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Samuel E Evans

“Shipping Out” by David Foster Wallace, pt. 2

Progym: Impersonation

“Every public surface on the m.v. Nadir that isn’t stainless steel or glass or varnished parquet or dense and good-smelling sauna-type wood is plush blue carpet that never has a chance to accumulate even one flecklet of lint because jumpsuited Third World guys are always at it with Siemens A.G.® vacuums” (45).

I’ve never been on a cruise, but two years ago I went, for the first time, on an all-inclusive resort vacation in the Caribbean. It was one of those package-deals where almost every tiny thing from the flight-in to the flight out is included: bussing, all-you-can-eat meals, two day-trips, four luxury dining experiences, and an endless cascade of mixed drinks.

Our trip set out from Montréal’s Pierre Trudeau Airport, a massive, bustling, disorienting place that I have come to know nearly as well as my city block, and flew on a cramped ultra-budget flight into the tiny airfield of Samaná, Dominican Republic. The airport there was truly tiny, small even compared to the various other minuscule airports I have seen in my life, and our vacation there began promptly with a 3-hour wait at Customs. The line, which completely filled the poorly-ventilated converted hangar and spilled out onto the tarmac near the planes, was a mash of Canadians from our flight, Russians from a Moscow-originating jet that landed immediately after us, and a smattering of Germans and Spaniards. It would turn out that this exact combination of people would inhabit the same resort as us for the following week, and we’d point each other out, either explicitly or through glances across the dining hall that read, “you stood behind me at Customs.”

After finally escaping the airport, we acquired our “Bahia-Principe” wristbands from a smiling resort staff member and piled onto a bus packed with our comrades from the Montréal flight. The 20-minute drive to the resort consisted of hairpin turns through barely-paved roads without a stop sign or traffic light in sight, while resort staff provided enthusiastic commentary in French over a partially-functional sound system. The 90% of riders who understood French seemed to enjoy it very much.

The week at the resort that followed can best be described as amazingly, though enjoyably, uneventful. Each day consisted of some ratio of oversleeping, reading by the pool, overeating, reading on the beach, and sunburn. The nights consisted of scheduled events, various creative beverages, and plenty of people making fools of themselves while trying to navigate the resort’s thousands of staircases in the dark, often while intoxicated. Of our four allotted luxury dining passes, we used three before deciding the other food options were equally oversalted and fattening, but required less hassle.

Besides two included and pre-arranged trips, we hardly left the resort all week. The first, a choppy whale-watching venture, was just about what I expected as someone who doesn’t enjoy boats much. The second was a little more bizarre, as it was sold as a “donkey trip to a spectacular waterfall,” which is already a strange premise. Afterward, I would describe it as “uncooperative donkeys, underwhelming waterfall, very nice beach, acquired souvenir dominos.” Could be better, could be worse, but the staff certainly made sure everything went smoothly.

Having gone on a wide variety of vacations, and this being my fourth to the Caribbean, I would say that going to a resort has to be one of the weirdest. Resorts are among the most idealized facets of the imagined American vacation, though I can’t personally say they are my brand of holiday. I had almost no access to the outside world during that week, and I mean that in multiple respects: I hardly left the premises, and I had no outside communication at all. The latter was quite relaxing, apart from receiving multiple angry voicemails from my boss upon returning to cell service back in Montréal.

As for not seeing what lay beyond our little view of the bay and the town waterfront, I felt somewhat shortchanged. I was able to go for runs in town for the first half of the week, but I reconsidered this decision after I required two local gentlemen to scare off several stray dogs who began chasing me. Still, I felt the vacation was not real, almost an illusion by being holed up in our little castle by the sea. This may be where my view of the ideal vacation differs from the norm. I would greatly prefer, for instance,  my previous trip to Jamaica, which provided both relaxing hours on the beach and wild backcountry escapades and spicy street food. A resort, while not quite as secluded and ultra-luxury as a cruise, still seems not the thing for me.

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