As our Midwest winter has oozed its way into spring, my husband and I have arrived for eight days in Orlando with two goals: 1) to recover from yet another brutal winter in Chicago, and 2) to not spend a lot of money. Scott and I are cheap dates, in general. And it’s been an economical trip so far. Airfare, complements of Spirit Air—who having yanked us around for some fourteen hours on a previous 3-hour trip rewarded us for our troubles with coupons for $100 off our next flights—cost us less than $300. And Scott’s bosses—either out of kindness or because the sun-starved, crazed look in his eyes made them increasingly nervous—gave him clear instructions to go get to some sun, quick. (“Director of Pastoral Care Found Sunbathing on Church Roof” was a headline they hoped to avoid.)
We made reservations at a chain hotel. Photos showed a nice, clean pool and palm trees swaying in the breeze, all for $50 a night–including continental breakfast and a free USA Today. No need for a rental car; our plans don’t include sightseeing. No trip to the Magic Kingdom for us. We plan to simply hunker down, soak in the sun, read by the pool (him), write (me) and rest.
Day one went swimmingly well. A $28 taxi from the airport saved us the cost of a rental car. The hotel lived up to its photos—the room is clean and spacious, with a sliding glass door opening to the pool. So far, our good stewardship has paid off.
But for $50 a night, you can’t expect the perks of a luxury hotel. The poolside furniture consists of white plastic stacking chairs and stiff plastic lounge chairs for lying in the sun. On Day Two, after several hours of lying on a cushion-less piece of plastic, my husband’s pre-surgical neck cried uncle, and his creative mind started to spin. At lunchtime, we walked (remember, no rental car) to the nearest store, a K-Mart (not just any K-Mart, mind you, but a “Big K”) about a mile north of the hotel. Scott perused the aisles in hopes of an economical solution to the prospect of seven days on a plastic lounge chair.
Hmmm…three cheap bed pillows would set him back $15, (“about two dollars a day”), a fluffy comforter $20, but he settled on one of those manila-colored egg carton foam mattress covers. The kind that make the sheets on your bed hard to smoothe down and your mattress look like it has a bad case of cellulite. Full size. $16 for seven days of potential bliss.
As we paid for our purchase and left the store, the Bumpus-like nature of this adventure began to dawn on me. Visions of our former country life in Valleyford, where back yard swings are made of used tires and tree forts of old doors, came to mind. It dawned on me that we were in beautiful Orlando, Florida, hoofing it back to our hotel from a “Big K” with a mattress pad for the pool. . .
Back at the hotel room, Scott’s eyes glistened with pride as he opened his purchase and felt the softness of the foam cushion. Pleased, he decided to share the wealth.
“I could cut this thing in half, and then we could both have comfy lounge chairs!” he announced. No scissors on hand, he ripped the mattress pad top to bottom, rolled up the two halves, handed one half to me, poured himself a drink, and out to the pool we marched.
Moments later, lying side-by-side next to the pool atop foam K-Mart mattress pads—each with one jagged edge—beneath palm trees swaying in the breeze, I eyeballed my husband who was wriggling with delight. The ex-physician was getting more joy from his $16 stroke of cheap genius than he would’ve found at an all-inclusive resort. (Well, maybe…)
These are the moments when I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.