I met a whole family of Asstronauts on vacation. As defined in a prior article, an asstronaut is a person whose personal mission is so much more important than the rest of ours that he or she is not bound by the rules of our society. The whole thing revolved around a single poolside chair.
When you’re at a resort at Christmastime, empty chairs around the pool feel as abundant as cheap rentals on Park Avenue. People claim their chairs for the day according to the internationally agreed upon rules: one towel plus one personal item on that towel means that chair is off limits.
On the first day, Tom and I showed up at the pool at 7am, the time the towel stand opened, and realized we were nearly too late. Most of the coveted, partially shaded chairs were taken. How could so many chairs already be taken if the towels had only been available for 30 seconds? The next day we set our alarm for 6:30am and snuck down to the pool under the cover of darkness (it was literally still dark out), brandishing the towels we had kept from the day before. We secured five plum chairs. It seems like a small thing, but Tom and I both had the air of winners about us all day. We’d cracked the code.
The next day, we repeated this procedure – alarm, creeping in the dark – only to find that after breakfast a family of six had commandeered one of our chairs. They had removed the requisite towel and personal item and had replaced it with their own towel, a John Grisham novel and (get this) a driver’s license.
Upon discovering their misdeed, I apologized. This is my least favorite part of my personality, the first thing I would change if God came down to give me a makeover. In the face of other people behaving badly, I almost always say I’m sorry. In this case, I started with, “I’m terribly sorry, but that is our chair.”
The daddy Asstronaut replied with a confidence normally reserved for a person parked directly between two spaces. No, it wasn’t our chair anymore, he explained, because management had removed our belongings to free up the chair. Why would they do that, I asked? Oh it happens all the time, he told me. He then raised his John Grisham novel and assured me, “It’ll be okay.”
In this situation, “it’ll be okay” is the ugly cousin of “relax.” It’ll be okay because you’ll have six chairs? Or it’ll be okay because we can squeeze into four? The only feeling stronger than my desire to rip the pages out of his stupid book was my sincere respect. This guy had nerves of steel.
Tom, who has the world’s longest fuse, went to go discuss this with management. His meeting with management revealed a few facts: management was not responsible for relinquishing our chair, and we might be best advised to blame the inhabitants. Also, they were sorry about this and would credit us $120 to our bill. They say everyone has a price, and, just so you know, Tom’s is $120. He came back, sat down and ordered a Mai Tai.
I couldn’t let it go. I mean I’d set an alarm and got up in the dark. On vacation. I started entertaining revenge fantasies. I suggested we tell this family about the super crowded restaurant we’d been to the night before and tell them reservations weren’t necessary. My family gave me blank stares. See, I explained, then they’d get there and have to wait. Really Mom? That’s all you’ve got? I’m not really that good at warfare.
And so we spent the day, my family of five lined up on four pool chairs next to the Asstronaut family. Tom worked his way through $120 worth of Mai Tais, and I watched their every move, marveling at how completely relaxed they seemed taking turns in my chair. We went to lunch and sent scouts back to check for any encroachment. When seated, I put my largest son closest to them to defend the border. In the late afternoon a couple on the other side of us called it a day, and we spread out into their chairs in the loudest and most luxurious way, the five of us sprawled out over six chairs. It was the world’s smallest victory.