Let Me Explain: Planes, trains and automobiles

I’ve got a tricky track record with traveling. Let me explain.

If something can go wrong, it will. It’s Murphy’s Law, it’s a fact of life, it’s what I’m saying.

In their endless quest to introduce their children to different places and new experiences, my parents whisked the family away to Las Vegas several years ago. I contracted a violent, unidentifiable illness in the den of iniquity, almost choked to death in front of Madame Tousseau’s, went on a grape Dimetapp trip during the Blue Man Group (and was convinced they were hypnotizing the crowd, and I was the lone heroine savvy to this fact) and was handed 3,500 prostitute advertisements over the four-day vacation. “The Lewises Go to Las Vegas” was, in a word, a success.

When in New York for a film screening with the boyfriend last semester, I fell victim to a woman who approached us and proclaimed that her taxi service was better priced than the big yellow taxis for which we were in line.

So I trustingly followed her past the taxi line, across the street, under a parking garage and into an unmarked SUV. Now, normal suspicious people would have turned back once the squatty lady led them under a parking garage. But I am so paranoid that I’m even suspicious of my skepticism.

Once in the woman’s “taxi service,” the boyfriend came to his senses and asked for her card. It read-I kid you not-“Taxi car.” It was arguably professional, in a sans serif font, but the boyfriend’s wide eyes staring at my insolence did not deter me.

The usually reassuringly confident boyfriend muttered, “I don’t like this. I don’t like this,” to which I nervously responded, “It’s fine, it’s fine,” while twirling my hair and saying my final prayers.

I wondered how she’d do it. Gun? Bare hands? Lead pipe in the billiards room while Colonel Mustard menacingly looked on? Luckily, we were let off at our actual destination, the W Hotel, and the terrifying ride through downtown Manhattan cost only $27 more than a regular taxi. What a bargain.

There were also the times I almost missed a flight in Rome because the baggage checkers were convinced I had explosives in my carry-on (no one can take a joke anymore); I saw a bad Catholic woman steal from the Vatican’s gift shop and run down the street followed by the pope’s policeman; my friends and I sprinted from the Eiffel Tower to the Metro late at night, jumped the turnstiles and dispersed while the police wandered around the station; one of my best friends slapped me (twice) in Florence because I’d made fun of her (maturity and I had yet to be introduced); I drank on a cruise ship while attempting to even out the ship’s swaying; and my brother, dad and I fell off of Jet-Skis into shark-infested water.

Oh yeah, and we ate meat on Friday during Lent. Sorry, God.

Does anyone have the perfect vacation? Do people return home from a long trip abroad or down under or in Milwaukee and say, “Ah, sweet holiday, you went exactly as we had planned”?

In my opinion-and, as a narcissist, that’s really all I care about-the perfect vacation is the one with all of the screw-ups. The stories emerge from the moments of realizing that you’re completely lost or that your purse has been stolen or that you forgot to buy film for your camera (assuming you have one of those old-fashioned film-eating contraptions).

It’s the moment when you wail, “We’ll laugh about this some day,” that you know your vacation has been a success. Or when a member of the Blue Man Group peers into your face with his inquisitive eyes and shiny forehead while you shrink back and say the rosary.

You see, I found God on my vacation. But every vacation is different.