Gimme A [Spring] Break (Part 2 of 2)
In which I spend an evening drinking with a Trump supporter and avoiding already apprehended serial killers.
Lost? Start here:
I used to know where the cool spot to be was. To be clear, this is not me bragging. I’m not saying I always got into the cool spots, or that sharing an apartment with a well-connected local DJ didn’t help, but I at least used to know what to aim for.
Those days are behind me: the clubs where I (mis)spent my youth have all changed names, some of them several times, and a bunch of them don’t even exist anymore. One is a Pizza Hut now. I’ve made my peace with it.
But sometimes, usually when I’m in the US, I feel an urge to pre-game in my hotel room. It’s only when I’m a few drinks in that I realise I don’t know where the…post-pre-game…the game?…is. [Some people call that functional alcoholism.]
So I have a confession: I sometimes use Bumble when I’m on vacation, not because I dream (anymore) of finding a partner for a green card marriage, but because I want to extract “locals only” knowledge like a thirsty vampire.
I don’t know where “the place to be” is, but one of them might. That’s how I ended up walking three miles – thanks, Google Maps – to hang out with a Daytona Beach native I’d exchanged about six messages with. Let’s call her Laura.
Lots of Americans are eager to know what I think about the state of politics in their slice of the world because of my outsider status, which I’m not always comfortable with. I don’t feel necessarily feel qualified or informed enough to make statements on what’s going on in the White House and beyond.
It felt like Laura saw me differently to most Americans; something like a blank slate. Interestingly, that’s only a slightly distorted version of how I just wrote that I see myself. Clearly she felt she could be very open with me.
I know this because she told me pretty quickly that she wasn’t a fan of masks. Nor was she a fan of vaccinations. She was, it seemed, a fan of the president who came before Biden. These views were inherited from, and reinforced by, her parents.
I’m always torn when I see “No Lefties” or “No Trumptards” on dating apps or in Twitter bios. On the one hand, I fully understand not wanting to be exposed to ideologies that conflict with one’s own. On the other, I wonder how healthy it can be to exist in an echo chamber. Don’t echoes eventually drive people crazy?
So I decided to hang out, and be just as open as she was. That meant agreeing on some stuff, and it meant disagreeing on a lot of stuff. It also meant accepting a tacit understanding that neither one of us would convince the other to come around to a different way of thinking because…well, does that ever work?
It soon becomes clear that neither of us knows where the cool spot to be is.
We grab drinks in a few different spots – sugary cocktails from tourist traps, strong pours from a couple of dive bars – but none of them is the spot in the way (the KSU boys had me believe) Coyote Ugly was in my first Spring Break post.
And that’s how I end up lying on the beach next to a relative stranger, listening to the waves and looking up at the stars, laughing at nothing like drunk folks do.
I guess I’m a little disappointed that my spring break experience wasn't exactly what I had planned – Jane Goodall Among the Wild College Kids – but maybe that feeling is what Spring Break is really about; things not going like you expect.
Then, walking back down the boardwalk, the spring breakers suddenly materialise. Like a mirage in the desert. In the pool and jacuzzi of a nearby hotel, they’re pressed up against one other like sardines and murmuring intently.
I can hear a song I think I recognise from TikTok, barely playing on someone’s smartphone. I find out later that the low volume is due to one too many noise complaints and the threat of eviction.
I must look over at the spring breakers for too long, because my date for the evening starts talking like a mind-reader: “Don’t even go there. That phase of our lives is long gone.” As if I was planning on cannon-balling the pool to join them.
“Pfft,” I say. “Maybe your life, cradle-snatcher.” I’ve been joking about the fact that she’s three years older than me all night, and it’s been going down great.
But I’m well aware that she’s right. My college days are so far behind me that I barely remember them, and it’s difficult not to feel a pang of nostalgia for them. Even though I probably spent most of them hating every minute of it.
“Want a ride home?” Laura asks. I think about the number of drinks I've watched her consume. Then I think about the man I watched fighting a palm tree on my way into town. I also think of the serial killer Laura told me about earlier in the evening – “you probably don’t need to worry, since they only kill prostitutes.”
But I take the ride and, with the exception of her bumping into a bench outside my hotel, everything goes off just fine. Laura tells me later that she couldn’t see a thing all night because she accidentally washed her contact lenses in bleach.
Between that and the fact the Daytona Beach Killer was apprehended in 2019, maybe I would have been better off taking my chances walking the streets after all.
The next morning, before leaving Daytona, I snap a pic of the dinged bench and send it to Laura. We probably won’t talk much after that. I’ve been working to kick my habit of trying to turn random encounters into more than what they are.
I have no doubt that many of the kids in the hot tub will spend the days that follow telling each other that “last night was a movie, bro.” And they’re probably right, it was – a boring Spring Break B-movie in which not much happens.
But how could they know that when don’t have anything to compare it to? I don’t begrudge them that and, after how the past couple of years have been, I don’t see how anyone could. Besides, rose tinted glasses can do a ton of heavy lifting.
Enjoy it while it lasts, spring breakers, it’ll be over before you know it.