Kate here, wondering why it is that this season of love and joy always seems to bring out the crank in me? Especially today, when I am just back from a lovely three-day escape to the beach in Puerto Rico? Well, maybe it’s because after a decade of coughing my way through the fall and winter, I have finally figured out that I get sick in October and recover in March, and so, for me, the holiday season is usually spent building in intervals to cough and gasp between all the fun parties and errands. This trip was supposed to bring some sunshine and R&R to stop that cough in its tracks. But then, the day before the doc said, “sinus infection, here’s the heavy duty antibiotic, and cough medicine to help you sleep.” One bathing suit, shorts, and a pharmacy later, I arrived at the Ritz.
Now the Ritz, mind you, is always kind of an intimidating destination to a chicken farmer’s daughter from Maine. Having read the on-line admonitions about proper dress in the restaurant and the lobby, I had added a few things to my suitcase: dinner dress, proper shoes, grown-up jewelry, bathing suit cover-up to be worn in the lobby, all that extra weight to drag around so I could stay at a nice hotel.
The Ritz is a fabulous hotel. It has the best-trained staff of anyplace I’ve ever stayed. They are charming, friendly, helpful, smiling and kind. I just wish that they could train the guests as well. We arrived to find a mob scene at the check-in desk. On the left, a man and small boy waited patiently for an answer. In the middle, a VIP group of four were taking a long time to check in because the check-in ceremony involved four glasses of champagne and lots of hugs from the staff. On the right, two not-as-young-as-they-hoped Jersey Girls were engaged in a two-on-one argument with the hotel clerk, the gist of which was: even though it was two hours to check-in time, the hotel should produce a room for them immediately, and give them an upgrade they weren’t entitled to because someone they knew–vague gestures toward the lobby–had gotten one and so should they. This barrage lasted about twenty minutes as the champagne ceremony went on center stage and the patient man and child got some answers to their questions. My good husband, who waits badly at the best of times, was ready to find another hotel.
But check-in we did. Lunch was lovely. The beach perfect and the sea warm and welcoming. And then came the people-watching. You all know that we writers don’t get out much, right? So when we do, we like to people watch. On my three days at the beach, these are some of the things I saw.
Despite the cute photo on the left, what I really saw that revealed about that much was a great whale of a man in a red bathing suit he could no longer fit over his stomach, lumbering toward the water with a full five inches of butt crack displayed to the rest of us. Now, readers, this is a Ritz-Carlton crowd, right, so this must have been some pretty important and well-to-do gentleman, and I couldn’t help but wonder–would he really come out in public dressed like that if he knew that a bathing suit that rode so low in the front would also ride so low in the back?
When I was kid, when we used to burn the blueberry fields, we would wear what we called “Indian pumps” on our backs, which were big metal tanks of water with pump hoses to control the fire. The man in the chair in front of me was a bandy-legged fellow with a hairy gut on him as big as one of those tanks. So turning my eyes to something more pleasing, I found a group of young Asian women down by the water. Between orders for tropical drinks, they took pictures of each other. And of themselves. And of each other. And of them themselves. They even did a series of awkward cheerleader moves so the others could get motion shots. Then they shot video. Then they ordered more drinks.
And just beyond them, a slim, elegant woman in a white bathing suit tried repeatedly to settle her breasts in her bikini top, but despite many tries that involved bending forward from the waist, seizing the top, and shaking, they never settled to suit her. It was fun to watch, though I think I would have gone to the hotel shop and gotten a new bathing suit.
Yes, dear readers, I know I am not perfect. I also wore a modest beach cover-up and a demure hat.
Fast forward to dinner, when I, modest, proper and elegant in my dinner dress, entered a lovely restaurant and found myself seated across from a quartet of young people who looked like they’d just spent the afternoon dump picking. Flip flops, shapeless tank tops, rumpled shorts and uncombed hair. And my husband had told me I had to pack proper clothes if I was going to stay at the Ritz?
But we are all on vacation, right? So I shouldn’t have jumped quite so much as I did when my gaze fell on the adjoining table at breakfast and there was a man in his bathrobe. Dear me, readers, it nearly caused palpitations. When did it become okay to wear a bathrobe to a restaurant? While I was tucked up at my desk, I guess.
So now I am back home, at my desk, swathed from head-to-toe, my cough a forgotten thing and in fine holiday spirits. The to-do list isn’t any shorter, but I have been rested, entertained, and amused. So thank you, fellow Ritz guests, for giving this small town Mainer a glimpse of the real world.