I've had my fair share of bad vacations, mostly when I was a kid and had little control over where we were going, how we were going to get there, or who would be traveling with us, and as you'll see, little control of my bladder. For instance, there was the time that my mom kept getting on my nerves and my thirteen-year-old self finally gave in to the urge to tell her to "Shut the fuck up!", meaning that there would be no goofy golf in Gatlinburg for me that night. Or the time my dad ran off the road into a west Tennessee ditch, the car spinning and my dad uttering words that I'd never heard in those pre-HBO days, one of which I would use again a few years later to get my mom off my back.
But the absolute worst vacation moment for me came courtesy of my now deceased grandmother. After spending a week on the road with my grandparents when I was ten, visiting such sites as Memphis and Little Rock and finally Nashville, we were on our way to Birmingham to visit a bunch of relatives who had gathered at my aunt's apartment to welcome our arrival. Apparently running late, my grandmother, always the driver so that my grandfather could criticize her skills all the while chain smoking Salems and doing crosswords, decided that she could not stop to allow me to rid myself of the Slushie I'd been treated to earlier that morning as reward for being a good little traveler. "It ain't much further," she'd say in her most kind, grandmotherly voice, sincere as she could be yet probably knowing that it was a 50-50 proposition at best that I'd be able to hold back the Slushie. After hearing that about five times, I began a devolution of sorts, going from the mild-mannered kid sitting in the backseat of the gold Oldsmobile Cutlass enjoying the secondhand smoke and the Marty Robbins 8-track, to a hyperactive caged hyena pacing back and forth, tongue hanging from my mouth willing and ready to bite my arm off if needed just to free myself from this trap, to a kicking donkey, hopping up and down in the backseat, braying his hee-haws of "how much further, how much further!" only to be met with those same "ain't much"s.
To a flounder swimming in his own water.
I can't really put into words the thoughts that went through my mind when I realized that I would have to face all of my cousins, most of them my age or a little older, cousins who lived to make fun of other cousins, to find a weakness and exploit. Thanks to my relatively new pair of Wrangler jeans there would be no hiding my "going problem" from them and because there was only one way into the apartment and a horde of aunts waiting there to hug and kiss and be aunts, I had no place to hide. And in the end there would be no convincing them that I spilled a drink, a Slushie perhaps, because the whole event caused quite an argument between my grandparents, one that followed us inside where my grandfather would berate my grandmother for not stopping to let the boy pee. "See what happens, Annie Jean?" Indeed.
It would be the last time I would vacation with my grandparents.