THE BLOG
07/29/2014 02:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Hitting the Vacation-Mode Button

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Ever had a vacation plan come unhinged? You get to the hotel and the reservation was made for last week? The great aunt brings two cousins who don't get along? Intestinal flu joins the party on the second day?

This writer's recent vacation, a visit with friends and family in Georgia and North Carolina, was not like that, but it had elements of challenge. Primarily because I am too compulsively news addicted and task oriented for a quick transition into vacation mode. Everyone should have a vacation-mode button. A switch that goes from On: world hunger; Gaza vs. Israel vs. Syria vs. Egypt; reproductive justice -- to Off: vacation.

And right above the vacation-mode button, a plan-and-preparation dial.

For openers, a vacationer arriving on the East Coast fresh from parched-dry California can face a tiny injustice: heavy rains, flash flooding and pea-soup fog throughout agonizing hours of driving continuous corkscrew, two-lane mountain roads. And for travel entertainment, there is news of the day delivered by high-stress radio commentators with conspiracy theories, and constant replay of Luke Bryan offering this response to pain and loss:

"I'm gonna set right here. On the edge of this pier. Watch the sunset disappear. (Pause.) And drink a beer." It does not help to learn, on arrival, that every other person on the planet knows Luke and his plaintive song; and perhaps, if one were not driving an unfamiliar rental car on an unfamiliar rain-slicked, two-lane mountain road it wouldn't seem designed to drive one to drink.

The plan-and-preparation dial could avoid this. NPR exists in North Carolina. Weather reports -- handy for leading one to pack boots and sweaters rather than white shorts and bathing suits -- can also indicate that mountain driving is not advised for the faint hearted. (On mountain roads, turnouts are our friends. Monster trucks driving at high speeds regularly, mysteriously appear just behind the faint hearted drive. A preparation dial would plot the nearest turnout.)

But it is the vacation mode button that's most urgently needed. Some of us, habitually immersed in jobs, tasks, world news, causes and self-perceived saving of the planet, do not slip easily into vacation mode. How, for example, can you be on a conference call about reproductive justice or cycles of poverty on Tuesday night, and blissfully oblivious to everything but the sand castle you're building Wednesday morning? People do this all the time, but some of us simply do not get it. Everybody else is fluent in Vacation Speak while our brains are stuck on WordPress.

Ours not to reason why. Maybe it's not all that super cool to be able to talk roadside antiques and croquet games and beach cabanas in a steady, sophisticated stream, but it seems so to the disoriented new vacationer. Surely -- because this is definitely uncool -- the new vacationer can shut up about military incursions in the Middle East and think of something appropriate to moonlit seashores. Or at the least, make the transition before it's time to go back home.

Couldn't someone invent a little half-moon Vacation Mode icon to tattoo on the forehead?

I'm just askin'.