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Madeleine Begun Kane

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Vacation travel. A time to relax, mellow out, let loose and forget your cares. To indulge yourself, boogie till dawn, gorge on gourmet fare. To spend an entire day shopping for a "must have" item you forgot to pack.

Every year the same thing happens. I make detailed lists, buy what I think we'll need, start packing three weeks in advance. And beseech my spouse to do the same. Being a wonderful husband, Mark always says "Great idea," snaps open his luggage, and begins to pack. That is, in my dreams.

"You worry too much," he says. "I'll pack the night before we leave."

"At least tell me what I should buy you," I can't resist begging, although I know it's useless.

"Nothing. Everything's under control."

I remind him about the time we crossed the country for a wedding, and he forgot to pack a suit. I refresh his recollection of the contact lens debacle and the prescription pills he left behind.

"That wasn't my fault," he said this year, as our latest trip approached. "Besides, we're not exactly going to a remote island They do have stores in Canada, you know." (Yes, they do, as I would soon find out.) Then he reached for the remote control, his hint that further discussion would be futile.

Flash forward to the morning of our drive from New York City to Montreal. Socks flying from drawers to bags. (No need, after all, to pack the night before.) A shirt shortage -- never mind, a false alarm. The coat and sweater debate. How many? How heavy? Where in heavens would they fit? Toiletry spillage, zipper breakage. Hurrah, we were finally on the road.

Nearly a dozen hours later, after a trip dogged by harrowing fog, we arrived at our hotel, wondering if they had held our room. (After all, it was well into the next day.) But by 3 a.m. we were checked in, our car was parked, and my wrinkle-friendly clothing was hanging free. Best of all, I was luxuriating in a hot, pounding shower, the driven water pelting my aching muscles, the stress of the trip beginning to fade.

"Where's my...?" Mark's voice jarred my newfound serenity. I decided not to strain to hear what he was trying to say.

"You didn't pack my gym shorts."

This time I heard him. Normally such an accusation would have inspired an angry "What do you mean by you?" retort. But I was mellow by now and opted to ignore him.

He stuck his head into the bathroom. "I have swim trunks, but no shorts," he announced.

"So work out in your trunks," I said.

"Can't be done. Have to buy shorts tomorrow."

I sighed at the thought of squandering even an hour of our three-day stay. I considered asking Mark when was the last time he actually worked out. But I thought better of it and instead, started the rationalization process. If you want to see the real Canada, I told myself, it's important to check out its stores. Besides, how long could buying a pair of gym shorts take?

There are lots of gym shorts in Montreal, as we learned the next day. Unfortunately, they're all in locked display cases, apparently not for sale. Finally, after a tedious hunt, we found a department store that didn't deem gym shorts museum pieces. Although the store had little selection, it carried his size. And, as I was tempted to say: "If the gym shorts fit, you must buy it."

The shorts fit well enough. So we decided to overlook the strange design -- ice skaters wielding brooms -- and paid for the shorts a mere twenty minutes before the 5 P.M. closing time.

"What did you do with the package?" Mark asked as he shoved the store's revolving door.

"You were carrying the shorts," I yelled. "What the hell did you do with them?"

Our debate continued as we retraced our steps, located Lost and Found, and returned to Men's Sportswear ... to buy a second pair of shorts.

"Uh-oh," Mark said much later that evening as he was examining his clothes. "Don't yell, but you remember that swimsuit I packed? It's really shorts."

Did Mark ever work out in the hotel gym? Not even once. But he did manage to squeeze in a couple of swims ... giving equal time to each pair of shorts.

© 1996 Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
1st Published Florida Magazine.

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