Now this is a bit of a story but bear with me here. Last November Andrew and I were invited to attend a formal dinner at the Sheraton as a benefit for the Boy Scouts of America where the company had purchased a table. Who doesn't love a free meal?
We arrived at six and around the room were silent auction items, ranging in price from several dollars to hundreds. We put our names on a few things—so as not to look too cheap of course—things like a car lube, a gift certificate to Fred Meyer, things we would normally use but when the bidding went past what they were worth we jumped ship.
After a fine dinner began the live auction where they brought out the real prizes: a kid-sized snow machine, an ATV, a boat, furniture, guns, art work, jewelry, furs, Native art. We watched in awe as money flew around the room like it was loose in a stiff breeze. The guy at the table next to us bought a boat, a gun, an ugly eagle statue--he must have dropped fifty thousand (no exaggeration). But most of the items were going at bargain basement prices. The ATV sold for $2,000 and a Mediterranean cruise for two went for $3000.
A woman at our table who said she'd been a travel agent said the cruise was worth $10,000--as if we needed anything more to make us drool. We thought and watched and yearned then noticed another cruise was coming up--same thing, same description. We chuckled and jokingly asked each other how much each was willing to pay to get that second cruise. We had frequent flyer tickets that we could use to get there and we started thinking how fun it would be to get away, just the two of us, frolicking happily on some forgotten beach. We’ve never gone anywhere without the kids in 14 years of marriage and as the lust grew we came half serious. Then I said, "I’d pay $2,500." And the damage was done.
The cruise was up and we watched, paddle in hand, while the auctioneer's intoxicating chants droned in the heavy air . . . a couple across the room bid and suddenly our beloved trip was in the hands of strangers. So Andrew, with me jiggling his elbow, did the only thing he could do--step across the line with $1,800. Someone upped us and the instinct to protect what was now OURS flowed through our veins. So I raised his wrist and we bid again. The other table was determined and the shots kept firing until we were on top with $2,600.
It wasn't until the auctioneer began to chant the “$2600 once, $2,600 twice” that the sanity seeped back in and it dawned on me that we were going to have to buy it unless someone stopped us. Where was that other couple? Anyone? Surely there was someone out there who wanted a cruise for such a great prize. Why weren't they bidding? I waited . . . and the second stretched out forever as I prayed that they’d rescue us from ourselves. The second hung in the air and I held my breath.
“SOLD! For $2,600!” We gasped. We’d just bought us a cruise. We were shocked, I was shaking--couldn’t believe what we’d done. Were we drunk? It was so unlike us, I can’t think of something less in character--robbing a bank maybe? The thought of pretending that it hadn't happened streaked through my mind--could I politely explain to them after the auction that we hadn't really meant to buy anything?--just before a BSA official attacked us with the paperwork to sign right there at the table so we couldn't bolt on them. Dang! They'd thought of everything!
It’s not that we didn’t want a cruise it’s just that we’d talked quite a bit lately about how it’s not our time to take vacations together, that our money and time should be spent on family activities--for now. It wasn’t as if we didn’t have the money to pay for it, but we’re so tight with things that we wouldn’t dream of something so frivolous and I felt guilty and stupid and wondered how on earth we’d ever use it, I wanted it but I didn’t want it, understand?
We comforted ourselves with the thought that it wasn’t like gambling loses or paying to fix the car, we now owned a cruise—something that was actually worth something—which that used-to-be-travel-agent at the table said was worth at least $10,000. We could always sell it. Heck, we’d probably make a tidy profit.
First thing Monday I called a travel agent to get the details of what we’d purchased. Our certificate good for any "7-day cruise on Holland America" didn't work for the Mediterranean after all--our first choice--because Holland American doesn't have seven-day Mediterranean cruises, only Caribbean. Bottom line was that we weren’t the only ones drunk that night, our unemployed travel agent must be unemployed for a darn good reason as by every angle we could see those tickets weren’t worth more than $2000. The certificate was non-transferable and non-saleable--as in YOU’RE STUCK STUPID!
But we were stupid enough (a well-established fact by now) to figure we could sell it anyway as it wasn’t yet registered in our name and I jumped onto ebay. Three hours later after jumping through innumerable irritating flaming red-tape hoops, just as I was completing the last step toward the sale a message flashes up on the screen saying that I am not authorized to sell a cruise on ebay without a travel agent’s license. Period. Nothing else to be done. No sale.
It would have been smarter to have bought that stupid snow machine or ATV, it would be something we could actually sell. By that time I started losing it a bit. I cried till I was dehydrated, moaning about how stupid I’d been and whatever had possessed me to do it? Normally with Andrew and I if one of us ever gets crazy like that the other is there to sane-them-up. But this time it hit us both and that was our undoing.
After regrouping and doing more thinking we decided on a new tack. Andrew approached the no-way-she’s-a-real-travel-agent woman and her best friend and offered it to them for $2000—since that’s all it was worth. But she wasn't interested--I figure she was probably a BSA plant at our table to drive the bids up--curse her--and work us into a frenzy (like we needed any help).
We looked at taking the kids with us but that really would have been pricey. So after we calmed down and came in off the ledge we realized that maybe taking a trip together wasn't that weird--heck, people seem to do it all the time--and figured out a way to actually put the whole thing into action.
So here we are, a year later and next week we're heading off to our first non-child vacation since our honeymoon. Belize, Guatemala, Mexico all the food I care to eat and--despite the FDA warning labels now required on all stingrays--snorkeling with the sharks and rays. The more I think about it the more I'm having a hard time sleeping at night for excitement. And the kids? Well, we're turning them over to the state for the 10 days and will pick them up, none the worse the day after. Kidding. No, that worked out well too, Andrew's Mom is coming to watch them--she's happy, they're thrilled to see Grandma, everyone is good to go. Why didn't we do this sooner?
Oh! I almost forgot! When I booked they gave us a nicer room than the certificate called for which meant that the trip is actually worth $3000 rather than $2600. That settles it, with a deal like that I'm in heaven--or soon will be in a week.
But never again will I ever attend an auction (Bidders Anonymous anyone?) Especially for the BSA, though they're a fine organization I'm sure. In fact a month ago we got an invitation--a personal one delivered to the house--to this year's fundraiser. Thanks but no thanks. We'll be on our cruise.
Edited to add: After reading this Andrew wanted me to clarify (for those who may be afraid that we're living La Vida Loca full of nights of drunken debauchery) that no, we were not in fact drunk at the fundraiser. Whew! Got that squared away. Unless you count Dr. Pepper. Now THAT'S a different story. . .
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