Chapter Two: Respect the Pukas
If a trip to Disney World includes the six months before, then a word or two about the months before our trip is not out of line.
As you may recall, I’m, a worrier. I tend to worry. Indiscriminately. I don’t discriminate. And as much as I love me some summertime, I worry about things mucking up my summer. Because worrying comes naturally to me.
This summer I had more than my usual helping of things to worry about. Going beyond the usual menu of worry points, I had an additional list of things which had me in a full on dither.
Two of my worry points are worth some discussion. Three will illustrate my point. I was trading in my car this summer and concerned about finding the right car to replace it with, the timing of the trade, and the economics of the decision. I drive a good bit in my practice and for whatever reason, I had several out of town appointments in July. Long drives which I knew needed to be made not in my soon-to-be-old car, but rather in my new ride. Whatever it was. As April turned to May (yes, we’re really going back that far in the warm up to a report about an August vacation), I began researching vehicles and pricing options, knowing that as summer began, there would likely be better deals ahead. May became June and I was feeling a pressure. A stupid, unnecessary, self-inflicted pressure to have this all wrapped up by the end of the month.
But nothing was fitting, nothing made sense. By the last week of the month, I wore the decision like an ill-fitting suit. NOJohnMcCain. Despite the myriad other concerns on my plate, I kept returning to the hulking piece of meatloaf which was my car purchase decision. And yes, I have really mixed my metaphors. Like peas and carrots. But suddenly, I’m in the mood for meatloaf.
One morning, while spending some time with God, little ZZUB came in my study. It was way too early for her to be up. She asked, “Daddy, is it morning yet?” I told her that she needed to go back to bed. It was too early to get up, she needed to wait a bit longer. I walked her back to her room and tucked her in her bed.
And then it struck me. God was using that as an object lesson. He was telling me the same thing. It was too early. I needed to wait. To be patient. It wasn’t time yet.
Sure enough, two days later, the right deal fell into my lap and within 24 hours of that, I was driving away from the dealership in my new car. Paying exactly what I planned to pay for it (and what the salesman had told me just 5 days earlier there was NO WAY they’d sell it for).
About three weeks later, as I was on a long afternoon drive out to meet with a witness, it occurred to me that was one of the days I’d circled on my calendar as needing to have my car situation taken care of before. It was comforting to know that God had taken care of what I worried about. There was no need to worry.
My meeting that afternoon didn’t go well. This witness was less than helpful. He was hostile. Rude and ignorant. He was like Nancy Pelosi. Only less racist.
And when I was done being insulted by him, I stopped into this little restaurant I like to visit whenever I’m in that town. I treated myself to a nice lunch because I deserved it and because food is love. Walking back to my car, I passed this touristy little store that sold, as you might imagine, touristy things. Crap essentially. (Not to be confused with essential crap. See, e.g. my garage). I wandered around for no other reason than to make certain any post-lunch flatus worked itself out of my system before I got into my car.
I have a firm "no farting in the new car" rule. The car must be at least six months old before the breaking of wind or the presence of fast food bags will be permitted.
And yes, I have a cabin air filtration system that is designed to combat noxious fumes. But I don’t trust it.
I wandered lonely as a cloud through this touristy store, and I happened upon a display of puka shell necklaces.
I’m not a necklace wearing kind of guy.
I’ve never been one for pukas. Either. Except when we were kids and stayed at the Polynesian and my parents bought my sister and me some pukas.
And I thought to myself, "I’m not a puka wearing kind of guy." I’m a navy suit and striped tie kind of guy. Buttoned down. Starched. Pressed. Intense. Cynical and sarcastic. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt me to be more like the kind of guy who wears puka shells and bring his dog to work. Dies his hair jet black, then red and then black again. Wears cargo pants to the office and goes by his middle name.
Not that I’m thinking of anyone in particular.
Except, I’m never going to be one of those people. But a step that direction wouldn’t hurt. Puka shells are vacation. I like vacation in part because I like me on vacation. Vacation ZZUB doesn’t think about deadlines or trial strategies, or kissing the butts of clients, or managing budgets or making major decisions. I’m unclenched. Mostly. I like vacation ZZUB. I eat fatty foods without remorse. I giggle scream on roller coasters. Smile more. Take naps. Wear flippies and big boy shorts. I eat Pop Tarts and ice-cream. I watch fireworks. I’m more easily amused. I laugh loudly. More. I wear t-shirts with Mickey Mouse and EPCOT on them. I don’t do any of those things in the real world.
And I’d never wear puka shells either.
But on vacation, I could wear pukas. Pukas would be the symbol of ZZUB unclenched. ZZUB relaxed. ZZUB enjoying the life God gave me. Without worries, dude.
