Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Characters Welcome

This post borrows a line from the USA network: characters welcome. As you know, our faithful Stiletto Gang readers, I have just returned from a week on the island of Bermuda, a place as close to paradise as you’ll find on this earth. But I laughed as I read Lisa’s post from Friday about the people riding the bus in her neighborhood in San Francisco because people saying things like “I’ve been in hot tubs with judges” happen with regularity in the cities and towns of the United States but not in places like Bermuda, as I’ve determined from several bus rides from my two vacations there. I have been on a total of four buses, all going different places, and have found that everyone rides in complete silence. Not a word is spoken, not a conversation had. Everyone stares at the gorgeous rolling vistas, the ocean, or the floor. Nobody talks about their time in hot tubs with judges, but they do greet their bus driver when they get on and bid him or her a lovely adieu when they leave. Is it the climate? The continual ocean views? Or just a sense of decorum that we’re lacking here in the States? Bermuda is a very civilized place to navigate.

Not so the resort, filled with intense and sometimes your quintessential ugly Americans. To paraphrase a song, “clowns to the left of me, type-A-ers to the right, here I am…” People often ask me where I come up with some of my characters, and dear readers, the answer is: everywhere. Vacation spots are a great place to people watch (the airport, in particular) and observe behavior. Who doesn’t respond when their spouse asks them a question? Who swims by themselves while their significant other tans all day? (I resisted the urge to lecture.) Who starts drinking rum swizzles at noon and doesn’t stop until the dinner bell rings? Who obsessively checks their bar bill and questions the cabana boy about it until the bartender comps at least one drink?

Hubby and I arrived at the resort last week, and after having lunch and two rum drinks consumed in rapid succession (not recommended), headed down to the pool, where we set up camp on two lounge chairs next to the most gorgeous pool I had ever seen, the ocean at our backs, a lovely breeze caressing our exhausted bodies. The only bad part? We obviously had a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON sitting right behind us who had to do business—loudly—on his cell phone, while his wife and friends sat idly by, drinking daiquiris and trying to enjoy their vacation. We were soon joined by a family of four with a young daughter so unhappy with everything having to do with vacation that she set about wailing every two minutes or so to express her displeasure at a) the salt on the French fries served poolside, b) the amount of ice in her drink, c) the tightness or looseness (depending on her mood) of her arm swimmies, or d) all of the above. Her parents dealt with all of this with a general malaise, seemingly used to her meltdowns. Jim sat placidly, trying to block out the squealing, but hoping against hope that I wouldn’t get up and remind the parents that all of us around the pool were on vacation, some of us without our children for the first time in fifteen years. Fortunately, this family only returned intermittently and VERY IMPORTANT PERSON appeared to have checked out the day following our arrival.

VIP and unhappy little girl were replaced by a large, extended family who were attending a destination wedding at the resort. They were fine for the most part: pleasant, amiable, happy to be on vacation. Only problem was that instead of communicating via the poolside telephone with people in their party who were in other parts of the resort, they instead reveled in screaming at each other from pool to the third floor veranda of whichever guests were not at the pool. This got old very quickly.

But I got a ton of stuff for characters in my next book or two because you truly can’t make some of this stuff up. I overheard a conversation among a group of older women (who had brought their seemingly mute husbands with them on vacation) which centered entirely around doctor error and MRI’s. I’ve experienced both but have chosen to wipe them out of my mind, never to speak of either ever again unless I am a) called to the witness stand in a malpractice case or b) need to give someone advice on how to withstand the noise inside of an MRI machine. Their conversation about these two subjects took up the better part of three hours. No one swam, no one stared at the vistas beyond the pool, but everyone had a story about an MRI or a doctor who had killed one of their friends by prescribing the wrong medicine, puncturing their femoral artery with a syringe, or by JUST NOT CARING.

As fellow Stiletto Gang poster and northern half of Evelyn David would say, “OY.” Don’t even get me started on the behavior at the all-you-can-eat (for $25.00 US) breakfast buffet.

But then again, all of this is coming from a woman who sat poolside in what my mother calls her “bathing costume,” which is comprised of wide-brimmed hat, ankle-length swim tights, and a mock turtleneck, long-sleeved pull over (all UV protective). I’m sure people were looking at me thinking, “What the hell is she wearing? And if she can’t go out in the sun, why would she come to Bermuda?”

We met some great couples while we were away, too, all of whom were vacationing without their children and in a state of disbelief that we were in such an amazing, exotic locale. But we all talked about our children at length and then all admitted that we would be back with the kids at some point because we wanted to share this incredible place with them. And that’s how you know that even though they drive you a little crazy, you love them like crazy. And will do everything in your power to keep them away from doctors and MRI machines even if it means that at some point, they, too, will have to wear a bathing costume.

Maggie Barbieri

2 comments:

  1. You certainly go to more exotic places than I do--however, I saw many characters too--they seem to be everywhere.

    While at the fair in Santa Maria I saw way too many people who in their own words were "too busy to read."

    I'm plenty busy, but I read whenever I have a spare minute.

    Obviously crazy people stopped by and made strange comments, care homes were present with their charges--some developmentally disabled, others were seniors in wheelchairs, the rich, upper crust with their snazzy outfits, obvious face lifts and puffed lips (saw those on some who weren't the upper crust types, talked to several people who planned to write a books someday.

    Anytime you're in public and you look around, you'll likely see some "characters."

    Marilyn

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  2. Maggie, sounds like you had a very interesting time on vacation! I do wish people would be respectful of others, while on vacay or not. Hope we get to see some pictures! Is the sand really pink at Elbow Beach? Sigh.

    Enviously,
    Susan
    http://SusanMcBride.com

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