“Pool Closed Until Further Notice.” That’s what the sign said. Our three children, my wife and I, all huddled around the sign with wide mouths, our towels hanging in one hand and a beach bag full of goggles and water missiles and squirt guns in the other.
We had checked in at the hotel just ten minutes earlier, strolling by the indoor pool window and smiling as another family laughed and splashed together. But now it was vacant. Pool closed? What the hell happened in just ten minutes? Okay, my kids were present, so it was more the sanitized “What the heck happened?”, but it’s the thought that counts. Dark storm, rain on me.
It had been a rough week already–the story for most of us anymore, isn’t it? Which is why my family likes to get away, even if only to the next town for a one-nighter. It doesn’t cost much, it feels like a vacation, and it’s just fun to stay at a hotel, go out to eat, stay up late in bed watching movies together, and…swim at the pool.
Being duped numerous times by the impressive Internet marketing efforts of the hotel industry and their embellished website photos displaying beautiful pool rooms, hot tubs, fresh towels, the Allsmiles Family, and all the fun you’re gonna have, etc., I had called ahead this time to confirm that one, they had a pool; two, the pool was bigger than a bathtub; and three, the pool was open. The main event for this mini-adventure was to swim in the pool. We would even skip the restaurant and force down cheap pimento-loaf sandwiches in the hotel room if it bought an extra hour in the pool.
Pool. Closed. The sign was mocking us now. God, c’mon…really? One little blessing. Just one little joy. That’s all I had asked. The kids need this. Sarah needs this. And I need this.
With sad faces and heavy hearts, Sarah and the kids walked back to the elevator. I exhaled my frustration and walked toward the front desk.
“So what’s the deal with the pool?” I faked a smile.
“Our maintenance guy has another emergency and can’t get here,” said the manager, avoiding eye contact.
“Will the pool be open tonight?”
“We’re trying to get someone out here, but the pool will probably be closed for at least twenty-four hours,” he said, still bouncing his eyes between the computer screen and a stack of paper. The guy was obviously withholding something, and we didn’t have twenty-four hours.
“I called this morning and you guys said the pool was open. That’s the whole reason we chose this hotel.” Blood was rushing to my ears.
The manager stopped his shuffling and looked to his right and his left. He leaned forward and said in a hushed tone, “Sir, I’m really sorry. A child just vomited in the pool, so it needs to be thoroughly disinfected.”
Son of a gun. One of those kids just yarked in the pool. Our pool. Thanks, other family, for ruining my family’s weekend. Thanks, other family, for infecting our chlorinated blue lagoon with (WARNING: excessive adjective alert) yellow, mucousy, acidic, orange-chunk-ridden soup upchucked from the gut of your sick child. Thanks.
Why does this always happen to us? Why does this always happen to me? Hi, I’m Clark W. Griswold. I’m a target for all things crap. Ever feel that way?
With barely any flip left in my flop, I trudged back to the room to share the news. On our previous attempt for a getaway, I opted for a cheaper hotel to save money. That bought us a dirty room and an outdoor three-man pool nestled between two parking spaces (remember the impressive website photos?). Nice going, Dad. This time I spent the cash for the nicer place, and I still couldn’t win.
I stood outside the door and listened. I could hear bathing suits being shed and repacked, suitcases zipping, and television channels flipping. Beyond that, no conversations.
Before opening the door, I thought about the words I’m always telling my children, phrases like “Count your blessings” and “Make the best of it,” or “It could be worse” and “At least we’re all together.” Oh, and let’s not forget “At least the room doesn’t smell like smoke!”
The words usually seem to pass unimpeded through their little heads, but I know someday they’ll be standing outside of this hotel room with the same bad news, or their family vacation will be cut short when the car breaks down on the interstate, or any number of incidents I like to call Griswold Moments. Someday, I thought–hoped, rather–the words will prevail over the harsh truth of disappointments in their own lives.
I said a little prayer. I forgave that other family for ruining my weekend. Actually, I forgave myself for denying them a Griswold Moment–we’re all entitled. And I told myself Brock, it starts with you–make the best of it. I opened the door.
All four of them were seated on the double beds, watching television, waiting for me, and to my surprise still wearing bathing suits.
“Sorry guys. Pool’s closed. And it ain’t gonna be opening,” I said in my native Midwestern twang.
“Daddy, we can still swim in the hot tub!” said our 11 year-old daughter, always looking for the positive.
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s so small,” I replied, “plus it’s cold outside and the water will be too hot to stay in very long. And it’s probably closed, too.”
“We can ask the manager!” she said, reaching for the phone.
“Yeah, Dad, we can still swim!” said our youngest son, jumping from one bed to the other. “Let’s make the best of it!”
For the next thirty minutes, we soaked in 100 degree bubbling water on the hotel’s back patio, with a mountain view and a brisk air temperature of 42 degrees. We floated, we fired water missiles, we shot each other with squirt guns. We made the best of it.
Do you have any Griswold Moments that you’d like to share? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it.