Sunday, September 11, 2005

COLUMN: Vacation Week

Hiya, chumps! How's the work week going? Is the 9-to-5 grind particularly challenging? Are you stressing out? Having a fun time wasting your life working for The Man?

I feel for ya. I really do. I will, in fact, feel for you while sitting in my living room recliner. I do this because, while you must soon put your newspaper down to get back to whatever good and/or service you help bring to the world, I will be deep in the heart of a well-deserved vacation week.

The sad truth, though: I'm certain that my brain will ruin it.

There's a horrible question that seems to pop up each and every time I get a week off from work, and the answer to that question can make or (usually) break the entire vacation: WHAT DO I DO WITH A WHOLE WEEK OFF?

Usually there are two answers to this question: I can either do (a) Something, or (b) Nothing. And, invariably, whichever I choose, I'll decide later that I should have done the other.

Let's imagine that I answered (a) and that I'm going to do Something on my vacation. This usually involves a trip someplace. In the past decade, I've taken roadtrips to Colorado, Cleveland, Canada, Memphis, and -- most recently -- Dallas. Loads of times, I've spent a full week in Chicago visiting friends. I might even occasionally make the journey to Galesburg to spend time with my oft-neglected family.

Usually these trips are a whole lot of fun. BUT -- and this is where the mental conundrum comes in -- the fun usually comes at a price. If I'm going on an official, get-the-suitcase-out-of-the-closet kind of trip, I try to make it worth my while -- and I try to do this by moving non-stop for an entire week. A normal vacation trip for me involves so many sights and sounds that, by the time I make my way back to work the next Monday, the only thing I can think about is how badly I need a vacation.

Then there's the other option: do Nothing. I've spent many a vacation week simply hangin' out. Staying in town, not doing anything productive, and just idly watching the world go by for a week. By the time I'm back at work, I'm fairly well-rested, sure, but I also feel like I've completely wasted what little time off I have every year. (And no, that's NOT a slam against the newspaper -- I get three weeks of vacation every year, which is more than a whole lot of people get. But, in the grand scheme of things, if I'm working 49 weeks out of the year, I wanna make those other 3 weeks COUNT!) Besides, who wants to answer the "So, what'd you do on your vacation" question with, "Umm... watched some TV?"

So, invariably, every vacation that I get sucks. If I do Something, I'll regret not doing Nothing. If I do Nothing, I'll be embarassed that I didn't do Something. Ergo, I might as well just stick around at work.

Happily, however, I'm not insane. I'd rather face this dilemma time and again than NOT have a vacation at all. And this time, I may have just found a compromise.

I'm staying in town for most of this vacation. That means I'm choosing Nothing. BUT... I figure that my nearly condemnable apartment could use a good once-over. So I'm going to spend my week cleaning, organizing, throwing stuff away, tidying, and generally fixing my life up a bit. That, by definition, is doing Something. And it just so happens that my favorite band is playing in Dekalb this week, so I'm going to take one day to go see them play.

I'll let you know if the Nothing/Something compromise pans out. In the meantime, though, I reeeeally want to stop writing. No offense, but I've got a vacation to get to.

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