News item: Middle managers routinely work more than 60 hours a week. Work more, earn more and enjoy it less. Are you in that statistic?
Do you lack the time for vacations? On the rare occasion when you schedule a week in the mountains, do you cancel your plans hours before departure because a Special Project comes up?
And if, by some fluke, you finally reach that idyllic beach, laden with bestsellers, beach balls and SPF 15, are you so keyed up that you can’t lie down?
Perhaps I can help. Since I am old enough to know how to relax, I will take vacations for you.
I am self-employed, so I can leave the office without fear of reprisal. I don’t earn much money anyway, so losing trifling income for a few weeks causes relatively little pain. And I know how to relax. As soon as I check my bags at Terminal B, I’m on vacation. You win in corporate perks and take-home laptops, but I triumph in the ability to “unlax,” my father’s phrase, faster than you can say, “Bring me the Clark file, now!”
Here’s my proposal. Hire me to take your vacations. I’ll send postcards to your mom, friends and furlough-free office-mates. I’ll bring T-shirts, back-scratchers or spun-glass statuettes of Mount Rushmore, whatever turns you on. And you can keep your nose to your favorite grindstone, confident that your job will still be there when I get back.
Let’s say that we agree on a week in Paris. I’ll buy a coach seat (I’m no freeloader) and charge my ticket on your Visa. I’ll save receipts for hotels, airport transfers, Métro tickets, meals and museums, and you can reimburse me when I return. Taxis only if it’s pouring. From Paris you’ll probably want an apron from the Cordon Bleu cooking school, a Hermès scarf and a miniature Eiffel Tower in a snow globe. I can charge these on my account or yours, as you prefer, and resolve the finances later.
I’ll assume responsibility for passport fees, porters’ tips and vin ordinaire.
Of course, I will take digital photos. If you e-mail a few close-ups of yourself, or you and the people you’d travel with if you could break away, I can scan you into a shot of, say, a café on Montmartre.
Most of all, I’ll do what you wish you could do: I’ll have a wonderful vacation. No matter how tacky the hotel, how stale the croissants, I’ll have a ball. I’ll smile at the Mona Lisa and stroll along the Seine.
At all times, I will cherish your generosity and your wisdom in hiring me. I will applaud your inability to just say no to your boss. I will rejoice in your routine lunch of yogurt at your desk and your under-used gym membership. Thank you.
If you refer me to another pitiful nincompoop who hires me to take a vacation – Reykjavik, Rome and the Rockies are also on my wish list – I’ll pay a referral fee of $100. After your bud pays up.
And you, my friend? A 2012 survey shows that Americans don’t use nine of their annual vacation days. So this proposal protects you from squandering precious sabbaticals on trips to places you’d never enjoy. You don’t have to check messages from your laptop while watching the surfers in Maui.
You don’t have to hassle jet lag or overcrowded Rio beaches or unintelligible foreign languages. You don’t even have to admire the tidal bore in the Bay of Fundy, bargain for silver earrings at Four Corners or parasail in Cancun. (Wait. I’m not parasailing.)
You continue to work, as always. Unless, perhaps, you see me wearing a dress hand-batiked in Nevis. Unless you note the smile in my voice when I tell you about the Andy Warhol at the new museum in Berlin. Unless you think you’re missing out. Know what? You are.
But until you figure out that your claim to vacation appears in the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights – until you realize that you don’t suffer from stress, you’re a carrier – my services are for hire.