Reverse Omens

Vacation mishaps and trying to make sense of what the universe is telling me

I just got back from a long-anticipated vacation, starting with a cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Wish, three days at the Yacht Club resort at Walt Disney World, and culminating in a week-long solitary stay at a vacation apartment in Kissimmee Florida while I recovered from COVID.

If you were thinking about testing positive for COVID the morning of your flight home after a long vacation, I cannot recommend it. It’s absolutely no fun and as an added bonus, is extremely expensive.

As I’ve mentioned on here several times, I love the whole Crescent Lake area near Epcot, and the Yacht and Beach Club hotels are my favorites on Disney property. I’ve been extremely fortunate to get to stay at most of the hotels at Walt Disney World over the years, and while the theming, history, and views around the Polynesian can’t be beat, the Yacht and Beach Club narrowly win out for me due to vibes and convenience. Convenience because you can easily walk or take a pleasant boat ride to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Vibes because they instantly and relentlessly pummel you with the feeling I am having a very nice and relaxing deluxe vacation.

On top of a few memorable vacations with my family, I also got to stay there several times for work. I have a vivid memory of one of those trips, when I’d been feeling a little stressed out and felt it out melt away with one supremely relaxing morning. I got up early, went down to get some coffee and a blueberry muffin — the Yacht and Beach Clubs have the best blueberry muffins on earth — in the Solarium, and then took a short walk around the grounds while it was mostly empty.

There’s a constant loop of easy-listening background music playing quietly around the resort, and one song came on that felt like a wave of peace crashing over me. I later Shazamed it and discovered it’s called “Linwood Road” by Billy Joe Walker, Jr.

It’s a nice piece of music, but more than that, it’s one of those songs where hearing it will immediately take me back to that exact place (just a few feet away from the photograph above) and moment of peace and calm.

Fast forward to my most recent trip, and it was kind of rough going. I’d deliberately scheduled only a couple of days in the parks so as just to get a glimpse of the new stuff without overdoing it. But I found myself getting more irritable and dissatisfied as the heat grew more stifling, all the walking became more and more exhausting, and my “allergies” grew increasingly severe. By the time we got to the Magic Kingdom, I was coughing more often, blowing my nose into napkins, and just generally miserable.

Getting sick in the Magic Kingdom is its own kind of misery, because I’ve got so many good memories tied to the place, and I always think of it as being designed specifically to make me happy. But here I was, trudging around feeling awful and looking forward to nothing more than being home. By the end of the day, I just went to bed early in a nice room in my favorite hotel, confident that I’d feel better in the morning.

I didn’t, and the “I want to go home” feelings intensified until I was on the verge of becoming a 52-year-old man having a full-on meltdown that would rival any toddler’s. I went out for a cigarette — a great addiction to have when you’re fighting a respiratory illness — just thinking about how my favorite place in the world had let me down, and I just wanted to be home.

And as I was standing in the Designated Smoking Area at the hotel, a familiar song came up on the background music. It was “Linwood Road,” instantly taking me back to happier times, a kind of reassurance from the Universe that no matter how bad I felt now, everything was going to be fine. Disney World would still be there waiting for me to come back refreshed and renewed, but for now I was going to be home soon.

Then I got back to the room and tested positive for COVID, and had to cancel my flight and reserve a rental car and condo to isolate in for another week. A condo which, I didn’t know at the time, would be right off the highway in constant view of signs reminding me that I was just minutes away from Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, but couldn’t go in.

My first reaction was The Universe Lied To Me! Sending me a sign that everything was going to be okay, just before pulling the rug out from under me. Then, as the monotonous days wore on, I had a more realistic and mature reaction: there’s no such thing as getting signs from “the universe” or any other equivalent, obviously. I’d spent years wallowing in nostalgia. Instead of having proper gratitude for the people I’d been with and the things I’d been doing all of those years as the source of my happiness, I’d been attributing all of it to a place. A place that would naturally have diminishing returns as I got older and life changed around me. It was time to finally grow up and pay attention to the things that actually matter.

But… here’s an interesting observation: it’s a week later, I’m safely at home, and everything is okay. I’m still waiting for a negative test before I go back to normal, but for the most part, things are returning to the status quo. If the lesson is about gratitude, then I’m more aware than I’ve ever been how uniquely fortunate I am to be able to just hit pause on everything, to spend a week in comfort doing nothing. That’s never been true before — I have to remember all the times that having to change travel plans would’ve been devastating, both financially and for my job.

So maybe The Universe was telling me, using the medium of acoustic guitar-driven light jazz, that everything was going to be fine eventually. And instead of doing anything drastic like adapting a more mature and realistic world view in the face of minor adversity, I could go on being generally optimistic, sentimental about theme parks and hotels, and content to find omens in the most inconsequential things.

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