A Change Of Pace Can Change Everything Else

, , , | Friendly | December 19, 2020

This is a story about my friend and her husband. [Husband]’s father came to the USA from Europe shortly before World War II. The family only had enough money to send one of their two (very) young sons and [Husband]’s dad was the younger one and he got to go along with his mother. They never saw the family again. [Husband] grew up without paternal grandparents as his grandmother died early on, and because she really didn’t know how to go about searching for them, no one knew what became of the family in Europe.

[Husband] is notorious for going on vacation and driving past restaurants, scenic views, and motels because “there might be something better around the bend.” [Friend] says they have sometimes done nothing but drive their whole vacation, and the conversation often goes like this:

Husband: “Gee, that looked like a nice restaurant. Too late to turn back now, though. There’s something better around the bend.”  

One day, they are on a trip through New England, looking for a place to stay the night, and [Husband] is driving along, doing his usual:

Husband: “Oh, oops, that looked like a good place, but we’ve passed it and it’s too late now.”  

They pass a place that looks very homey and cozy, and [Husband] makes his comment and keeps going. I have often wondered HOW they could go a whole week of vacation doing this, but [Friend] seems to think things are fine. They continue driving, and half an hour or more later:

Husband: “I can’t stop thinking about that last place. It’s like a place I’d really like to stay and it looked so inviting.”

And to [Friend]’s surprise, [Husband] turns the car around and goes back to the inn that is now about forty-five minutes away.

She sits in the car while he goes in to see about getting them rooms. And she sits and waits, then waits and sits. Then, she starts getting worried because [Husband] hasn’t come back yet.

FINALLY, almost half an hour later, he comes out.

Husband: “Come with me. You won’t believe it.”

I’m sure everyone can figure out where this is going, but to finish the story, [Husband] and the owner had the same very very unusual last name. They started talking and comparing notes… and [Husband] discovered that he was talking to one of his first cousins. Years after the war, his uncle had finally come to the US. The uncle couldn’t find a trace of his mother or brother, gave up the search, and settled down.

[Friend] said that they spent most of their vacation getting to know various members of [Husband]’s rediscovered family and having a great time doing so.  

Unfortunately, the experience never did — completely, at least — change [Husband]’s habit of driving on without stopping, but at least he had relatives to visit from then on.

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Who Does That?!

, , , , , | Friendly | November 28, 2020

My partner has a long-time friend that is difficult, to put it nicely. She hears that we are planning on visiting my niece’s baptism abroad, where we have booked a small flat.

Friend: “Great news! I just bought my plane ticket and am coming with you! You don’t really need a couch, so I’m sleeping on it.”

Me: “Sorry, that’s not a good idea. My family has planned out the entire three days fully, so we won’t have any time to spend with you. Both of us will even have to deal with work when we get home in the evenings. It’s going to be quite stressful, so it might be better if you book your own room and we meet up when we all are back.”

Friend: “Of course. I just want to spend some days abroad, and I’m happy to see you for a few minutes, should you ever be free. You won’t even notice I’m in the same city.”

Weeks later, we are abroad. After tearfully guilt-tripping my partner and bullying me, the friend takes over half of our flat.

The first evening:

Friend: “You are no fun at all! Why did you stay out until now? You promised to spend at least the evenings with me!”

Me: “No. If you are bored, you could make dinner or go for a walk while we finish work.”

Friend: “Alone? At almost midnight? Do you want me to get murdered?”

The second evening:

Friend: “Why didn’t you call all day? I could have joined you. Your family is mean and should be ashamed! If my child brought along a friend, I would invite them everywhere and pay for them!”

Me: “What if that friend rudely invited themselves? Besides, [Partner] told you that we are spending our own money, as is everyone else.”

Friend: “Whatever! [Partner] said that your family was throwing away money on this baptism, so I’m sure someone is paying for something! You said that you didn’t get to eat outside this flat yet, so whoever paid for lunch and dinner could have easily used what they saved on you on me instead. If [My Sibling] is rich enough to afford a child, they can certainly afford to invite me!”

Me: “I guess one of my old uncles might be interested. Are you really willing to prostitute yourself for some food in a cheap restaurant?”

Friend: “Don’t be ridiculous! I just think it’s a waste that you didn’t eat anything. I would have enjoyed two lavish meals with your family instead of suffering through my day all alone, again, thanks to your selfishness!”

Me: “Do you think I didn’t want to eat? I wish they had picked a restaurant with any food that fit my dietary restrictions. But I’m not going to whine about it and ruin my family’s holiday.”

Friend: “Of course not, but that’s your own fault. I hate cold vegetables and vinegar, so I exactly know what to do whenever I’m served something wrong. Just order any dish that sounds good, and if it doesn’t look or smell tasty, make them remove whatever you don’t want to eat or are allergic to. If I behaved recklessly like you and skipped a meal, I would actually die from starvation, since I’m slender.”

