William Lucas Walker was offered a free Club Med vacation… would you say no to that?
Recently The Good Men Project reprinted one of my Spilled Milk columns called “Tea and Coco,” about my daughter finally getting to meet her fairy godmother. In it I happened to mention the Club Med where I first met that fairy godmother, in Mexico, years ago.
To my horror, shortly after “Tea and Coco” was published, I got a message from Club Med’s PR company, a tweet actually, advising that they needed to get in touch with me. Though I’d said mostly nice things about my time at the resort, I had mentioned the fact that I suspected its cheese platters might be repurposed from earlier cheese platters.
I knew in my gut that their real intention was to patch me through to the Club Med legal department. They probably wanted video proof of my reckless cheese accusation. Which of course I didn’t have; I’d recorded over it. Meaning they’d be forcing me to sign a Cease and Desist Notice, or some other document promising never to mention Club Med or any of their cheeses in any of my future columns. (Which, oops, I just did.)
But it turned out to be exactly the opposite. When I finally worked up the nerve to call their number, a buoyant PR rep did answer the phone and told me they had LOVED “Tea and Coco.” They thought it was delightful. So much so that they would be further delighted if Kelly and I would accept an invitation to be their guests on a four-day vacation at Club Med Sandpiper Bay, a newly remodeled resort in Florida. All expenses paid.
I knew from my work in the entertainment industry that famous people are always getting free stuff. Tons of it. Cars, clothes, trips, iPhones that can clean and also nanny. All this makes sense: famous people are usually rich, and everyone knows rich people need free stuff.
I had witnessed this famous people/freebie thing firsthand. Once, while developing a television show for a singer whose name you can figure out if you look up my credits, I mentioned that I liked a leather jacket he was wearing and asked where he bought it.
“I don’t buy stuff,” he said. “The designer gave it to me. I think it’s Hugo Boss.”
“They gave it to you? That was nice.”
And that’s when he let me in on a secret. Famous people don’t pay for anything. Everything he was wearing had been given to him by one designer or another. Shirt, shoes, pants, watch. All of it. For free. (Except for his socks. It was a thing with him. Dude wanted me to know he paid for his socks.)
“So wait a minute. You’re telling me that — skipping the socks, which you pay for, and I admire that — everything you’re wearing some big-shot designer gave you free?”
“Even my hair goop.”
I ignored this. “But not stuff like… your underwear?”
“Especially stuff like my underwear! I’ve got a few cartons left out in the garage. You need some?”
And now it was happening to me. Only wait a minute. I wasn’t famous. Or rich. And it wasn’t free.
The Club Med PR lady went on. “We’re calling it our Club Med Bloggers’ Weekend. We’ve invited bloggers from all over the country to sample our newly renovated Sandpiper Bay resort and let their readers know about it. We’ll need you to write at least one blog post about it, preferably with photos. Oh, and it would be great if you could tweet about your excitement and share what’s going on with your friends and fans on Facebook, starting the week before, and then up through your departure. Sound good?”
No, it did not sound good. It sounded like prostitution.
I could not believe it. Club Med wanted me to pimp out my fingers so they could spread the word about a new resort. I could feel the moral outrage swell, but I contained it.
“I’m really sorry. I don’t think I can do that kind of thing.”
“What kind of thing?”
“That kind of thing.”
“It’s not a thing.”
“And by the way, I’m not a blogger. I’m a columnist.”
There was a pause. I may have heard a snicker. I’m not sure; it was muffled.
“Of course you are. And we love your column.”
“Which, technically, means that even if I wanted to I couldn’t attend your ‘blogger’ weekend. Because, as I said, I’m not a blogger. I’m a serious humor columnist. I don’t do puff pieces, which I think it’s pretty clear is what you’re looking for.”
“We don’t want a puff piece.” She had a tinkling laugh. “We want you to relax and enjoy yourself at our new resort. You and Kelly. That’s what Club Med’s all about. Do the two of you sail?”
Now I knew. This is what Satan sounds like.
“No. We do not sail. Nor do I pimp out the fingers I type with for free vacations. That’s what travel writers do. You want a puff piece? Find a travel writer. I’m sure their fingers are very limber.”
“But we want you.”
“I’m trying to tell you: I’m not comfortable with it.”
“What would make you more comfortable?”
“If you stopped asking questions like that.”
“C’mon, Bill, what would it take?”
“What would it take? Desperation. That’s what it would take. You could only have my fingers if I were desperate. Mind you, I’m only talking in hypotheticals. Just say my husband disappeared into the Texas dust without paying the mortgage and my kids really needed to sail. Maybe then. Only this isn’t that. Nothing like it. This isn’t Jennifer Love Hewitt having to sacrifice her hand every single day for the good of her family. J-Love’s circumstances are dire. Which is the opposite of comfortable. But she has no choice. That’s what it would take.”
“Jennifer Love Hewitt?”
“I need to hang up. You’re seriously telling me you’ve never seen The Client List?”
