Workcations Don’t Work

Last summer I was pretty proud of myself. I took two weeks off and only sent four work-related emails. Of course the London Olympics were a serious distraction from the office rote.

Stupidly when I embarked on this vacay, I actually expected to work. The theory of this hot air balloon burst quickly when I crashed into this old world time warp called Spain. Since swapping the chaotic romance of Barcelona for the organized tranquility of Montreux, Switzerland…the work time hasn’t increased. But my productivity has…and today while yodelling down the mountain, I decided to share my epiphanies with you.

#1. Mark the hypocrite says don’t work on vacation, but if you feel the pressure to be available, then:

# 2. Take twenty minutes in the morning to work and no more. You will be horrified you can actually do everything that’s truly important in way less than the hours of candle burning you normally incur!

# 3. Email at the best of times is horribly misused. When you are away you realize how much so. Convince your team to use email as a data transmitter, not a conversation enabler, and your inbox will shrink.

# 4. Use the twenty-four hour rule. On home soil, this applies when you’re about to send an angry email. But when you are away, delaying all will allow you to edit your replies so they are divinely surgical.

# 5. Mull. Meditate. Ponder. Never do we have enough daylight hours to think. What better time to teach yourself new techniques.

Smile for the camera, it doesn’t know you’re working!

No Siesta

Can being on holiday really be this exhausting?

I didn’t get up until 8:22 today and I’m still fried. Trying to adapt to this time-warped Spanish way of life is taking its toll. As a man who prides himself on his nocturnal stamina, I’m a bit humbled.

Our situ is straightforward. We are about to complete a relaxing stint in the north of Spain. San Sebastián to be exact. It’s a legendary summer destination that puts a premium on massive beaches, swanky shopping, and endless restaurants, tapas bars, and cafes.

It’s not quaint. It’s teeming with people. But it has an ancient charm and a romantic pull that’s hard to describe. I said I wished we could stay for two weeks here and my twelve year old countered with “forever”. So it’s worth going.

But if I stayed two weeks I’m not sure I would make it. We’ve been eating lunch in the late aft and getting home from dinner after eleven. I can’t imagine being here sans kids and firing up for bar hopping at 2:00 AM per the local custom! But lots of people are.

I examine every face I encounter the next day. How late did you stay out? How does a two-hour siesta tide you over? What magic gene do you have that I lack?

Tomorrow we leave Basque Country for Barcelona. I’ve got four more days to get my act together or my name will be the subject of local ridicule.

This vacation stuff is hard work.

Junior Birdman

My twelve year old is taking his first solo flight this week.

YYZ to MIA in airport code speak.

Toronto to South Beach in March break speak. Actually Coconut Grove, but South Beach sounded cooler for a moment. Given that it was the setting for Meet the Frockers and is Dexter’s hometown, the Grove may seem cooler to my tweenager.

This world where we put twelve year olds on planes by themselves is pretty foreign to me. I think I had flown once by that age and it was smack dab between my parentals. My guy? If I told you how many flights he has been on, you would bombard me with the fifty-six known translations of the word spoiled! Yet this one is going to be different.

I am handing him over to a flight attendant who will only be slightly less a stranger than the persons seated next to him and the pilot to whom I am entrusting him. Three hours later he will emerge as just one of the 110,000 daily travelers through Miami International and hopefully be safely escorted into the clutches of his friend’s mother. It frightens me to think that just a few years ago I was holding his hand to cross a street and now he is crossing the border all on his own.

Part of me wants to ride down with him, help the crew refresh the plane, and u-turn right back to Toronto. The other part of me knows I am overreacting. I have put him on a bus for a month away at camp. I have left him lakeside at my parent’s cottage for a week. Less than ten days ago I willingly let him attend a sleepover where the boys were attempting their first all-nighter.

But this is different. I can’t just run over three blocks if he gets a cream soda induced stomach ache or call the camp nurse to ensure he is a-okay.

No this is requiring me to realize he is growing up. That some day he will get on a different plane for a grad trip, university visit,  and eventually for his own career. Not so fast! I still want him to be a junior birdman. A child who wants to sing songs with his Dad. A boy who wants to play with model airplanes, not a VIP passenger on a real one. Sadly no.

So look up in the air. That’s my son.





Oh Canada, We Love Our BeaverTails

Sorry Classified, but the lyrics to your song made the perfect foundation for my title this week.

Our mascot may be a “damn Beaver”, but the BeaverTail delicacy is taking a strong run at overtaking the animal. I know this from two days of highly scientific research conducted earlier this month…at my ski club.