The third evening:

Friend: “You both have made nothing but salad for three days in a row now! Why can’t you cook anything I like? The whole flat reeks of vinegar. I’m going for a walk!”

A year later, the baptism of my sibling’s next child comes up.

Friend: “When are you going abroad again?”

Partner: “Sometime around the first week of June. And no, please don’t even think about joining us, not after last time’s drama!”

We had a very peaceful and relaxing family holiday in May. The friend did not enjoy her weekend away in June.

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What A Strange Salad

, , , , , , , | Related | November 3, 2020

My uncle is relatively nearsighted. Our two brothers both inherited my dad’s stocky build but my mom’s fair and easily sunburned complexion, while the older brother also inherited Dad’s thick crop of chest and back hair. My sister and my uncle are hanging out on the beach on a family vacation.

Uncle: “I can see your family out there in the water, but I can’t tell which one is which.”

Sister: “Oh, that’s easy.” *Points at youngest brother* “Tomato.” *Points at older brother* “Hairy tomato.” *Points at Dad* “Bear.”

And that is how new family nicknames are born.

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Ghastly Miscommunications

, , , , , , , | Working | September 17, 2020

One vacation, we arrived at our hotel to find out that they had way overbooked their property and had “walked” dozens of guests to another property owned by the same property group on the other side of the city. We weren’t happy but we rolled with it. 

Unfortunately, this required us to contact all of our tour excursions and have them reallocate our pickup points to be closer to our new hotel. For the most part, this went well, but one company had some issues.

We walked to the pickup point at another nearby hotel for a nighttime tour, and we waited. No one arrived. As this occurred in the pre-smartphone, pre-international roaming cell phone era, we asked the hotel there if we could use their phone to call the tour company, but they did not answer the phone since it was outside of daytime business hours.  

Fortunately, the hotel had an awesome concierge who was familiar with the tour company, and even though we were not guests at his hotel, he tracked down the dispatcher for the company and assured us that we would be picked up soon. He was correct, and shortly a minibus with two other ladies on board arrived along with a harried-looking driver. The only problem was that we weren’t on his schedule, and while we had booked the ghost walk tour, the other two ladies had booked a pub crawl. The tour company had apparently never put the tour we booked onto their roster, and they had never told us when we contacted them about the new hotel or contacted us on the new number we gave them.

So, with the cooperation of his four passengers, the tour guide commenced to go completely off-script and concocted an ad-hoc haunted pub crawl. The tour actually turned out really well in the end thanks to the awesome tour guide, but I’ll never book another tour through that booking company — nor have I ever booked with the original hotel group again.

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Two’s Company, The Whole Family Tree’s A Crowd

, , , , , , | Romantic | September 8, 2020

Shortly after finishing college, a boy I am dating invites me to spend a week in New York City with his family. It falls over our three-year anniversary, so he promises to take me out for a fancy dinner.

I am so excited! I pack a suitcase and drive to his house, expecting to see their minivan packed with bags and everyone getting ready to go. What I see, instead, is a bunch of vehicles parked in the yard and a bunch of people going back and forth between the house and the largest vehicles — mostly two fifteen-passenger vans.

My boyfriend comes out to greet me. 

Boyfriend: *Sheepishly* “Hey. Uh, so, you can say you don’t want to go if you don’t. I totally get it.”

Me: “What is… I thought this was a family thing?”

Boyfriend: “Yeah, but then [One Of His Brothers] found out you were going, so he wanted to take his girlfriend. And [Aunt] and [Uncle] wanted to come, but they have to bring their kids. It kind of… blew up?”

I nod, slowly taking it all in.

Me: “Uh-huh. So, how does this change things up there? Our reservations are for your immediate family and me.”

Boyfriend: “Yeah, well, we’ll have our own room, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

It is, but I don’t want to say so because it seems shallow to not want to share a hotel room when I’m invited on a trip.

Me: “Okay, well, I already took off work, so I might as well go, right?”

The trip was an absolute disaster. We did not get our own room — even though we paid for it by ourselves — because the hotel was completely booked and the added family members didn’t want to stay elsewhere; we ended up sharing our room with his aunt and uncle and their three children. I’m pretty sure it was against policy to have seven people in a room that sleeps four but they never got caught and never offered to split the cost of the room, either.

We also never got our anniversary dinner date because his brother and girlfriend wanted to do a double date and wouldn’t take no for an answer; it later came out that they wanted to get away from their annoying, clingy family members. The irony escaped them.

My boyfriend was truly sorry and did his best to make it up to me when we got back. We dated for a while after that, but when the next family trip came around, I made my own bookings in my own name and put my foot down on sharing.

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