Two Geckos to go

by Jodie Brohard

This story is part of our 'Funniest hotel experiences' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition. Photo by Jurvetson.

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When I ran over to my friend Dana’s house to tell her I had just won a free four day family vacation to Orlando Florida, she responded, "What’s the catch?" "There’s no catch," I said. "A judging agency just called and told me I won." "Jodie, you’re too gullible." Dana sighed. "I’m sure you’re going to have to attend a real estate sales pitch to earn your...," she paused and made air quotes, "free vacation."

I disagreed. I was sure we would return with great tans and beautiful memories. The arrangements were made and we flew to Orlando. We were driven to our hotel in a Cadillac limousine. I was ecstatic about the first-class treatment we were receiving. We pulled up to our hotel and the exterior looked beautiful. Even better, it was right next to the amusement park we planned to visit. Dana had been foolish to suggest there was something fishy about my prize.

Then, we entered the hotel lobby and were greeted by a man wearing a ten-foot boa constrictor as a belt. "Are you folks here for the convention?" he asked. "Convention?" I looked back nervously at my husband, hoping he would step between me and the snake. He didn’t. My husband looked anxiously at the man’s waist and herded the kids over to hide behind a potted plant.

"What convention?" I asked. "The Annual Reptile Breeder’s Convention," Serpent Man replied. Our vacation turned out to be quite educational. At Orlando’s theme parks, my kids learned some things about history, movie-making, and how to amuse your self while waiting in line. But I think they learned more from our hotel’s conventioneers.

Poolside, my kids learned just how many places on the human body can be tattooed. You name a body part and we have seen it with an iguana tattoo. In the hotel lobby we examined, up close, whether we wanted to or not, rare and exotic turtles, lizards, and snakes. The reptile breeders carted around the bigger species in their arms or in cages. The smaller varieties they carried inside plastic deli containers, where we could hear them scurrying around like irate orders of potato salad.

Fearful of snakes my entire life, I tried to hide my anxiety and loathing in front of my children. I didn’t want them completely traumatized by my "prize" trip. As the friendly conventioneers showed off their pets, and I could only wish I was at a boring real estate sales presentation, I tried not to act repulsed.

My act apparently worked. My youngest daughter even petted a few of the less-deadly-looking scaly creatures. Unfortunate memories of our trip and that hotel still sometimes slither through my dreams. But the only lasting vacation souvenir is that to this day, no one in my family will eat any kind of take-out food in a plastic deli container.

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