Escape fantasies. We all have them, don’t we? When
the pressure of modern life feels overwhelming and we just want to run away from it all? I remember growing up and watching those Calgon bath bubble commercials: They always featured a woman overwhelmed with juggling the responsibilities of work, family, cooking and house cleaning. She would finally sink into a bathtub full of luxurious bubbles with a Calgon box prominently displayed on the edge of the tub. “Calgon, take me away!” she would moan, eyes closed, a contented look on her face, and the viewer was left to wonder if she was enjoying an especially wonderful hot bath or perhaps something else.
Interestingly enough, I don’t remember these commercials ever featuring a man. Back then, I suppose men weren’t supposed to admit to being overly stressed. Their job was to work themselves silly, save and invest like crazy, and then die prematurely of a heart attack or a stroke so the wife and kids would hopefully be provided for. Thems was crazy times!
A soak in a hot bath is wonderful. There’s no denying that. But in my experience, the water always cools down well before I’m ready to get out. I’m left to fidget with the hot water spigot with my big toe to try to warm up the bath water, and by that time, the magic is gone. Ready or not, I reluctantly haul myself out and dry off.
Usually, by the time I’m in the mood to really need a soak, that need corresponds exactly with the tub’s need for a good scrubbing. Nothing kills the anticipation of a relaxing, hot bath quite like having to get down on your hands and knees with a sponge and some abrasive powder to scrub the tub.
Consequently, I rarely take a bath, which is a shame because they’re so good for you. But until I have a tub that remains perpetually clean, and water that doesn’t lose its heat, it’s just a whole lot easier to relax another way. No, not that way! For shame!
I’m talking about a good, reliable escape fantasy. Lots of people fantasize about being on vacation at an exclusive resort – perhaps somewhere in Jamaica or the Bahamas – floating gently in a blue, crystal-clear pool in an inflatable recliner with strong, fruity, alcoholic drinks in the cup holders of both arm rests with a tiny toothpick umbrella inserted into each drink.
A Bahamian escape fantasy would be great in theory, but my skin is pasty white, and by the time I got all kitted out with 100 SPF sun screen (which I would need to reapply at regular intervals) and a wide-brimmed hat, that would kind of suck out a lot of the fun. Also, after doing time spending over two decades in the brutally hot, sauna-like humidity of Houston, any place that exceeds 70 degrees Fahrenheit and is the least bit humid is not my idea of a good time. So scratch the water-and-sunshine thing.
Some people imagine themselves spending endless days at a fancy ski resort in Colorado or Switzerland, expertly slaloming down the slopes on skis or a snowboard, then spending evenings in a toasty lodge in front of a massive fireplace. They listen to the crackle of burning wood, drink Mulled Wine or Hot Toddies, and engage in entertaining chit chat with some of the other visitors who are, of course, all bowled over by their astounding wit, intelligence and performance on the slopes.
The ski lodge sounds nice. I love the idea of sitting in a cozy lodge in front of a crackling fire, enjoying good conversation and sipping adult beverages (as long as I don’t overdo it). But I hate snow. It annoys me. It’s difficult to walk in and it just generally gets in the way. Also, it’s a winter-time thing, and winter is too cold, and if you get trapped outside for some reason, the coldness could kill you. I had the opportunity to ski downhill once. It was the bunny hill. I chickened out. I actually tried cross-country skiing when I visited a college friend at her family’s home somewhere in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. There were several feet of snow. I lost my balance and fell right down through the snow to the hard ground below. I didn’t hurt myself, but I started laughing, and then I couldn’t figure out how to get up with my feet attached to the long skis that were stuck on the snow above. This made me laugh even harder, and then I couldn’t do anything but lay there like an idiot until I had laughed myself to exhaustion. Then I still had to get up. I don’t remember if my friend came back to pull me up or if I had to unclip my skis, but I really don’t think skiing is my thing.
A winter lodge resort sounds nice, but I’d just spend the entire time hanging out in the lodge, possibly getting bored while everyone else is out skiing, and maybe drinking too much. I think all of that pretty much defeats the purpose of vacationing at a ski resort, so I’ll pass on that, too.
I currently have two escape fantasies, and I choose one depending on my mood at the time. The first one requires that the season be late spring or early- to mid-fall. (For the record, that’s Michigan weather, not Texas weather, which would be hot and muggy, and hot and muggy, respectively.) Daytime temperatures would range in the 60s and 70s with nighttime temperatures going down to the mid- to upper-50s. I’d pack up a nice, waterproof tent – not too big and not too small – with enough room for me and my stuff, and everything else I’d need: camping stove with fuel; cooking utensils; cooler; food; clothing; a small hatchet for chopping wood, the zombie apocalypse or whatever; flashlight and batteries; glow sticks (need to know, only); bug spray; knife/knives; small shovel with folding handle; notebook and pen/pencil for writing; small radio with batteries; beer (self-explanatory), matches, camp cot, sleeping bag, toiletries, etc.
I’d drive out to a forest somewhere far away, but not too far. Maybe a couple of hours’ drive. There would be lots and lots of trees and foliage and wildlife. I’d pitch my tent, build a fire, and make s’mores. Because if you don’t make s’mores, it’s not camping. I’d be amazed at all the stars I could see without the light pollution of the city. I’d snuggle up in my sleeping bag at night and listen to the frogs croaking, the crickets chirping and the raccoon peeing on the back of my tent. I’d fall asleep and then wake up a few hours later to the sound of rain tap-tap-tapping down on my tent.
I’d stay there as long as I needed to. Maybe I’d stay for only a couple of days. Maybe a month. Maybe I’d stay for years until a tribe of Sasquatch wandered by. I’d join them and leave behind most of my stuff, including my journal, with the last entry being, “I’ve gone to live with the ‘Squatch. Don’t come looking for me.”
So that’s one of my escape fantasies. There are certain logistical problems, such as the fact that I have two cats whom I would really miss. I obviously couldn’t take them with me. And I’d have to eventually wean myself off coffee, which I very much enjoy in the mornings. That might be a deal breaker. Maybe a tribe of Sasquatch never comes by, or they don’t want me hanging around for some reason. To quote Dude from one of my all-time favorite movies, The Big Lebowski, “It’s a complicated case, Maude. Lotta ins, lotta outs. And a lotta strands to keep in my head, man.” But I really love this one. I can almost smell the firewood burning.
Another one is a bit more extreme and involves me running away to some Buddhist meditation retreat somewhere (I have no idea where), taking my vows to become a nun, shaving my head (part of the vows), putting on orange and yellow robes, and spending the rest of my life breathing incense, eating rice and noodles with chopsticks, and never having to deal with frizzy hair ever again. I could bow to people in greeting instead of shaking hands, which I really dislike because I don’t know how germy someone else’s hand is, where it’s been and, most important, the last time he or she washed it. In short, the western practice of shaking a stranger’s hand in greeting kind of grosses me out.
There. I’ve said it. Nothing personal. It’s just the way I feel. I also don’t like people I don’t know using my writing utensils, especially without asking first. I’m not sure if that helps my case or makes me appear even more neurotic, but there you go. Do with it what you will.
As much as I love rice and noodles – eating them with chopsticks makes them taste better – and incense, which I got hooked on in early childhood when my mom would burn pine scented incense in the kitchen, I’m thinking that after a couple of days, I would have huge regrets about shaving my head. And it would take years and years to grow back.
I think a much better option for me would probably be to make a delicious Asian stir fry dish with rice and/or noodles and eat it with chopsticks while I burn a stick of incense. And then go shopping for a tent!
Whats your favorite escape fantasy?