Sunday, March 12, 2000

'79 spring break would give today's kids breakdown

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        So, now they go to Cancun, Key West and the Bahamas. They go to Jamaica, Sun Valley and Bermuda. If I wanted to go to Bermuda, I'd have to moonlight and I've been out of college two decades.

        They don't sardine seven bodies into a Ford Pinto, cramming so many extremities in that their legs lose feeling just south of the Kentucky state line. No. They fly.

        Theirs isn't a communal living experience. They don't have one shower per eight people. They don't sleep on the bathroom floor, using someone's belly for a pillow.

        They don't do that. They have rooms with king-size beds. They have balconies. They have . . . kitchenettes.

        My friend Jen, a junior at Ohio University, went to Cancun for spring break last year. She stayed in a hotel on the beach. Two beds, four girls and a kitchen. Two swimming pools. She knew “guy friends” who stayed at a hotel with peacocks in the lobby.


        “I spent $1,300 for the week, and I spent the least of anyone,” Jen says. “Now, all my friends are saying, "Senior year, we have to go to Hawaii.' It's insane. My parents haven't been to Hawaii yet.”

        Ever get the feeling there's something going on we adults don't know about?

        Sometimes, I feel like I'm living in a parallel universe, separate and distinct from the one inhabited by people under the age of 25.

        I recall spring break spent at my grandmother's mobile home park on the west coast of Florida. You know: Beach, shuffleboard, early-bird specials. It was good. It really was.

        But . . . Jamaica?

        I have a 10-year-old. By the time she's college-age, what will she be asking to do for spring break, dive the Great Barrier Reef?

        Here's what we did for spring break, back in the Mesozoic Era. See if you can relate. Tell me I'm not crazy:

        We slammed seven guys into Tommy Morville's Scout and pointed it down I-95. Some 20 hours later, we were in Fort Lauderdale, where the boys are.

        We stayed, in the spring of 1979, at the King's Crown Inn, where we met two other guys. We searched our pockets for enough cash to pay for two rooms, no peacocks. The beach was a rumor.

        “And how many will be staying with us this week?” wondered the woman behind the desk. “As many as possible,” we said. We were a roving fire-code violation.

        I don't recall eating, but I guess we did. I believe we looted the free-food Happy Hours, where we nursed a beer or two while eating everything but the Formica. We didn't worry about breakfast, because we slept through it. We didn't worry about lunch because we were watching wet T-shirt contests.

        We didn't go anywhere there was a cover charge. Which worked out well, because neither did anyone else.

        After a week of that, we went back to school. If we spent more than $500, total, among us, we felt we'd been scammed.

        Now, Fort Lauderdale has banned spring break because the locals got tired of fishing the armoires out of the lap pools.

        Kids fall like acid rain on places like Panama City, Fla., and South Padre Island, Texas. Their exploits are captured on MTV. If they mess up, they'll find themselves on Dateline or 20/20. Some will know the simple pleasure of eating nothing but chicken wings for seven consecutive days. Most won't.

        Soon enough, I'll be in my chair, regaling my teen-age grandchildren about the time back in 1979 when we drove 20 hours to Fort Lauderdale and spent seven days thinking popcorn was a vegetable.

        They'll laugh. They'll be packing for a big spring trip to the moon. Flying, of course.

        Paul Daugherty, an Enquirer sports columnist, writes a lifestyle column on Sunday. He welcomes your comments at (513) 768-8454.

        Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.