A friend of mine at work recently left for a vacation that will see him without an Internet connection for a few days. We were discussing the fact that we thought that should be OK and then we started talking about how it’s almost like you’re never not connected these days. There was a time when being on vacation meant being out of touch, even with family. My mother used to take my brother and I and her parents to a cottage on Lake Erie every summer for two weeks. During that time, she called my dad once or twice. “I’ll be on a train” “I’ll be on a plane” “I’ll be on vacation” all used to be synonymous with “you ain’t gonna be hearin from me.”
The first summer I worked at Peat Marwick, my best friend John asked me if I had any vacation plans. I told him where I was going. He said:
“That sounds like fun, but when anybody here asks you where you are going, say ‘camping’. If you tell them where you’re really going, they will chase you down.”
Then he told me about being flown by private plane from Nantucket to Hartford for a 2-hour meeting.
Later that year, I had to travel to Sevier, North Carolina. It’s a place, you can look it up. Given the temperature and humidity during that trip, I recall thinking that it was aptly named. Anyway, I was flying US Air and I had to change planes in Pittsburgh. Back in the early ‘80s, you could delay your connecting flight as long as you wanted. Since I was leaving NC on Thursday afternoon, I delayed my connection to Hartford until Sunday night so I could visit my parents on the cheap.
I had left my luggage at the hotel, so I could change out of my suit before flying home – you know, to get into vacation mode. When I returned to the hotel, the desk clerk said he had a message for me. The message was from my boss, instructing me to “fly back to Hartford for a very important meeting tomorrow!”
I looked at the desk clerk and asked: “if I were to put a twenty dollar bill on this message, would you tell this guy you forgot to give it to me when he calls back?”
He looked at me and said: “for twenty dollars, I can be downright stupid.”
With a few exceptions to visit cool people/places, I spend most of my vacation days puttering around the house.
OK, ‘puttering’ probably doesn’t cover things like ripping the roof off your house and replacing it with a second floor. I had to mention that or the editor would have spit coffee on the draft.
My point is that I enjoy working around the house. I enjoy construction, renovation, building things in my shop and fixing things I can fix. I won’t go so far as to say that I enjoy replacing a toilet, but I enjoy spending the money I save somewhere else.
Several years ago, I devoted all of my vacation time to the removal and eventual replacement of our roof, forever altering the appearance of our house. Someday, the space above us will be living space, but that’s a different vacation, or three. I ran out of calendar that first year. We rode out a fairly normal New England weather with our new walls sheltered behind 6-mil black plastic. Actually, not a bad look. I’ve seen worse. A lot of people just seem to consider exposed Tyvek the same as siding.
The following year, I replaced the existing wood shingles and covered the new bare spots with vinyl siding. This wasn’t as dramatic a job as ripping off the roof, but there were days when the task list had to be complete in order to secure the perimeter, as it were. We replaced a bunch of windows, added some new windows and replaced the entry door and the storm doors on the porch. Holes in the wall and my editor do not mix.
To guard against interruptions during those jobs, I was only checking work email between 7:00 PM and 6:00 AM. To guard against derailing my career, I forwarded email from a few important people to my personal account. My boss at the time, was not among that group. One day, he was grousing to his boss that I wasn’t checking my email (he had sent me a personal request). His boss said: “I sent him an email two hours ago and I got a response right away.” Busted!
It’s vacation season. The boss I ignored has long since retired. I have a bunch of puttering planned for this summer and a bit more for October – I love taking vacation in October. I will check email from key people during comfort breaks, but otherwise I will appear to be camping.
I hope you enjoy whatever vacation plans you have this year. Feel free to disconnect, those people can wait.