Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saving A C-Note: A Story Of Timeshares and Falsified Homosexuality - Part 1

I was fortunate enough to go to Hawaii for a vacation/improv festival last week, and while I have lots of stories about snorkeling in beautiful, crystal clear water, swimming with dolphins, riding mopeds, watching gorgeous sunsets, and enjoying some of Hawaii's finest cuisine, I'm opting instead to share what was perhaps the most painful (though in hindsight, incredibly amusing) 3 hours I spent while on the island of Oahu.

Our story begins before I even left for Hawaii. As a single guy looking to save a few bucks, I booked my trip to Hawaii through a lovely travel agency called Pleasant Holidays with my friend and fellow performer David Etkin. Mr. Etkin and I booked our flight and hotel together for a very reasonable price, and by booking with Pleasant Holidays, on top of the savings they provided, we were greeted at the airport with leis and the offer of a complimentary breakfast the following morning. The tale continue at this breakfast, where we were being treated to some light entertainment followed by a lengthy powerpoint presentation on all the many tours offered in, on, under, on top of, and around the island.

All of the guests in the room were given a checklist with a listing of each packaged tour, with pricing, times, discounts offered and a total to be tabulated at the bottom. Like my yearly girl scout cookie purchases, it was clearly expected that you'd be buying more than one item on the list. This was an important moment in everyone's trip: Should we go on a helicopter tour of some of the other islands, or should we go see some of the locations where they shot Lost? (side note: I'm amazed I somehow didn't do this) Should we go check out Pearl Harbor, or go see a traditional Hawaiian luau? I'll once again defer to my girl scout cookie simile, and say that like many of the delicious offerings on that menu, everything I saw sounded like a tasty time. My decision making process was shortened about halfway through the presentation when it was announced that I had won a lottery drawing for a free trip to a watersports site that offered jet-skiing, para-sailing, and several other things that were far lamer than jet-skiing and para-sailing, like banana boating.

I'd won some minor lotteries in the past - an early chance at a kick-ass dorm my junior year of college, the opportunity to go first in a game of Jenga - but this one was the most valuable one by far. There's a funny moment, just before a name is called in something like this - where you're hoping you'll win, almost positive you won't, but at the same time, you secretly can't see how the universe would reward anyone else besides you, based on everything you know you deserve. At least, that's how it goes in my head.

The host reads and mispronounces my incredibly easy to pronounce last name (two e's make a different sound than one people, why do so many of you abandon that rule so quickly?), and following that error in judgment, I quickly and unnecessarily sprang to my feet and started approaching the stage (we were warned beforehand that we had 3 repetitions of our name to claim our prize or else it'd go to another person, though I merely had to raise my hand), realize my error and then sat back down, attempting to keep my shit-eating grin as minimized as possible. To counteract the amazing feeling of getting something no one else was getting, I ruminated for a minute thinking about the next dozen better lotteries I'd play that I now of course wouldn't be winning.

Finally after the presentation was over, several local Hawaiian women in mu'umu'us* came around and went to each table to assist all the couples with their package decisions. I say couples here because this is a key component to the story: by and large, with the exception of a woman and her elderly mother, Etkin and I were the only non-male-female, non-married, under-40-years-old pairing. I may have also been the only darker skinned non-Hawaiian there, but that's such a common occurrence in my daily life - both in and out of vacation-related presentations - that I barely notice it anymore.

Had the coming interaction not occurred, this of course would be a minor detail: something Etkin nudges and points out to me (which he did) before we settle our business and scram. But alas, fate had more in store for us that day. And it started with the promise of savings:

"Would you two like to save $100 on one of your tours?"

Looking at the $175 price tag alone just to swim with the dolphins, Etkin and I knew the answer right away:

"Tell us more..."

The $100 was an offer on the table for anyone willing to sit through a timeshare presentation for 2 hours. Etkin quickly did the math, and rationalized that it was if we were opting to work for $50 an hour during our vacation, tax free. The agent asked if we made the appropriate salary ($75,000 combined), and technically we did, but this led to an awkward question, and the beginning of a lie that would quickly snowball out of control. Well, no, that's not true. Let me not exaggerate the situation. The lie certainly snowballed, but I'd like to think it never grew larger than the size of a small boulder. Difficult to maintain, but certainly not impossible. It might knock you out if it hit you with enough force, but you know, you'd live.

She asked if we were a couple, and we quickly decided to say we lived together as roommates but we weren't a gay couple - a white lie that we figured would still qualify us. I could see by the look in her eyes that our situation it wasn't necessarily a dealbreaker. She checked with someone more in the know, and came back and told us "it should be fine." You guys can tell where this is going.

--Next time: A Deal With The Time Share Devil-- 
(Actually a really good deal, when you think about it!)

*pronounced: "moo-oo-moo-oo", we were told emphatically, along with: "MUMU'S are what comes from cows," though I'd argue that end-phrase was already taken by milk, meat, and a large amount of the world's methane.

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