Both sisters had laughed at the laminated card on their beds:
“Water is one of Our Earth’s most VALUABLE resources! Please help Save Water by putting this CARD on your bed. Then we’ll KNOW not to WASH sheets! We’ll make your bed, as usual. Hanging your USED TOWELS up means ‘Please do not wash!’ Towels on the floor will be laundered. Thank you! From, The Management.”
It is not that they were against Saving Water or helping Our Earth. It was just that the cards were left by management of a resort hotel in which the main attraction was a ginormous water park. Three hot tubs. Two pools. A wave pool. A lazy river. Four spiraling water slides. A pirate deck featuring eight water guns. Two erupting water volcanoes.
Surely if The Management was really concerned about Saving Water they would simply close down or even just pare down the water park.
By the same token, of course, if they themselves were really that Earth-concerned then they would have chosen a very different place for their vacation….
The vacation required that sort of putting to the back of one’s mind thoughts that ordinarily would not sit well together. Like the idea of lounging in a giant tub with a dozen strangers–adults and their kids, including babes in (hopefully) leak-proof special swim diapers. Sitting with strangers, sharing a tub full of hot bubbles and chlorine-infused steam.
“Ah, this is the life, ain’t it,” one of those strangers asked them one time, his red face coated with a mix of sweat and steam, his buzz-haired head leaning back against the hot tub’s ledge.
“Yes, it sure is,” she said amiably. Her sister agreed, her head also leaned back against the side of the tub.
“Kinda makes all the damn overtime worth it,” the stranger said, picking up and taking a sip from a plastic cup half full of frothy beer. “Boss almost tried to call me in at the last minute to work a shift for a guy called in sick. I says no frickin’ way, I had these reservations for five whole months I can’t back out now. You gonna pay for my deposit?”
“Mmmm,” she nodded, hoping that their conversation was now over but fearing it was not.
“So. Which building you gals in?”
“I forget the number. We ride the shuttle over here,” she said.
“Oh, OK–You must be in the West building. Those’re nice rooms over there. We woulda got those but we’re here with my brother and his family and they got four kids and you can only have two adults an’ two kids in those rooms, tops. So we gotta stay here in the East building. Rooms’re still nice, though. Makes it quicker to get down here, anyways.”
“So. You both here with your husbands or what?”
“Um. Yes, we are. And our children.”
“Oh, yeah, yeah. Nice when everybody can get away from the job at the same time for a weekend. And it’s such a great place for the kids, too. And not too far of a drive, too…. So you all staying in the West building, huh?”
The thought passes through both her mind and her sister’s–Actually, no, they were not in the West building. They were staying in one of the detached villas on the north side of the resort property. Next to the day spa and salon, which they had membership to for the duration of their stay. But somehow it seemed rude to admit to this so they both nodded vaguely.
“Well, that’s a nice building.” The man took another sip of his beer. “You know, I just think it’s great all sortsa people come here and have fun together, ya know?”
She spoke up, quickly, knowing the conversation was heading in a direction that might set her sister off. “Oh, yes. It really is nice.”
“Everybody gets along real good,” he continued, now sitting upright in the tub.
“Yes, everybody does.”
“You gals might not know this. But was a time when you all weren’t allowed around here.”
This time the sister spoke up, before she could offer the nicety that was poised on her tongue. “Oh yes, we do know. But we were certainly allowed to work here–cleaning rooms and cooking meals.”
The stranger faltered for a moment, thinking perhaps he had offended. But then she spoke and allayed his budding fear. “Yes, but that was a long time ago. Thankfully things are different today.”
“Exactly! Ya know, I always been around all sorts of people. Worked around ’em. Lived around ’em, too. I always say it doesn’t matter color–Anybody can be a jerk and anybody can be a good person, too.”
She kicked her sister’s foot discretely under the hot bubbles. But her sister spoke anyway. “Yes, that is quite true. It certainly does take all kinds,” the sister said, purposefully clipping her syllables in her “professional” voice.
The stranger did not notice the change in her speech pattern. Or if he did, he did not find it significant. “All kinds! Exactly! Hell, ya know, I don’t even see color! It don’t matter to me if you’re Black, White or–”
She cut him off, “So, you say your kids are here with you?”
“Um, yeah. Yeah…”
“Oh, what do you have–girls? Boys? Both? How old?”
He seemed slightly dazed by the barrage of questions, but soon recovered. “Two boys. Jake’s eight and Mikey’s six.”
“Oh, I love that age,” she said, feeling the water surrounding her sister growing hotter.
“What about you gals? You been able to get some alone time away from your kids on your vacation?”
“No,” the sister said. “We generally like to come here to spend time with our children. And each other. And our husbands.”
“And of course it’s nice to meet new people, too,” she interjected, with another kick to her sister under the bubbles.
“Exactly! I meet people from all over here. Last year I met this nice Oriental couple all the way from China! Cutest little kids!”
The sister rose out of the hot tub in one sudden movement.
She said to the stranger, before slowly standing herself, “Yes, well, um, we should probably go find our kids, actually! It was really nice meeting you.”
“Oh! Yeah! Same here. Um, look, you think you all might wanna get together sometime? I snuck a cooler of beer in the room–the good stuff, too, not this watered-down crap they serve down here, and–”
“Um, well, I think we might have plans, but it was nice meeting you. Bye!”
She followed her sister to where their towels were. They both slipped on their flip flops. “Okay, well you could have let that pass, couldn’t you have? I mean, he was obviously drunk. He didn’t mean anything. At least he’s trying.”
“So am I,” the sister said. “You ready? They should be up from their naps anyway.”
Together the two walked through the east building, past rooms with open doors. Coolers were open just inside the rooms, revealing cans of beer and soda and juice-filled sippie cups chilling in slowly melting hotel ice machine ice. Pizza crusts hardening in boxes and empty bags of McDonald’s fries aroma’ed the hallways. Swimming suits and towels were drying on the backs of chairs. Cots still jumbled with pillows and blankets were squeezed between twin beds. TVs blared cartoons and basketball games and commercials for free credit reports. Room after room they passed, each overflowing with adults and their children and babes in diapers.
At the end of the hall they exited out of double doors into quiet, and walked to the shuttle bus stop. The driver greeted them by name and held out his hand to help them aboard. They rode north in silence to their villa. Once there they tipped the driver after he helped them out of the shuttle. The kids were, indeed, just up from their naps and anxious to go sightseeing in town. Their husbands lounged on the couch in the living room sipping imported beer in long-necked bottles fresh from the full-sized refrigerator in the kitchen, watching the final quarter of the ball game on the 50-inch flat screened television and claiming it should be over in 15 minutes, barring overtime–certainly by the time the sisters had finished washing their hair and changing.
Her sister took a 12-minute shower; hers was 21 minutes. After stepping out of the shower she hung her towel neatly on the rod and placed the laminated card on the pillow of the bed that her previously napping child recently vacated.