And that’s when the screaming started. For the sixth time in the last hour. My two kids.
They used to get along. Once they behaved like normal children who saved their fights for appropriate settings, like church or wherever they saw their parents on a phone. But in the past few months, they’d begun spreading the joy all through the day, like napalm.
By this point, the occasional battle had escalated into a ninety-day war. Now all it took was one of them seeing the other walk into a room and within five seconds they were on each other like Godzilla and Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, poking, slapping and fire-breathing, nonstop, all day. Turning innocent ditties like, “She copied me” “No, he copied me!” into screeching, smack-down arias. And no matter how much Kelly and I tried to repair and rebuild, by the end of the next day the creatures had demolished Japan again, until once again it was nothing but a pile of steaming, stinking rubble.
Concerned, I did what any parent would. I Googled the situation. And being Google, there it was: a piece from a prestigious medical journal titled “Clashing Phases of Development.” It included a highly technical explanation of my 11-year-old daughter’s phase, mostly to do with (surprise) hormones. I don’t want to mangle the technical jargon, so I’ll quote directly. “Pubescent female hormones,” the doctor stated, “after years of stealth planning, mass together, tie up the normal cells, and begin pinwheeling into the countryside by the millions, bent on mass destruction. Only to find their 6-year-old brother lying in wait, taunting through a gap-toothed smile: ‘Bring it on, Death Farts. I’ve been waiting for this take-down all my life!'” (Email me. I’ll send you the link.)
Which brings us back to my phone call with Club Med. Parents adapt quickly under siege, so with my children’s cries obliterating my ability to hear, I followed a plan I’d developed a couple of weeks earlier. I explained the noise by telling the Club Med lady that I’d accidentally sat on the TV remote, unmuting a favorite episode of When Animals Attack! Then, I did hit MUTE on the phone, giving her a moment to feel superior for never having watched such a sick, ghastly show, much less choosing a favorite episode. After which, with my voice muted, she kept chattering, according to my plan, unable to hear me barreling down two flights of steps, chasing Godzilla and the Three-Headed Monster to the back yard in a stampede of loud, ugly threats.
Only when I’d slammed the door shut did I unmute the phone and put it back to my ear, just in time to hear the Club Med lady say:
“… concluding with your complimentary aromatherapy massage. Think about it, Bill, and if you change your mind, let me know if you’d like me to book your airfare.”
* * * * *
CLUB MED BLOGGERS’ WEEKEND!
At Club Med Sandpiper Bay all accommodations, sports activities, meals, bar and tips are conveniently paid for upfront [unless you're getting the trip for free]. All you’ll need to think about are fun ways to relax with your family [minus Ghidorah and Godzilla, who'll be 3,000 miles away, destroying Japan. And their babysitter Rachelle, who will probably die trying to figure out just how much she was underpaid].
If you’re feeling social, you and yours can enjoy your time here getting to know other families from around the world. [Avoid these people like lepers with rabies; they have children with them. Instead, sip cocktails by the bay with your amazing, handsome spouse, and try to figure out how you've only managed to string nine days alone together since you became parents. Then, as the sun sets, make a tiny slice in each of your left palms, co-mingle your blood, and swear a binding, voodoo oath that you will never, ever allow that to happen again.]
If you’re feeling active, try a sunrise golf lesson with Club Med’s resident pro [stick to the bar; it's open in the morning] or learn to sail with a trained professional [his name's Howdy; way cool]. Meet your new friends on professional-grade tennis courts for a game of doubles [go back to the bar] or work out in our air-conditioned, fully-equipped gym [nap in your room]. If swimming’s your thing, you can either enjoy the kid-friendly exuberance of the family pool [it'll only give you flashbacks; don't do it] or take a relaxing dip on the river’s edge in the “quiet” pool. [Swim here. No one under 18 is allowed in the gate. But beware of married men who ignore their wives for minutes at a time while staring at your husband. You may have to wait until he's adjusted his Speedo and started swimming laps (both to impress your husband, who still hasn't noticed) before discreetly approaching his wife with a list of divorce attorneys.]
If you’re feeling spiritual, join the early morning yoga class, where no matter your level of expertise, trained instructors will guide you to a state of peaceful Zen rapture. [Be sure to peek if they ask you to close your eyes for a 3-minute meditation. At our class, once everyone's eyes were shut, the instructor turned around, whipped out his iPhone and started texting like a crazy person. Or tweeting. Or answering mail. I couldn’t tell and I didn't care. I finally stopped resenting him for making my body hurt and felt more at one with his energy than I had during any of the stretches.]
Club Med’s goal is to give you the vacation of your dreams so you and your kids will come back again and again for years to come. [It was the vacation of our dreams. It was pretty much perfect, which is why we'd never sully the memory by coming back with our kids. Until there's a vaccine for hormones or being six. Or they're in their thirties and offer to pay for the trip. Because from here on out we're only doing freebies. Though not on Club Med. I'm pretty sure they won't be inviting us back.]
Photo—Tropical beach from Shutterstock