Had this column been due a few weeks before, you would’ve gotten 500 words of scathing analysis about the state of higher education and its effects on students, as well as an introspective anecdote about family, obligations and dreams.
(Heavy, I know, but what can I say? It was finals week and I was under a lot of stress.)
But that was all before my dad decided to book a family vacation to Cancun.
The events that transpired during the Madhani family’s weeklong stay in southeastern Mexico reminded me why, as a rule, we avoid taking extended family vacations too often. It’s worth noting that this was our first weeklong international trip together since India in 2011.
If you’re like me and at least barely passed math, you’ll realize that 2011 was four years ago, back when sequined Uggs were considered formal winter footwear.
So, without further ado, I welcome you to what I’d like to call, “A Very Blunder-ful Madhani Christmas.”
Most people take long breaks in tropical environments for one reason — relaxation. However, the first thing you should know about my family is that we, collectively, understand that no one at all — save my seven-year-old sister — will be calm, cool and collected at any point during said trip.
My father, the breadwinner, funds and plans the entirety of all our vacations, so any dollar (or various other international currencies) being spent by us is bound to send him miniature panic attacks. My mother, with her neurotic — and I say this affectionately — nature, has an obsessive need to coordinate every outfit with a different pair of shoes/jewelry and make sure that everyone is having fun with a capital F.
My brother, the definition of a Type B personality, aggravates my parents with his idleness and lack of overt enthusiasm that their aggravation, in turn, stresses him out. And I, with my incessant need to be left alone and do everything by myself, find the idea of a family vacation an obstacle to my leisure.
The collision of these four very complex personalities always results in an inevitable crash and burn, but our trip to Cancun was a disaster from the beginning.
Tragedy struck at baggage claim — we realized that our single checked bag was nowhere to be found. The night before our flight, my mother had carefully folded each of her outfits, selected her jewelry and shoes accordingly, and packed her new perfumes in the MIA bag.
After being told by Delta personnel that the bag had, in fact, arrived at the Cancun airport, my family and I inspected each of the bags in every aisle before coming to the conclusion that someone else had picked it up from the airport and accidentally taken it home. My mother looked like she was about to burst into tears. I think she might have preferred a “Home Alone” scenario with any of her children over losing her brand new dress from J. Crew.
But she comforted herself with the fact that we would soon be headed to settle into our home for the week, what we thought would be a three-bedroom house (key word here being “thought”). Something must have gotten lost in translation, because the house was, in fact, an apartment with one bedroom that had three glorified couches, a bathroom with no door and — the mother loads — no air conditioning for 90 degree south-of-the-border weather.
My father is livid at this point — remember, he pays for all of this stuff and once wrote a Starbucks customer complaint so stern that he received several free drink vouchers. He attempts to contact as many hotels as possible to find us other accommodations, but to no avail. We decide to crash there for the night, spend the next day exploring Chichen-Itza and then deliberate what our next move should be.
One of the few things I’ve retained from one of my intro-level classes is that every good story has a fairy godmother who rescues the princess from her destitute conditions. Although we were far from destitute, really, just extremely uncomfortable in our small quarters, our angel came in the form of Hernando, the sales representative for Palace Resorts and Spas.
After a chance encounter at his booth at Chichen-Itza, where he really took a liking to us, and a pizza dinner, Hernando convinced my family and I to visit a decadent resort called Moon Palace.
Another thing you need to know about my family is that we are what my roommates Sharon and Tanvi would call a “scheme squad.” We will do literally anything to score free stuff, including sitting through a 90-minute presentation about timeshares we weren’t going to buy at a hotel we wouldn’t think of living at just for a free breakfast and 30 percent discount on theme park tickets.
When the 90-minute presentation turned out to take almost five hours to get through, our planned beach day was effectively ruined. But, in the end, we emerged relatively unscathed when my dad struck a deal with the Moon Palace sales rep that allowed us to stay in one of their satellite hotels for the rest of our vacation.
It was a torn-dress-to-glass-slippers moment, truly, but it wouldn’t last long. While this was the most miraculous thing to happen to us in Cancun, the vacation was determined to continue downhill. As I’m nearing 1,000 words in this column, I realize there’s no way I can do justice to what more there is to come.
My father forgetting the tickets to the theme parks in the hotel and having to drive back in heavy rain, resulting in a fender bender, along with a black cat crossing our path on the way back to the hotel; my mother’s new starch-white handbag receiving its own seat on the flight back and possibly spotting one of my good friends’ dad at Moon Palace — these are some of the stories I still have left to tell.
I’m not saying we need our own National Lampoon movie, but we probably need our own National Lampoon movie.