April 26, 2010
This is Day 6 of the teachers' union strike. In the early morning hours of Day 4, I stumbled upon an advertisement for a steeply discounted hotel room in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Two hours later, my kids and I hit the road.
Shortly after arriving at the hotel, I began to sense that something was out of place. It took my toddler sticking his arm elbow-deep into a potted plant to realize that that something was us.
"Why are there so many grandmas and grandpas here?" my daughter asked me.
During our stay, we were the only hotel guests who were not foreign tourists or had been bused in from Leisure Village.
The retirees we encountered during our visit fell into two groups: those who crossed themselves and muttered "God Bless" as we passed, and those who wondered out loud what kind of mother would bring small children to a casino...as if casinos aren't family friendly.
If the sight of me with my brood and my cooler full of juice boxes made the other hotel guests nervous, it shouldn't have. We had no interest in the nickel slot machines; we were there for the Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool. Most of the time, we were the only people in the pool area. You can understand then why my kids were a little put out to find a man swimming laps there one morning.
"Look at his flippers!" my daughter said excitedly, pointing at the man's aquatic footwear. All convened at the pool's edge for a closer look.
"Stay away from him," I ordered, drawing an imaginary line down the side of the pool.
Despite having 90% of the pool to themselves, my children were drawn to the swimmer like dolphins to a fishing boat. Even with constant corralling, they still managed to swim closer to him than I would have liked.
Eventually, one of my kids swam into him.
"You're done for a little bit," I said, yanking my son out of the pool by his armpits.
I apologized profusely to the man and offered to buy him a breakfast buffet.
The man declined my offer, fearful that the meal would also include four underage guests.
As it turned out, we did see the man and his wife in the buffet line a few hours later. Everyone was very excited.
"There he is! There he is!" they cried in unison.
I pondered my good luck and eyed the nearest exit.
"Do not.." Before I could finish, my son bounded over to the couple. I closed my eyes and cringed. Tapping the man on the arm, my son smiled and said, "Hi! Do you remember me?"
I'm not a gambling woman, but I'm going to bet that the man did.