flight, perhaps after you’ve already shared pretzels and life stories. Case in point: the family that traveled in front of me on my way back to school. They seem normal enough: two teenagers flying with their father. I happened to be seated next to them after the flight attendant asked me to switch seats with the son. He was carrying on an adorable dog that had to be put underneath a seat but was sitting in the first row without a chair in front of him.
I thought, “Sure! What a cute dog! What a cute family!”
What a mistake.
As soon as I switched, trapped against the window with the daughter on my right and her father on the aisle, I was surprised by their lack of appreciation.
“She has a bag! Why doesn’t she have to put it under the seat?” rasped Beelzebub’s spawn.
(It’s called the overhead compartment, bro. Would you rather have Lassie shut up in there for three hours or allow me to keep my bag at my feet?)
Still, I chalked up the family’s general lack of chill to a long travel day. They, like me, had been delayed for hours. It was only then that I saw the flames beneath the surface. Immediately, the daughter and her father launch into a discussion about drug use and how wrong it is. I saw the D.A.R.E ads when I was a kid, so I’m fine with this.
But then logic headed to Cancun, leaving the village idiot guarding the daughter’s brain.
“I think that anyone who takes drugs should just buy a gun instead,” the little twit said. “They are just cowards who don’t have enough courage to kill themselves so they pay other people to do it for them. I want to buy every drug user a gun so that they can just blow their brains out.”
I sat in shock until I heard cheering behind me. Her brother stood to give his sister a high-five while their father laughed. It would have been a touching family moment were it not for the McVeigh-esque undertones. I barely suppressed the vomit rising in my throat. Thank god for those white paper bags.
The family then proceeded to hurl expletives and insults at the flight attendant giving the safety demonstration in front of the plane. Granted, we’ve all seen this little routine, and everybody pretends to be asleep for the buckling of the seat belt finale, but please! There’s no need to yell “Shut up!” or “Sit the f– down” at a person two feet away from you who is just doing his job.
I suppose it’s no surprise then with weather, procrastination and airplanes, coming back to school feels like more of a break than spring break. Still, I know that next year, in the cold, cruel, real world, I’ll miss vacations like these, when it was so sunny and I was so productive.
Susan Posluszny maintains that she doesn’t have trust issues, but insists on sitting in the emergency aisle.