Human Stains

Human Stains

Once a year, She Who Must Be Obeyed forces me to go on a family holiday. I put up a manful resistance, feigning injury and sobbing, but it never works. The best I can negotiate is a compromise in which I attempt to fly-fish while the annoying fruit of my loins scare away the fish. I can’t stand the beach so we go up a mountain, which makes me only slightly less grumpy. I’m a bad parent, in worse shape. Any higher than 3,000 feet and I get winded eating chips and salsa.

My ideal vacation is a week in front of my own refrigerator, bleary and unshaven, wondering what I don’t need to eat next. At least it’s home. I travel so much for work that I recognize the stains on the carpet at the Holidome in Flint and the Hilton Akron. And what really wads my Jockeys, particularly toward the end of the golf season, is using hotel bathrooms.

OK, I might have a little problem in this area, but not without cause. For my 45th birthday, clearly haunted by the ghosts of skid marks past, She Who Must consigned all my white underpants to a well-ventilated fire and repurchased the same in black. Her move was vindicated by a steady burn punctuated by an occasional violent flare. And what’s more, she says black makes me look smaller, which is good. I think.

On the road, my mood is black. No matter how crisp the linens or high the thread count, I still find it hard to get past the fact that I’m lying in the sweaty depression made last night by a 350-pound hamster farmer from Reno. Here’s a little travel advice: The second-worst mistake any hostelry dweller can make is to open the door for room service wearing a hair net, surgical mask, rubber gloves, an adult diaper and black calf-length socks. The worst (because it leads to the second-worst) is to hold the bed linen up to the light. Fling open your drapes some morning and let the sun illuminate every silvery stain, translucent drool and delicate dribble — testaments to the hotel’s valiant struggle to conserve the earth’s resources. A towel on the rack means you’ll use it again — after the housekeeper wipes down your tub with it.

In Colorado I had a room with one of those sliding-door-over-the-tub, 16-nozzle showers. Nothing was labeled hot or cold, up or down. I aimed all the nozzles away from anything dangly and let it rip, hoping that if anything went wrong, my shrieks could be heard over the deluge. Of course, when I finally got the pressure and temperature regulated, the overhead nozzle wouldn’t work. I had one foot in the soap dish and the other on the toilet when She Who came in to investigate, and the subsequent photograph hasn’t been easy to explain.

The aforementioned birthday was celebrated with a total lack of mail, presents or good wishes from the players of the PGA Tour, many of whom seem to be similarly ancient. I am going to respond by making stuff up about them. How about Jay Haas and Fred Funk, combined age 143, making the Presidents Cup team? As if the Presidents Cup matters. I thought it was an undergarment worn by Bill Clinton to protect the First Willy.

My offspring are forbidden to play golf for fear they might like it and start asking me stupid questions. I get enough of that on television from our tower announcers. But on our family vacation I let down my guard and we went to play Putt-Putt. It was depressing and slow, but the worst part was that no one knew who the hell I was.

Rory, my youngest boy, made his first hole-in-one and proceeded to duck-walk around the windmill, playing air guitar, screaming, “I’m number one!” He told everyone his dad was one of the greatest golfers ever, it was hereditary, blah blah…. So the man behind me, a hairy tank-top type with countless cross-eyed children, asked me how many holes-in-one I’d had.

“Eight,” I answered truthfully, at which he and his ghastly brats began to snort and hoot.

“Shee-it, man,” he said, slapping his hand on a fiberglass rock. “I’ve had 43!

“I told him I quit early to go into TV.

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