It was a late Friday afternoon about five years ago when I called my friend and pitched the idea of a weekend trip to Las Vegas. I was a one hour flight from Vegas, and he was a three hour flight away.
"Next weekend?" he asked.
"No, today," I replied.
There was a pause on the other end. "Yeah, okay. I'll meet you at the Vegas airport at 10."
I found out later that he hadn't had time to go back to his apartment after my phone call, that he'd gone straight from work to the airport, and that his "luggage" consisted of a pair of athletic shorts, tennis shoes, and a workout t-shirt that happened to be in his car's trunk. Toothpaste, a toothbrush, deodorant-no prob, these things could all be bought cheap in Vegas, right?
It's different when you travel as a 30 year old. The days of trips--to Vegas, to Lake Tahoe, to New York--planned on whims, and without the slightest traces of practicality, are gone. Trips are planned weeks, months in advance, the three days of vacation planned to the most minute details months before, a gaggle of e-mail exchanges setting up meal coverage, how much each person will owe (down to the cents), and who will room with who.
A month from now, we will be celebrating my cousin's thirty-third birthday at a lakeside cabin owned by a friend's family. For some reason, my cousin has never had any sort of big celebration for the traditional benchmarks--twenty-one, twenty-five, thirty--but he wants to do it up big for his thirty-third (blame the Catholic in him, perhaps). The warnings started a few months back, first in the form of a "Save the Dates" e-mail, then in Evite form a few weeks later.
Ah, the Evite, that acid-test of age and youth. For the twenty-five year-old crowd, the Evite is nothing more than a sounding board for new comedy material ("It's your twenty-fifth birthday? Does it still count as twenty-five if you only remember seventeen of them?). The thirty and over set, however, uses it as an itinerary, a Rolodex ("Hey, Matt, send me your new number when you have a chance."), and a chat room ("Sweetie, are we free that weekend, or is that the weekend your parents will be in town?).
The younger set fills up the "Maybe" column with impunity (Depends on how hungover I'll be that morning!), while the older set keeps the "Yes" and "No" columns full. The older set is planned ahead months ahead, friends' weddings and business trips taking up the weekend space that used to be left free for spontaneity; the younger group's "Yes" and "No" responses are half the time wrong.
My cousin, though unmarried, is in a serious relationship (I actually wouldn't be surprised if he popped The Question on this birthday weekend), making him a little late to the game, but at least in the same arena as most of his guests. These guests have made the biggest topic on the e-mail chain about who is bringing kids and who is bringing dogs.
Dogs and kids, those stalwarts of domesticity. Five years back, the idea of sharing a room with a dog would have been ridiculed, and plus, we'd barely be at the cabin anyway...there were casinos to visit, beach parties to crash, bars to invade.
I laughed out loud as I sat at my computer the other day. My cousin's best friend from childhood e-mailed to test the waters for bringing a board game. This was the same board game that led to a raucous night of drinking games some years back between my cousin and his friends. Now, this e-mail contained a link to the board game's rules, as set by the manufacturer.
Years back, the rules were open to interpretation. Now?
The rules are the rules.