Discover ... Your House

by Dave Barry


Summer vacation season is here, and if you have kids, you know what that means! It's time to put them up for adoption.

No, sorry. I mean it's time to plan your family vacation. This is your chance to escape "the daily grind" and spend quality time with your children, finding out what's new in their lives, what's on their minds, whether they've been arrested, etc. At night, after they fall asleep, you can check them for tattoos.

But where should you go for your vacation this year? According to the Association of Travel Agents Currently Starving To Death, the two most popular vacation destinations for Americans have historically been: 1) domestic, and 2) foreign. Which is right for you? While many Americans are worried about traveling abroad, the fact is that, statistically, your chances of surviving a foreign vacation are well over 50 percent, as long as you follow the State Department's Travel Guidelines for U.S. Citizens:

Avoid risky areas such as Asia, Europe, South America, Africa, Canada and Mexico.

Do not touch anything.

Do not breathe too much.

Do not draw attention to the fact that you are American. Periodically, remark in a loud voice: "Our English is excellent, when you consider the fact that we are not Americans!"

Try to "blend in" with the native population by: 1) weighing as little as possible; 2) smoking cigarettes; 3) not tipping; 4) not standing around frowning in total bafflement at street maps the size of tennis courts; 5) not asking the tour guide questions like: "Does this museum have a bigger Mona Lisa?"

So maybe this would be a good year to take your family vacation right here in the United States. The most popular type of domestic vacation, of course, is the tremendously long car trip to a place that your children will find hideously boring because none of their friends are there.

Along the way, the whole family can enjoy the natural beauty and infinite variety of the interstate highway system ("Look, kids! This exit has McDonald's AND Wendy's!"). Dad and Mom can share the driving chores, as follows: Dad will start out at the wheel, then Mom will take over as soon as Dad suffers a fatal heart attack. Even then, Dad may not release his grip on the wheel; it may have to accompany him into his casket. Because Dad is a male, and males are very reluctant to relinquish control over vehicles. The real reason why the captain of the Titanic went down with the ship was his fear that, at the last minute, his wife would take the helm.

TRUE FACT: In south Florida, where I live, it's not uncommon among elderly retiree couples for the man to continue driving even after his vision has declined to the level of an eggplant. I have personally ridden in cars driven by men who could not, from a distance of 20 feet, distinguish between a locomotive and Britney Spears. These men navigate by following instructions from their wives ("OK, Harry, get ready to turn . . . OK, now turn . . . No, the OTHER way . . ." CRASH). Only the fact that they never exceed 9 mph prevents these tandem-driving couples from penetrating their 1987 Oldsmobiles deep enough into convenience stores to harm innocent pedestrians.

But getting back to your family vacation: If you don't want to drive to your destination, you can take a plane. The bad news is, the airlines are losing money and have been forced to "cut corners":

-- United Airlines, in an effort to reduce fuel costs on its New York-to-California flights, is actually flying passengers only as far as Pittsburgh, which United points out is "less than four days from Los Angeles by taxi."

-- Delta Airlines flight attendants now pass through the aisles during flights requesting "voluntary donations" from passengers "so we can turn the engines back on."

-- American Airlines has laid off its higher-paid veteran pilots, although the airline insists that all of the replacement pilots are, to use the airline's term, "human."

So, OK, maybe you shouldn't go anywhere for vacation this year. Maybe you should just stay home, you and your kids, "hanging out," hour after quality hour. It'll be tons of fun! Until they escape.






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