The Adventures of Vacation Dad

The Adventures of Vacation Dad

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

I took my family on vacation this week for the first time in a long time, and I was struck by a frightening thought: I've turned into Vacation Dad.

You've seen Vacation Dad. You've probably traveled with him. My own father wasn't Vacation Dad too often. He was generally happy to be on vacation, except when I did stupid stuff like purposely spilling juice on the hood of the car, bugging my little sister in the back seat.

Vacation Dad loves two things. He loves driving fast, and he loves being angry at other drivers. Vacation Moms (actually all moms) thinks Vacation Dad isn't enjoying himself when he does this.

"Relax," she says soothingly, as he hollers at yet another jerkwad who's going 10 miles UNDER THE FREAKING SPEED LIMIT! "You just need to relax and enjoy the drive."

Vacation Mom doesn't realize that he IS enjoying the drive. This is how Vacation Dad unwinds. Half the fun of a vacation is getting there as fast as we can. If we get there sooner, we have more time to enjoy ourselves.

For Vacation Dad, having a good time sometimes means focusing more on "time" than "good," which gets us the best of both worlds. If we get there faster than everyone else (time), we win (good).

Getting there fast means leaving early. Leaving for vacation before everyone else leaves. Leaving before rush hour traffic chews up valuable driving time. Leaving — when things are really clicking in place — before the sun peeks over the horizon.

And this is why Vacation Dad can never, EVER leave soon enough to be truly happy. If we agree to leave at 8:00 a.m., we really wanted to leave at 7:00 a.m. If we agreed to noon, we really wanted to leave at, well, 7:00 a.m. And if you somehow agreed to leave at 7:00 a.m., we were hoping you meant 7:00 the previous night.

We create a tight Schedule with prime driving times, optimal bathroom breaks, and best arrival time. The Schedule — we capitalize it because it's very important; it's the foundation of the entire trip — is based on highway conditions, maximum allowable speed, and even wind velocity. We plan it down to the very minute, and nothing can make us change The Schedule.

Except for Vacation Moms and Vacation Kids.

They have found many ways to ruin The Schedule, the worst of which is Failure to Depart On Time (F-DOT). This drives Vacation Dads nuts.

F-DOT happens because things aren't packed, the kids still haven't gone to the bathroom, and the dog still isn't at the kennel 20 minutes before scheduled departure time.

Veteran Vacation Dads plan for this, and set Zero Hour two hours earlier than he really wants to leave. Did Vacation Dad tell you he wanted to leave at 5:00 a.m.? He really wants to leave at 7:00. He just told you 5:00, because he knows you don't respect The Schedule.

Unplanned Breaks (UBs) and Too-Long Breaks (TLBs) are other Schedule killers. UBs happen because one or more family members didn't visit the bathroom on that last stop, throwing everyone's bladder out of sync.

(Why is it that Vacation Dads are the only ones who understand the importance of synchronizing bladders? We can't stick to The Schedule if you don't all go to the bathroom when we stop.)

TLBs happen when the caravan makes an unauthorized stop (because someone "didn't have to go" at the last stop, 15 minutes ago) and it turns out to be someplace mildly interesting. The family will ooh and aah over the variety of tchotchkes and general crap, and spend more than the generous seven-and-a-half minutes Vacation Dad has planned for just this contingency.

By now, some wives are convinced that I'm just making this up. They swear up and down their husband is nothing like this.

"My husband is calm, relaxed, and would never freak out on a vacation about some silly schedule," they say.

First, let me say congratulations on your first year of marriage. You have a lot to learn about husbands.

To the ones who recognized their own husbands, please be patient with us. This behavior has been bred into us ever since the first Vacation Dad hollered, "I swear, if you don't shut up back there, I'm turning this mammoth around, and we're going back to the cave."

If you really want to make our vacation enjoyable, just respect The Schedule. And help us tell the other drivers why they shouldn't be on the road.

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