Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"We Almost Saw Volcanoes"

“Almost” stories. Everybody’s favorite. I’m being sarcastic. “Almost” stories are pretty close to no story at all. Oh, well. I’m on vacation.

I’ve visited the hotel we’re currently vacationing at before, but just with Anna, not the whole family. At the time, Dr. M was studying for her licensing exam, and she needed Anna and I to be elsewhere, so she could concentrate. Having recently worked with (now Senator) Al Franken, who was vacationing here with his family, I decided to take Anna and join them. It doesn’t take much to get me to Hawaii.

I’ve mentioned this before. Though not generally brave, I am uncharacteristically intrepid when it comes to riding in helicopters. I see it as an adventure. I find the headline, “WRITER DIES IN FIERY HELICOPTER CRASH” glamorous and exciting, and eminently more appealing than “WRITER SUCCUMBS, BLOCKED, IN FRONT OF HIS COMPUTER.”

We sign up for the helicopter tour, showcasing the island’s active volcanoes from the air, “from the air” being the best place (and maybe even the only place) to view the volcanoes. We’re assigned the second row of seats, behind the pilot. At one point, Anna insists that I not turn around. Later, I learn why. The couple behind us was throwing up in a bag.

During the first half of the tour, the pilot flies us past some minor points of interest. Interesting, but hardly the main attraction. We are there for the volcanoes. Which we are now about to see.

Check that. We’re not.

The pilot announces that we’re turning back, due to unfavorable weather. (That’s what makes this an “almost” story.)

We return to the helipad, where the company announces they’re giving back half of our money. This seems a little unfair, though I don’t complain, because I’m happy they chose not to go on. Being indifferent to dying in a helicopter crash is not the same as “Let’s do it today.” They went the “Better safe than sorry” route. I’m not against that.

And yet…

I know, if you measure it by time, we were up there for half of the scheduled trip. Going by time, it was fair to return only half our money. The thing is, the first half of the trip’s primary purpose is to get us in position for the second half of the trip, the half where you see the volcanoes. From an excitement standpoint, the first half is hardly an equal half. It’s an extended preamble.

Imagine, after ponying up hundreds of dollars to see a (PLACE YOUR FAVORITE PERFORMER HERE) concert, you watch the opening act – a ventriloquist – and then the announcer comes out and says, “Your Favorite Performer got snowed in in Poughkeepsie. But we’re giving you back half your money.”

Does that sound okay to you? Or does it sound like the legitimate grounds for a lawsuit?

It comes down to this:

Do we view their actions as depriving us of experiencing the whole point of the excursion – seeing the volcanoes?

Or do we view them as protecting us from falling into the sea?

Looking at it from the “protecting us from falling into the sea” perspective, there’s a strong argument for their keeping all of our money.

Maybe, getting half of it back, I should consider myself grateful.

(Curse you, Earl Pomerantz, for being able to see both sides.)


Brian Scully said...

I almost wrote a hilarious comment here.

emily said...

I almost laughed at it.