It’s high time I got fired as the ‘Vacation Research Analyst’. You see, that’s the job I hold at home. Rather that’s the one thing I can do right, to put it in a certain someone else’s words. That is until a couple of weekends ago.
After two months of planning, cancelling and mostly daydreaming for our much-deserved break from the daily grind, I finally handed in the recommendation from my research to the Home Minister: Virginia Beach, here we come baby!
And then weather.com blew my recommendation to pieces. Turns out I was selling the prospect of spending an entire weekend wielding umbrellas and wearing raincoats on the beach. But hey, weather forecasts are always subject to change, right?. Who knows, we’ll probably see “Mostly Sunny” the day we land up there.
And then all the hotels got sold out. All of them! All the rooms! This is not even summer, for God’s sake! Moreover, it’s supposed to be LOUSY weather over there. I finally found a place and booked it before they too ran out of rooms. ‘Walking distance from the beach‘ was no more an option.
And then the wife finds a better hotel. Cheaper. Best of all, one-and-a-half blocks from the best part of the beach. If you have never haggled over the phone to wiggle out of cancellation charges, you should try it. It’s so much fun, you wont forget it for the next three or four lifetimes.
The next thing on my list was to come up with an itinerary that would let me keep my aforementioned job. Sand sculptures, fireworks, speed-boating on the sea, local food, the annual Neptune Festival Grand Parade… I crammed a week’s worth of stuff into a day and a half. I spent the better part of the week painting the picture of a perfect weekend. And packing day arrives! Clothes: check. Camera: check. Driving directions: check. Learner’s permit for me: hold on, still studying.
And then I failed the test. Well, I’m sure you saw that one coming, but Mrs. Ishu certainly didn’t. Five hours to go and I don’t have a valid license to share the burden of driving. I took advantage of the Magic of Telecommunication to convey the grand news. And that my friends, is the real reason I didn’t get run over by her that day. But by the time the anticipated hour arrives, all is fortunately forgotten in the excitement (Didn’t dare to ask if it was forgiven too).
So began the long, much-awaited drive. Wonder of wonders! Something’s wrong with the A/C unit. The fan is making weird noises and it’s getting really hot. After a quick browse through the manual, I try to make up for the morning by fixing the stupid thing.
And then… well, let me just skip ahead and not make things worse. By the time we got to Virginia Beach, the wife was too exhausted to whine about anything at all. Now there’s only one thing that can motivate her. “The Sand Sculpture Contest! Master artists from all over the globe! Are you sure you wanna miss watching them create stunning works of art?” Well I didn’t use those exact cliched words, but the gist of it did the trick. I grabbed the camera, she grabbed her sweatshirt and we shot off towards the beach. And…
What can I say, it was all over before we even left home that afternoon. No artwork-in-progress to witness. But all the exhibits were standing there, complete and awaiting the admiring stares and clicks. Now I’m one of those who never get paintings. By definition, my handwriting too should be classified as abstract art, but let’s not get into that now. The sculptures created out of the shapeless, insignificant sand around us were too gorgeous for the art-hater in me. So I set about doing what I do on vacations – clicking away, ignoring my driver completely.
After sunset it’s time for the arts and crafts stalls which reminded me a lot of the handicrafts fairs that happen back home. There was also a Pakistani lady who set up a mehendi stall. “Herbal Tattoos. Painless. Comes off in 3 weeks! Go Green!” Fact: You can sell just about anything here if only you use the right words.
And then the speedboats and the fireworks got cancelled. Unfavorable wind conditions, my ass. Serves me right for studying the camera manual instead of traffic signs. The remaining highlight of the next day’s itinerary was the Grand Parade. The only highlight left. But of course we did rent bikes and rode up and down the length of the beach on the boardwalk, so that did a lot of cheering up.
By the next day we were in for a surprise. No, not a bad one this time. The cruise operators said the dolphin-sighting trips are still running.
“But the dolphin season is only until September. And the forecast says it’s gonna rain today”, I offer my keen internet wisdom.
“Sir, the cruise is still on and we have one today at 11am. Are you interested?” (That’s customer-service lingo for Stop whining. Are you in or out?)
We’re in. We were also the last two souls to board, keeping the entire boatload of tourists waiting for the highly anticipated tour to begin. “Captain, do you still have a minute? I’ll just run to my car and get my sunglasses.” If the guy was pissed, I didn’t know it because I was already running across the parking lot. Of course, my darling wife made sure they didn’t leave me behind. I had the camera, after all.
And then it began to pour. That’s right! Little note: when you’re out in the open sea, ‘cats and dogs’ doesn’t even come close to describing torrential rain. I pretended to act busy protecting the camera with my thin shirt. Half an hour into the cruise, all we can see are gulls and pelicans. Not too bad, but that’s not what we paid for. Just when I’m ready to jump overboard before a certain someone pushes me, the guide calls everyone to the left side.
Dolphins, ahoy! Unknown fact: When the wind makes the boat sway, the dolphins come out to play.
Thanks God, for making these dumb creatures freakishly happy whenever the waves roll. The Weather Gods have finally given us something good. Those last ninety minutes of the weekend were the best for every one of us on board, as we watched the graceful arcs the beasts made whenever they came up for air. Even in reality it feels like watching a nature show or a Sea World ad in slow motion. Not kidding.
The most surreal hour and a half. Towards the end every one calmed down from excited whoops to silent reverence. To all those people, the cruise saved the weekend. As for me, I get to continue to do the one thing I can do right.
So while I get busy researching how to wreck the next big getaway, go take a look at snapshots from Virginia Beach on the other blog (of course, I don’t need to remind you about those pain-in-the-ass navigation arrows).