TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
The brochure made the inn on the large, blue lake look very quaint. However, when they arrived, they were horrified to find a rundown wooden building with a “Vacancy” sign they were sure was never turned off. It was too late in the evening to turn around. They told the unkempt clerk at the desk that they’d be staying only one night. As they turned, keys in hand, he muttered, “Ya both need to know there are paths in these here woods. Whatever ya do, do NOT…”
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
I’m not that gullible. I’m really not. I’ve been around the block a few times.
The world is filled with tricksters. You have to watch what you’re doing. Be on your guard.
Beware that alluring brochure. That friendly voice on the phone, that kindly stranger, that sweet saleswoman who’ll make you the deal of a lifetime. Multiply them by a hundred scamsters, and you’ve just scratched the surface.
I won’t even talk about politicians and what they promise.
Well, here I am, as usual with all my alarms set, yet when I hear of this quaint inn tucked up near the mountains, a place that has a private lake, romantic cabins, Belgian chocolates, exquisite heart-shaped beds and acres of flower-filled woods…in short, a lover’s delight…I bite.
My sweetie and I pack a few things, drive away from the congested city, get lost, laugh, reset the GPS, finally drive up a narrow road, down a shaded lane, arrive at The Dragonfly Inn.
You think I’m going to say ‘yikes!’ and describe a dump? Well, would I be taken in? Hardly. I’m not that gullible.
The place is truly lovely. We sign the register, are given keys to an end cabin, plan on a weekend of peaceful bliss.
The only weird thing is that the desk clerk says, “Please do not go down the third path in the woods unless you’re very adventurous.”
When we look puzzled, the clerk politely adds, “Oh, no man-eating dragonflies, no ferocious bears, no cliffs to tumble over, nothing like that. It’s just that the little chalet at the end of the path holds…well, prudence suggests you shouldn’t go down there. Otherwise, enjoy your stay.”
I may not be gullible, but I’m curious. So, soon after unpacking, we set out to explore.
Hand in hand, we follow the trail into the woods, enchanted by bird song, surrounded by wildflowers, dappled by intriguing patterns of sun and shadow. We pass two secondary trails, venture deeper. Then we reach the third path.
There’s a discrete chain across it and a sign that reads: Warning. Do Not Go This Way Unless You Crave Adventure.
Naturally, we turn, climb easily over the chain and go down the path.
It winds, it narrows. It darkens. It cools. We shiver, walk closer together. A woodpecker startles us with its rat-a-tat. Something rustles the leaves to one side and we jump, laugh as a gray squirrel emerges. We walk on. The woods become darker, narrower still.
And then, a sudden sunlit glade, and a beautiful little Bavarian chalet, perfectly proportioned, with a welcoming arched entrance and a sign inviting us in. We step inside. How could we not?
The entry hall smells of cedar. There’s soft music. Mozart? Smiling, a nicely-dressed young woman emerges, gestures behind her, shows us into a comfortable office. Shuts the door behind us.
At a polished mahogany desk sits a genial-faced, grandfatherly gentleman in a navy-blue suit, his red silk tie bearing tiny white anchors. With some bewilderment, we sit in the proffered chairs.
“Well now,” he says, fanning several elegant folders across the desktop. “You’ve taken the first step.”
“We have?” My voice croaks. And then, as he spreads things out, I see the papers, the maps, the charts, the sliding fee scales.
No, no, no.
We’ve found ourselves at a timeshare presentation. The bane of vacationers everywhere, the dreaded pressure pitches, the hard-to-resist lure of owning a piece of air, a shared slice of some exotic spot where you may rarely go, if ever, but for which you’ll forever pay and pay.
Purchase and there’s no way out. Timeshares are like those tire-shredding gadgets in parking lots. Once you drive over them, there’s no backing up.
The only salvation is to escape the presentation. If you can.
My sweetie and I start to rise, but the man says firmly, “Oh, but stay. Surely you read the fine print when you registered at the Inn? Since you didn’t check the opt-out box, you’re obligated at least to hear my outstanding offer.”
Oh god. The fine print. I always read it. Except when I don’t.
Now he turns on a patented mix of professional charm and skillful high-pressure. I wriggle, I sweat. He shows picture after picture of opulence, luxury mountain inns, oceanside condos, magnificent sunsets, tropical maidens, tanned young men, immaculate golf courses. Trade for anywhere, vacation around the world. Own an illusion. I sense my bank account squirming.
We’re trapped. Trapped in a timeshare presentation. Oh, the horror.
But I have a secret weapon. My sweetie. She always travels with knitting gear. And now she hauls some green wooly yarn from her daypack. Indifferent, averting her eyes from the glossy attractions, she starts knitting.
Knit, knit. Click, click. Knit, purl, click.
The man hesitates, blinks, stares at her, shakes it off, turns up the charm on me. Again, I’m reeling in numbers, savings, maps, charts, photo spreads, vacation paradises, promises of supreme adventures. Just sign here.
Click, click, click. The needles are relentless.
The knitting’s hypnotic. Distracting. My sweetie is like Madame Defarge knitting in front of the guillotine.
The man falters. His eyes glaze.
Momentarily, the spell is broken. I seize my opening, grab brochures, say we’ll think about it, and we back out rapidly. We last see him sitting there dumbfounded.
Would I fall for a timeshare presentation? Surely I’m not that gullible. But my sweetie always says that, just in case, it pays to keep her around. And some really good yarns.