I put on my pukas and drove back to my house. Completely relaxed. Despite getting verbally kicked in the groin by a surly witness, I was enjoying my new car and enjoying my new pukas. Listening to Disney toons. Thinking about our upcoming vacation. Enjoying the anticipation. I walked in the door and showed Mrs. Z and the little Zs my pukas. And I said, “the pukas mean vacation is here. The pukas mean I’m hanging loose. The pukas mean no worries, dude.”
I made a hang loose sign with my hand.
To demonstrate how loose I was.
The girls were amused by how silly their daddy was being.
Mrs. Z smiled nervously and thought, “Oh dear God, he’s having another mid-life crisis!” She shot out a group text to her friends, “PRAY FOR ME!”
The second major worry this summer was Mrs. ZZUB’s eye. She developed a clogged tear duct. And saw two different doctors and developed a nasty eye infection. Or three. It was finally established that she would likely require surgery and she was referred to a specialist. Whose first available opening is in October. Thanks for mutton, doc! At the time she was in considerable pain and discomfort. Plus her eye was tearing. And she couldn’t wear her contacts. Which meant she had to wear her glasses and couldn’t wear sun glasses. Just what you don’t want to happen if you’re about to head out on vacation to the sun. I was saddest ever for her. She needed her vacation, too. I begged God to heal her eye, to take away the pain and discomfort. To make it so that she wasn’t bothered by this at all on our vacation.
It made me sad. There wasn’t a darn thing I could do for her. There is only so much muscle flexing I can do to make people bend to my will and even if I could have impressed it upon Dr. Toobusyfornewpatients that he needed to see her in July, there was no time in Mrs. Z’s schedule to have surgery then.
You know, God doesn’t always move on our schedule and He doesn’t always answer prayers the way we want Him to. But then again, He is God and He does know what He’s doing. Even if His schedule doesn’t exactly jibe with ours.
By tradition, on Disney Eve, we go out for lunch. We were sitting in this restaurant, enjoying some food and I was distracted. Even though I was sporting the pukas, let’s face it, they’re not magical shells. I was still de-clenching from work the day before. Revisiting decisions I had made. Re-writing the vacation memo in my head. Re-playing a phone conversation. Thinking through what I still had to do before we went to bed that night. I was wearing my pukas because technically I was on vacation. But I wasn’t feeling fully puka yet. The sun was coming in through the window behind Mrs. Z and I couldn’t see her face too clearly. But I watched her dab at her eye under her glasses. She still couldn’t put on her contacts. My heart ached. Every other thing I’d worried about this summer worked out. Every last thing. None of the problems I expected to blow up did. None of the things I thought were impossible turned out to be so.
Why this one? Why was she still suffering?
I didn’t know the answer as I seldom do. I comforted myself by the realization that God’s timing was perfect and His ways are higher than mine. If her eye was going to continue to bother her, He had a reason.
There wasn’t a thing I could do about the situation. I released it to God the best I could. We enjoyed our lunch and we got on with the business of Disney Eve.
Morning comes early on the left coast when you want to be in Disney World by dinner time. And by "morning," I mean middle of the night. Like the Von Traps fleeing the Nazis, we were out of our house in the dark of night. But unlike the Von Traps, we weren’t wearing the curtains and after we checked our bags at the airport, we noshed on treats in the Delta Sky Club. Where ZZUBY spilled her first drink of the trip.
Our flights were completely uneventful. And nothing got lost. Not even my temper.
Remember, I was wearing the pukas. I was way relaxed, dude.
We arrived about 15 minutes early at Orlando airport. And Mrs. Z and I were especially excited because we had a little surprise cooked up for the girls. This year, we weren’t taking the improbably named Magical Express to the Contemporary.
You know, it occurs to me that I have an attitude problem when it comes to ME. I should flippin love that thing. It’s free. They move our bags for us. They’ve never lost our bags. It’s free. My girls LOVE riding on the bus and it’s free!
But I hate it. I hate it, I hate it, I HATE IT!
I hate the hurry up and wait. I hate the smarmy driver with the bad information and the fakey Disney Worldish voice. I hate that he expects a tip for doing much of nothing. And slowly at that.
After getting up in the middle of the night, flying across the country and being seated in the same row with a freaky, bald headed lady whose Star Wars fetish was abnormal even for people with Star Wars fetishes. I want to be treated like a person. Not a turd.
I hired us a limousine. Yeah, I could have just gotten a car, but I thought the girls would get a bigger kick out of the limo. ZZUBY discovered Hannah Montana this year. And in the opening song, she sings “you get the limo out front.” My girls walked around for months singing that song. I thought they’d enjoy actually walking out front to get in a limo.
