Tuesday, April 07, 2015

COLUMN: Staycation

When it comes to following trends, I'm usually a step or two behind. I'd like to think it's because I'm a strong, assertive, independent person who makes his own rules. A leader, not a follower. I march to the beat of a different drum.

Of course, the truth is that I'm only bad at following trends because I'm usually so wrapped up in my own head that I often don't even know what the trends ARE until they're already yesterday's news. Let's face it, the only reason I march to the beat of a different drum is because I usually show up too late to get the sheet music.

The older I get, the less I seem to care about fads -- and for someone like me who's meticulously built a life identity around the mass consumption of pop culture, this is a hard pill to swallow. I don't want to morph into some out-of-touch fuddy-duddy who's set in his ways, but hey, sometimes I like my ways just fine the way they are. For instance, I have no idea what makes yogurt "Greek," and I'm in no hurry to find out. Your kids might listen to dubstep, but it's the first modern music trend that's made me legitimately want to yell "turn that racket down!" I prefer to hold music and movies in my hand rather than on a cloud somewhere in the ethers of cyberspace.

But all hope is not lost. I can still latch onto a trend and take it for the occasional test drive. I know this because I recently participated in a trend so hip and modern that it didn't even make it into a dictionary until 2009. I'm hip and I'm happening and I know this because I just took a STAYCATION. That's right -- while you chumps were at work last week, I was spending a glorious no-expenses-paid five days and five nights at the luxurious House of Shane in scenic Rock Island, Illinois.

Oh, and it pretty much sucked.

I really DID need a break. Normally, I'm one of those weirdos who loses unused vacation time at the end of each year simply because I forget to take it. I'm far from a workaholic, don't get me wrong. But if I'm not roadtripping or planning something fun, what's the point of taking time off? I'd rather keep those vacation days handy in case of emergency. Thankfully, my life tends to be emergency-free. But last week, I needed to unwind.

Unwinding is supposedly the central theory behind a STAY-cation. Grandiose trips and global adventure can be massive amounts of fun, but they aren't exactly free from stress (just ask the look that was permanently plastered on my dad's face throughout most of our family trips.) Spending a plan-free week at home sounded like the perfect opportunity to relax and maybe knock out a couple of projects around the house. In retrospect, though, I'm now convinced that "staycation" is just a word invented by people too lazy or broke to take a real vacation.

Here's how I spent mine:

Monday morning was a great feeling, sleeping in without a care in the world. Here it was, a whole week to do whatever I... (Ring. Ring.) "Hello? What's that? Oh, hi, Mom. You and Dad want to come up for a visit? Tomorrow? Of course I'd love to see you! Nooooo, it's not a bother..." I love my parents, I really do. They spoil me rotten and they always have my back. I enjoy spending time with them. I would just prefer if that time were spent anywhere other than the interior of my house.

For a bachelor, I don't think I do too bad a job at keeping my house tidy. As long as the trash ends up in the trash within 24-48 hours of it becoming trash, I consider it a win. But my version of tidy and my MOM's version of tidy are a wee bit different. So my first day of relaxing Staycation 2015 was spent shopping for cleaning products, scrubbing floors, suctioning up cat hair, and trying to remember NOT to mix the bleach stuff with the ammonia stuff together. By the time it was done, you could gag on all the springtime freshness... but Monday was wasted.

Tuesday morning was a great feeling... until I remembered that my parents were arriving any minute. The whole morning was spent spot-checking the house and trying to look comfortable in such an unnervingly tidy setting. Eventually they arrived, we had a nice visit, and I'm pretty sure the house even passed the Mom inspection. But Tuesday was wasted.

Wednesday morning was a great feeling, sleeping in without a care in the world... until I realized I'd overslept to the point of giving myself a headache. My plan was to get out and explore the Quad Cities. After all, there's an entire nine-to-five world out there that I usually miss out on while I'm at work. My first stop was Best Buy. I walked in looking for a movie to watch later that night. I walked out with a Playstation 4. I'm not quite sure how it happened.

Some guys hit a mid-life crisis and buy a sports car. In comparison, a video game system is a far more fiscally responsible choice, which is what I've been trying to tell myself all week. I called a friend and told him to stop by after work for some full-scale immature geekery. Then I turned the thing on and realized I needed to download an upgrade. It came bundled with a free game, except the game wasn't actually THERE. Instead, it was hanging out on a cloud (grr). Estimated download time? 6.5 hours. Instead of geeking out, we spent most of the evening staring at a progress bar: 20%... 21%... 22%... And so Wednesday was wasted.

Thursday morning was a great feeling, sleeping in without a care in the world. Except that I was super bored and kinda yearning for something to care about. Instead, I opted for binge-watching Netflix until nightfall. Curse you, Gilmore Girls. Eventually, at 10 p.m., I gave myself a stern mental lecture about wasted opportunity and set out to hang with some friends. Minutes later, I was in a packed club. Minutes after THAT, I was back home. It turned out the only friends I wanted to hang out with that day were, in fact, the Gilmore Girls. And so Thursday was wasted.

Friday morning was an awful feeling, realizing it was the last day I could sleep in without a care in the world. Except that I had a DJ gig that night, and I still needed to do lots of prep work. Ergo, my final day of staycation was spent downloading and organizing music, until I had to leave for the gig, where I had a girl actually come up at one point and request that I stop playing so that she could hear the jukebox. Ouch.

The final stats if you're keeping score:

Total number of projects around the house completed: 0
Total money wasted on a stupid video game system: too much.
Total number of Gilmore Girls episodes watched: 27.
Total number of days before my house got messy again: 2.

Staycations are for the birds. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some Greek yogurt to try 'cause I'm trendy like that.

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