I am now aware of the specific procedure for bribing an attendant to get our chairs set up and ready before we come down to the beach. But before I put my knowledge into action, I infelicitously run out of gas. After which I immediately develop “Cold Feet.”
The bribing would take place tomorrow. Providing a day for my rich and fertile imagination to think of what might possibly go wrong.
What if they took my money and they didn’t come through? What would I do then? There was nobody to complain to. Even if there were, what would I say to them? “I bribed a beach attendant and he didn’t deliver”?
I was still thinking I would do it. Triggering the issue of “The Look”, that unspoken acknowledgment accompanying the payoff, a subtle nod between the participants saying,
That “Look” involves a wink and a smile… actually, I have no idea what it involves. I just knew there was an accompanying “Look.” And I had no idea what it was.
There was also a “timing” problem. I had already heard twice – once from Jane, Queen of the Beach Attendants and again from “Friendly Guy” – that to start “The Arrangement”, you had to “take care of” the beach attendants at the beginning of your stay. The thing is, by then, it was already the third day. You see the problem?
How do you “take care of people” at the beginning when the beginning was two days ago? There was no more “beginning.” The “beginning” was over. I’d heard no mention of “taking care of people” in the early to middle part of your stay. Was an arrangement even still possible? And if it was, I mean, I’m not trying to be stingy, or anything – but since we were beginning “The Arrangement” later, would the bribe now be pro-ratedly cheaper? How much exactly could I deduct?
The next morning, much to my surprise, I discover that without doing anything, “The Arrangement” had inexplicably kicked in. Our chairs, I was told at the “Attendants’ Kiosk”, were already in place. I went to the beach, and there they were. Set up, amply betoweled and awaiting our arrival.
I must admit to a tingle of excitement. But I was also confused. Why was this happening? I guess they thought…I don’t know what they thought. All I knew was “The Arrangement” was in motion, and I had not “taken care of” anyone!
At that point, I made a unilateral “Decision of Decency”. I would “take care” of them at the end of the trip. I would even give them double, making the “beginning” and “end” payment at the same time – which, I guess, is not actually double – writing Mahalo, the Hawaiian word for “Thank you” on the envelope. It felt like the perfect solution. I’d get my “elite” treatment, and they’d be appropriately “taken care of.”
There was only one flaw in my decision: Nobody knew about it but me. This was a major problem, because, while I’m thinking, “Everything’s worked out”, the beach attendants are thinking, “This getting upgraded treatment. Where’s the money?”
Of course, this misunderstanding could easily have been avoided if I’d just gone up to Jane, Queen of the the Beach Attendants and said, “Now, look here. I want you all to know I am fully cognizant of ‘The Arrangement’ and I intend to fulfill my responsibilities to the letter at the end of our sojourn.” Something like that, only less British. But instead, I did nothing.
Why? Because it sounded like a scam. “Mr. Big Shot Hotel Guest”, promising hard-working beach attendants he’ll take care of them at the end of the visit? Yeah, right. And I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Since I’d be unable to pull that off with a straight face, I decided to simply leave things as they were. I would pay them at the end, and hope “The Arrangement” continued.
The next morning, there were no preset chairs for the Pomerantz family, waiting welcomingly on the beach.
Once again, I was back at the “Attendants’ Kiosk”, amongst the hoi polloi, lining up for their chairs. Only now, ours were transported by attendants totally deficient in the “Aloha Spirit.” I was not a popular person at the beach. And it was not a good time to be vilified.
Approaching New Year’s, the hotel was now filled to capacity. Suddenly, there were more guests than available beach chairs. There was no question who would be shut out. The guy who wanted something for nothing. (I didn’t, but how could they know that?)
Through my tentative timidity, I had bungled “The Arrangement.” There was now only one thing I could do – go down as early as possible and beat the rush. Forget sleeping in, forget the leisurely breakfast, forget any breakfast at all. My single concern was my daily obligation. I was the Man of the family. The last thing I wanted were teary-eyed children sobbing, “Daddy, where are our beach chairs?” and a smoldering wife thinking, “I could easily have done better.”
My concern became an obsession. At night, I would dream of murderous “Chair Wars”, jolting awake in a battle-soaked sweat. Every morning, I’d appear earlier and earlier. On our last day, I bolted from bed and raced to the beach, only to discover it was six-thirty in the morning, and the Attendants’ Kiosk didn’t open until eight.
I had managed to do the impossible – turn a dream vacation into a Polynesian nightmare. And why? Because, God help me, I had wanted more.
Standing by the shore before leaving for the airport, I pondered what it all meant. I had lost my way, stumbled into a strange and forbidding world, only to crash thunderously down to earth.
As I scanned the scene before me, carefree families frolicking in the sun, a lingering thought drifted through my mind.
How do you get those cabanas?