Best Worst Vacation Ever
By Lorry Meyers
Determined to expose my husband and three children to a little culture, I planned a mini-vacation to St. Louis. The plan was to stroll through the art museum, immerse ourselves in the science center, stay along the riverfront, and eat somewhere that didn’t have a drive-through.
Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Well, Taylor whined about not going to a water park, Hilary begged to go to a shopping mall, and all Mariah wanted to do was go to Hobby Lobby. My husband, who had vacationed with these three before, just wanted to stay home.
“Oh come on,” I said with fake enthusiasm. “It will be fun.”
The first fun-filled day was full of arguing, complaining, and an invitation to leave the museum. Apparently, there was a no-touching policy. We ended up snarled in traffic, and then our car overheated in the parking lot of the St. Louis Science Center. A security guard pulled up when Randy lifted the hood and told us to leave. We hadn’t even been in.
Intent on shaking off yesterday and having some fun, we walked the next morning. A block from our hotel, we found a metro train station where a billboard of the mayor welcomed tourists to the city and offered a hotline should they encounter any problems. Underneath that billboard, the train schedule said we could hop on, hop off, hang out, and catch the train right back to where we were.
We managed to buy tickets from a vending machine and pondered the sign that reminded us to get them validated. Doesn’t the conductor do that?
The train doors opened, and Randy and the kids grabbed the first empty seat while I stumbled to the back for my own. When the train pulled out, the conductor slid through the door and began checking tickets, examining them with a flashlight. From the back of the car, I watched as the conductor snatched Randy’s tickets from his hand. The next thing I knew, the train stopped, the door opened, and the conductor kicked my family off the train.
After some shouting and a little pouting, I followed my family off the train. The conductor followed us and demanded identification. This man—with a wrinkled shirt and bad breath—informed us, bluntly, that riding the train illegally was illegal. I tried to explain that we’d paid for tickets but didn’t know they had to be validated before boarding. The irritated conductor, though, cut me off, and, looking at my license, asked: “Can you verify your weight?”
That was it! I was done with this vacation.
On the train ride back, our oldest child bragged about his mother making a grown man beg. The second child was embarrassed that her mother threatened to use the tourist hotline. And the youngest kept asking why daddy thought the conductor looked like he’d been hit by a train?
This was the worst vacation ever.
On the car ride home, the children were quiet, exhausted from the culture shock of the last two days. I looked at my dazed husband and knew Randy was wishing we had just stayed home.
All I wanted to do was expose my family to a little culture, but we’d been asked to leave every place we went. Apparently, culture wasn’t ready for us. My family isn’t perfect, but it is mine. I worried my children would believe that one bad vacation meant that we were bad, too. I didn’t want them to judge their childhood by overzealous security guards and a tired train conductor who never knew what hit him.
That, of course, is exactly what happened. Over the years, stories of this city vacation have been re-told over dinner tables and bonfires. Each child has her own detailed version, but their endings are always the same: Best. Vacation. Ever.