“So how’s the software conversion going?” my friend asked.
“About like you’d expect,” I sighed.
She oughta know. Of the three major financial software conversions I’ve done over my career, two of them were done while I was working for her. Software conversions follow the same Rule of 3 as home construction projects: no matter how well you plan, it will take 3 times as long and cost 3 times as much as your original estimate.
The comparison is particularly appropriate at this time, since I also happen to be in the middle of a kitchen remodel that should have finished last month.
“It’s a good thing you’re taking this vacation. You really need it.”
Truth. She’s my best friend, so she knows that in addition to the remodeling and the conversion, I’m also dealing with some extremely stressful personal issues. She really should be asking me if I intend to come back, and if not, do I still want my Amazon history erased before MFB can see it?
I put my vacation plans into motion last spring. A lunchtime conversation with this same friend wound up on the topic of doing things just for ourselves, and not our family, our friends, or our jobs. Right at the top of my list was this enduring fantasy I’ve had of taking a vacation by myself.
Totally selfish, I know. It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with my loved ones; it’s just that the notion of spending a week doing things that only I enjoy is incredibly appealing. When I’m traveling with others, I can’t stay holed up in the hotel room vegging out. I have to participate in activities, and I have to socialize. I have to do things.
Don’t get me wrong, I always have a good time. We aren’t doing things that I hate, it’s just that we’re not doing anything I would love. My introverted self loves things like spending the entire day in my pajamas reading a book, which my extroverted family members view as a violation of the Geneva Convention protocols.
Thoughts of fantasy-fulfillment usually remain just that – thoughts – but this one wouldn’t leave me alone. A casual lunchtime conversation with ‘hey, maybe you should check out a writing cruise,’ instead morphed into a week in Arizona, where my chances of getting seasick are considerably lessened.
My fantasy came to life in two phases. The first was when I looked at my various travel rewards statements and realized I had enough points to pay for a flight and hotel, which eliminated any lingering guilt over doing something fun without my spouse. The second happened a week later, when I stumbled across the announcement for a writers’ conference.
Arizona is a place I have wanted to visit for years. You wouldn’t think it would be a tourist destination in September’s brutal heat, but this is where my Friend-I’ve-Never-Met lives. Talking about her always sounds like an online dating testimonial:
“Oh, we met about thirteen years ago, when she commented on something I wrote. I answered back, she replied, and I don’t know, we just clicked!”
Today’s version would involve pulling up the Nerds United app and swiping right to meet a fellow introverted, book-loving, language nerd who happens to enjoy writing. (Does this app exist? It should.)
We’ve wanted to meet up in person for a long time. The stars aligned, so I booked my flight. I also told my staff that if they contacted me during that time period, they had better start that conversation with “I’m only calling you because _______ is dead and if I don’t resolve _______, the United States will be forced to surrender to Liechtenstein’s invading forces.”
Having related the above, I do have to acknowledge the small possibility that I am being cat-fished. Since we’ve never met in person before, ‘she’ might be an overly-large balding man with hairy knuckles and nefarious intentions. The odds of her being fake are pretty slim, though, since she is listed as one of the convention’s instructors.
In addition, there are the relatives. Her sister knows my aunt. Her aunt knows my cousin. I’ve personally met one of her cousins, not a distant cousin, but a ‘your parent is my parent’s sibling’ cousin. We both could hold a family reunion, and the same people would show up.
The whole ‘published author’ thing tips the scales further in favor of her being who she says she is, but what if Amazon is involved in the scheme? They’d be the perfect partner in crime since they already know everything about me, right down to my fondness for brazil nuts and love of old Barbara Cartland novels. (Don’t judge.)
But in order to orchestrate an evil scheme on this level, she would have to be an absolute genius. It would be the Greatest Cat-Fish Ever. “They found your grandma’s body in a ditch, clutching an empty Diet Coke can,” my kids would tell their children, “and they never did catch the guy.”
Which really makes this all the more reason that I have to go. I am morally obligated by the Rules of Literary Engagement to carry this through to the end. *Reference Rule 172, Section 6, Penalties for Early Plot Cancellation.
Even if – especially if – Amazon is involved.
Besides, the prospect of impending doom still sounds more appealing than another week at the office.