On Saturday of Family Day weekend, in rolled the BeaverTail wagon and you would have thought Santa Claus had arrived. Dozens of cries of “BeaverTails!” echoed throughout the hills. Kids began a delicate, yet complex, negotiation with their parents to a. receive the necessary permission to upgrade the octane level of their midday snack by several thousand kilocalories; and b. to secure the necessary second-mortgage type financing they would need to complete the transaction.

I hadn’t really understood the fascination and fanaticism the BeaverTail brand elicits. I had heard of the Obama Tail served to President Barry during his first visit to Ottawa in his premier term a few years ago. I had seen the huts when we went to Quebec. A friend had shared a far-fetched tale that Bryan Adams once declared that his skill in differentiating a Beaver Tail from a Timbit was supernatural, or All-Canadian, or something. (I am taking liberties here with the actual telling of Adams’ story!)

But how could something so enthralling be created in wee wee wee little Killaloe, Ontario? I have friends who live there and they have never mentioned the furless deep-fried fountain of taste bud ecstasy. Perhaps like me, they hadn’t experienced the love I witnessed this past weekend.

The obsession with the Tail defied all experiential marketing logic. The truck was noisy. The line was long – at one point kids were waiting 40-60 minutes! The price? Good on them for charging mega bucks for fried dough. There was no pre-promotion, no Facebook app, no post event press release.

But if the BeaverTail two day sale where I ski is any indication – they know their consumer, their consumer loves them, and I am one very impressed, and disciplined observer. Disciplined?

Yes, I was practically a Biggest Loser Hall of Fame level participant in my resisting the urge to succumb to the Eve-like temptation of a Skor flavoured BT. You are probably underestimating the level of self control this took. Summon your inner Willy Wonka and visualize a fantasia of chocolate covered faces surrounding you. Soon to be decaying teeth blazing in choreographed smiles. Majestically chocolate ‘stached upper lips on pre-pubescent faces. Chins dripping in sprinkles, sugar, and M&M bits not quite captured by their alligator jaws.

Admit it. I’ve done it. I’ve overwhelmed your senses. You want some damn BeaverTail!

Games and Frontiers: European Vacation Stirs a Range of Feelings

My blog needs a vacation. It’s feeling slighted.

It knows I’m on vacation. Last week the Olympics, this week Normandy.

Don’t side with my blog by calling me spoiled. It can see my entire family is on vacation. It doesn’t need new allies.

My blog is feeling treated like a dog. It should feel worse, because my dog is also away, at a friend’s cottage. How does that work?!

By coincidence, my sister is on vacay right now as well. On the West Coast, California style. Her husband used to play football with my buddy Rico. He’s chilling on the East Coast, Hampton Beach style. There is no deep connection here. I’m just trying to make sure my blog feels as crummy as possible. Even if I have to resort to entirely random connections.

Continue reading “Games and Frontiers: European Vacation Stirs a Range of Feelings”

Summer Lovers

My kids finished school yesterday. Guess that means it’s summer vacation time. So why am I at my desk this morning? Better yet, why are you?

How jealous were you when your little rodents came home yesterday and announced they were sleeping in for eight straight weeks and had little intention of showering, changing their clothes or listening to you?!
What went through your mind as you drove them to the camp bus pick-up location or as their grandparents loaded them up for two weeks of cottaging? How did you feel when your teenager headed to the airport for their job in Banff or simply hopped on the same camp bus, as a CIT, that they used to board as a first-timer?

Look around your office and check out how many people have decided this is the weekend that officially marks summer, and smartly booked today off for an extra long weekend. Continue reading “Summer Lovers”

Viva Italia

I don’t have the exact date, but I am pretty sure the summer of 1976 was the last time that I had two weeks off. Ever since then, I have never gone anywhere close to two weeks without earning a paycheck.

I like working. Paperboy. Busboy. Waiter. Hotel porter. Potato peeler. Car wash cleaner (oxymoron?). School newspaper editor. Account executive at a promotions agency. Marketing manager for University of Guelph athletics. Bartender at a Muskoka resort. Assistant manager at the same Muskoka resort (resort now gone…was called Paignton House). Arboretum “slave”. Grill cook at McDonald’s. Sports publicist at CNE. Food & beverage controller at a Queen’s Quay restaurant (also now gone, Spinnakers). Maintenance man at Ontario Sailing Centre. Maintenance man at a fishing (Wenona) lodge.

But since that day some 35 years ago, I have never gone two weeks without punching in. That is until three Fridays ago, when I climbed aboard a Boeing 763, bound for Rome and the first two-week vacation in the income tax-return-era of my life. Continue reading “Viva Italia”