The Casual Observer: Vacation Fog

The “Dog Days” of summer. According to my sources – many of whom exist solely in my head or on the internet – the term refers to the hottest, most uncomfortable part of the season.

By Dan Haag
Locally, the definition might be broadened to “the last stretch of summer before everyone goes home and we can find parking spaces again.”
With tourist season in full swing, it means one last push from out-of-town folks to squeeze every last ounce from their vacation.
And who can blame them? Soon, they’ll be back in their cubicles and classrooms in Topeka or Kamloops, memories of Oregon taunting them from their Instagram accounts.
For now, they’re concentrating on things like boogie boards and ice cream. Other information – such as which lane to drive in or how to use a turn signal– is filed away for later use.
For the most part, it’s pointless to become irritated when the line at your local grocery store stretches to Astoria or the driver from Washington flips you the bird because you had the temerity to obey the speed limit.
Over the years, I’ve learned to adapt.
My secret? I try to walk in tourist’s shoes (or trip over them as it were).
Let’s be honest: we’ve all acted like a tourist. Maybe you’ve posed for a photo “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or have fed bears at Yellowstone out of a cereal box.
Working with tourists on a daily basis, I witness their behavior and I’ve come up with a term encapsulating it fairly: “Vacation Fog” (patent pending).
A loose definition might be “the blissful, childlike state that occurs during travel.”
Vacationers are often out of their comfort zone, sort of like a polar bear at the Albuquerque Zoo.
I sympathize because, sadly, I’ve been shrouded in Vacation Fog a time or ten.
Before traveling to Hawaii I studied my destination rigorously, hoping to limit the number of stupid “tourist questions” I’d ask.
I was fine until my first gas purchase.
Pulling into a Shell station on Kauai, I realized I had no clue what the state law on service was. I looked frantically for a posted sign or diagram.
An attendant, a mountainous man well over six-five, walked by and I leaned out the car window.
“Excuse me, do I pump my own gas?” I asked casually.
The man’s eyeballs widened like platters. He approached the car, his shadow blotting out the sun. Leaning forward, he replied “Well, I’m sure as hell not doing it for you!”
Another attendant and a couple of patrons I hadn’t noticed howled with laughter. I imagined a large flashing neon arrow pointing at me and a speaker repeatedly blaring “STUPID TOURIST!”
Freshly versed on the rules I filled the tank, paid, and left with my remaining dignity, which is to say none.
That wasn’t my first Vacation Fog, either.
The list is long and distinguished: getting my head stuck in a fence in Canada, using poison ivy to light a campfire in Minnesota, asking a policeman in Barbados to take my dinner order (his uniform looked like a tux, I swear!)
Vacation Fog.
The struggle is real.