If anything, I underestimated how much they’d get a kick out of the surprise and how much we’d appreciate the experience. I wanted to catch a picture of ZZUBY’s face when she saw the driver holding the sign with our name on it. But I worried about how to accomplish that. All I knew was that he’d be waiting for us in the baggage claim area. I didn’t know where exactly. And as we came down the escalators, I saw several drivers with signs. Not one of them had our name on it.
I was worried.
We walked over to the carousel to wait on our bags. It was warm down there on the lower level. Outside the doors, I could see rain blowing sideways. I thought, "man, we’re gonna get hugely wet." My skin was gooey with humidity and airplane film. And oh yeah, our bags were nowhere to be found. I thought, “this is not starting off well!” Stupid driver is late. Bags are lost. And my shirt is clinging to me like Levi Johnston to his 15 minutes of fame. I started formulating the Plan B for our luggage. We had emergency clothes in our carry-ons. But we’d need contact solution and stuff.
While I watched the bags go ‘round, I checked my messages. Because our flight came in early, our driver hadn’t arrived yet. There was a message from the limo company letting me know he was on his way. I was annoyed. But then I realized this worked out better. Now I could spot him first and go stand by him with the camera trained on the kids. Catch their expression.
Not to put to fine a point on this: God knows what He’s doing. And even the small things are in His hands.
Sure enough, I spotted our driver, George. I told Mrs. Z what I was about to do and to give me about 3 minutes and then walk my direction. I got over near him and introduced myself and then I turned my camera on the girls. Mrs. Z caught my eye and then started walking my direction. The expression on ZZUBYs face was worth every late night in my office and every morning I’m there before the sun comes up. I took a succession of shots, watching her read the sign, recognize her name, realize it meant we were taking a limo to Disney World. What a great string of pictures!
By the way, our bags came around the carousel as soon as we walked back over there.
George helped me with the bags and we headed out to the car. By now it had come a monsoon. But the limousines pick up in a garage. Another worry resolved. As we followed George out to the car, the girls were skipping along, singing. “We’ve got the limo out front, oh yeah!” Mrs. Z and I shared several smiling glances. And I've added this to the list of moments in my life when my expectations were actually exceeded.
I’m a HUGE fan of Happy Limousine. If you need a car service in Orlando, I strongly recommend them. I reserved a standard limo but they upgraded us to a Navigator. It was HUGE. NOMichelleObama’sbutt. George loaded our luggage inside. And got Little Z’s car seat installed for me. He did all that while we were taking pictures of the Navigator and of ourselves in front of it. Once inside, there were cold drinks and a flat screen tv was playing a movie. Although I asked him to turn that off because we didn’t want to be fixated on a movie. We wanted to enjoy the ride.
And enjoy it we did. Normally, we can’t get to Disney World fast enough. Not this time. He could have taken the long way. Driven through the park. Gotten lost between the moon and New York city even. It was so nice to be relaxed. Cool. Comfortable.
As part of the limo service, they do a 15 minute grocery store stop. It was one of the ways I justified the added expense of a limo. Mrs. Z and I had already charted out what we’d need to get. So as we pulled into the Publix, we divided up. She was taking Little Z and I had ZZUBY. She had her list. I had mine. As George opened the door for us, he reminded us we had 15 minutes.
We were off.
We ran through the parking lot like idiots. Like people on vacation who don’t care what people think about them. Like people wearing pukas. Screaming. “Run! Run! Run!” Inside the door, ZZUBY and I grabbed a cart and headed for water and milk. I shouted back at Mrs. Z, “Meet me at the check out in 5!” ZZUBY was on the front end of the cart and I ran it through the store (at a safe, respectable speed, being mindful that not everyone was on vacation and not everyone was on a 15 minute time limit) with her hanging on for her little life. We scooped up some cases of water and some pink milk and we were made it back up front in time to see Mrs. Z and Little Z coming around with grapes and bananas. We paid and were back at the limo in roughly 7 minutes. George was impressed! Indeed, he told me he’d owe me some extra time on our next trip.
The rest of the drive to the Contemporary went too fast. We actually hated to get out of the limo. Good service is so rare anymore that when you actually receive it you don’t want it to end. And you know what else? I gave George a pretty big tip and I didn’t mind at all! Because he deserved it. I hate the expectation of a tip from someone who is just going through the motions. But when someone actually treats you right, it’s a pleasure to give them a gratuity. Now you KNOW how good the service from Happy Limo was! ZZUB was pleased to give a tip.
Our bags were loaded onto a cart and we went inside to check in. Mrs. Z took the girls to the little TV area and I went up to the empty check in desk.
But despite the empty counter, our check in wasn't hassle free.
And Mrs. Z’s eye was still giving her fits.
There were a few more things to worry about.