Holidays are generally regarded, I think it’s fair to say, as opportunities to relax. When this relaxation can be coupled with guaranteed warm weather, this is regarded as a plus.
But do we really think about the effect holidays have on us?
Let me say at the outset that Captiva Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, is a lovely place that I would return to time and again if I could do so by pressing a button. But is it worth the hassle of getting there and back?
I am the kind of person who can envisage snags vividly. I subscribe heartily to Murphy’s Law – “If anything can go wrong, it will” – even though experience misleadingly shows that it sometimes doesn’t.
The list of problems with foreign holidays is endless. First, you have to book flights. Getting this right requires close calculation, which can easily go wrong. When do we need to get to the airport? What is the chance of a major hold-up on the motorway? Quite high. Should we stay the night near the airport, or travel on the day? Should we book seats, and if so, which ones?
The filling in of forms goes on and on, and still you are uneasy. What if you’ve made a mistake with the visa waiver?
If a connecting flight is necessary, the potential for disaster increases exponentially. Our recent holiday to Captiva included a change at Dallas, and we had two hours to do carry this out. Ample? You might think so. Unfortunately, British Airways were well over an hour late leaving Heathrow (checking the engines, they said reassuringly) and made up no time in the air.
Still no problem, you might think. Except that the passport control queue in Dallas is ten miles long, you have to collect your luggage yourself and transfer it to American Airlines – and your connecting flight departs from a different terminal.
Murphy’s Law triumphs. All right, we got a free night in a quite nice hotel, free supper and free breakfast. But no sleep, and I had to cancel a hotel in a different state and let the car hire company know what was going on.
In the morning the flight on to which we had been transferred the previous night left from a different gate and a different terminal from the one promised. Luckily, the hotel had an updated list, and I spotted it.
At Fort Myers – a nice little airport – we simply had to pick up the hire car. But the company we’d chosen was not one of those with desks in the car rental building. What to do? Re-read the form I’d downloaded from the Internet and discover that our car company was using a different name, but it was still not where it should be. We enquired at one of the less busy desks and discovered there was a booth round the back of the car park, from which a shuttle ran to an office ten minutes away. Nice. Almost intuitive.
From there, everything went smoothly – and it went smoothly on the way back, if you ignore the fact that airline economy seats are designed for contortionist dwarfs. Unfortunately, being the sort of person I am, I spent most of the holiday worrying that Murphy would intervene, and it wouldn’t go smoothly. And snapping at people.
Most of the week after our return was spent trying to catch up on lost sleep.
I would undoubtedly have been far more relaxed if it had never happened. But of course I would have missed the pelicans.