The last family vacation included a caravan of two minivans and one SUV transporting 15 people to southern California. It was the summer of 2005.
The caravan traveled like a well-oiled machine, each vehicle traveling at a safe speed and each one staying within view of each other. Gas ups and pit stops were coordinated via walkie talkies. (I’m not kidding.)
It was a vacation I’ll never forget. I can’t. No matter how hard I try. The memories -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- are etched in my mind forever.
It was an aggressive itinerary. See every zoo and theme park between San Diego and Anaheim in five days.
By the time we got to Anaheim, the clan had grown from 15 to 18. No, we didn’t reproduce that quickly, although we are Latino so I can understand how the thought would cross your mind. Three more family members drove up and merged at Disneyland.
The family vacation culminated with a cat fight along with the parade route at Disneyland. The aggressor quickly became the unfortunate victim: an unusually, tall Indian woman who had no idea what she was walking into. (She should have just kept walking. Why didn’t she just keep walking?)
To be honest, she was a bully. But she picked the wrong family.
To make a long story short, she crossed our invisible territorial line made up of mostly strollers, diaper bags and blankets. We had planted ourselves along the parade route three hours before the parade even started at the suggestion of one family member.
“There’s so many of us so let’s stake out our space early so we can stay together to watch the parade.”
Sounded like a good idea at the time. So instead of letting the kids enjoy one more ride on Space Mountain, we forced them to sprawl themselves across the sidewalk as we strategically planted the before mentioned strollers, diaper bags and blankets.
Here’s the thing about making kids wait for three hours. They don’t want to! They get hungry. They have to pee. They get bored.
Little by little, clan members were disappearing. Some took kids to the bathroom. Some ventured into the gift shop. The few of us who didn’t stray were left to hold down the fort. Literally.
Enter unusually, tall Indian woman and her friend. Both pushing strollers.
As they crossed the invisible state line into our clan’s territory, they kicked our diaper bags and blankets out of the way, nearly hitting a couple of our clan kids. Then the really tall one grabbed two of our strollers, one with each hand, and pushed them into the “parade” street.
I quickly panned the faces of our clan members. It was a unanimous, “Oh hell noooooo!”
It got ugly. It got ugly fast.
The gloves were already off, but things got even crazier when the unusually, tall Indian woman threw the first racial blow. Her friend, the smart one, had bailed on her moments after the shouting match over “parade space” had started.
Then the unusually, tall Indian woman said something about “you people” and “go back to Mexico.” Somebody from our clan said something about the red dot on her head.
Like I said, it got ugly. It was an international war of words in three different languages.
While Mexico vs. India was going down, I was on my cell phone trying to resolve an issue that had come up at work. The client heard most of the commotion, but he knew I was taking time out of my vacation to help. So I explained the ruckus by saying I was standing near some crazy family at Disneyland. I wasn’t lying.
The unusually, tall Indian woman finally walked away, licking her wounds, only to cross the “parade” street and kick another family's things out of the way. She then planted herself in their spot. They just watched as their things were swiftly kicked to the side. And they did nothing.
By the time we left the “happiest place on earth,” we were at each other’s throats. On the road back, the caravan had gone to hell. No one answered their walkie talkie and pieces of the caravan were making unscheduled gas ups and pit stops, pissing off the other drivers.
At one pit stop, family members were swapping vehicles because someone in their vehicle had pissed them off. Needless to say, there hasn’t been a mega family, caravan vacation since.
But this family vacation will be different. One car, three passengers. No parades. No walkie talkies.