What I did on my summer vacation

For most people, summer vacation is simply R&R. But for IT executives, it's A&A: alienation and anxiety.
Posted September 1, 1999
By

Chris Miksanek


(Page 1 of 2)

In this article:
The AAA Guide to Los Angeles: IT Supplement
Last month, when Tempe, Ariz., CIO Gary Imoki bought a brand new Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan, complete with airline-style 5.6-inch LCD, flat-screen TV and VCR, his motive was not simply to use his vacation time before he lost it, but to spend some much needed quality time with his family. What he didn't realize was that time away from the office can be every bit as taxing as time behind the desk. Here is his story:


Illustration: Daniel Guidera
Day 1: 8:00 a.m.
The minivan's loaded like Jethro's truck, and we've voted that California is, indeed, the place we ought to be. Two days at Disneyland for the family; then we drop the kids off at Amy's parents while we enjoy some together time in Las Vegas.

We go over the checklist for the fifth time and then back out of the driveway.

Day 1: 8:45 a.m.
On the freeway, son Jeremy discovers he's left his "Spice World" videotape behind as well as the extra batteries for his Nintendo Gameboy. I suggest we just stop at the next Wal-Mart rather than lose the time doubling back. But daughter Annie trumps him by forgetting her Ricky Martin CD (apparently--and I don't understand any of this--she has the english version, but left the spanish version at home.) Being a fan of "I Love Lucy"'s Little Ricky, I can empathize; but I thought Annie was studying French in school, so this is all confusing to me. Again I suggest Wal-Mart, but when she confides to Amy that she's also left her "Skechers" at home--which I interpret as slang for something I don't want to know about--I turn the van around and head back home.

Day 1: 9:30 a.m.
The kids run back into the house. I take the opportunity to check my voice mail and find I have six messages. Two are marked urgent.

Everyone's back in the van, but I have to excuse myself for five minutes to get a quick e-mail off.

Day 1: 11:00 a.m.
I dash back out to the van, still running in the driveway. "That was a fast five minutes," Amy says, familiar with the routine. I try to explain how I was pulled into a teleconference but am shushed by my children. Jeremy is two-thirds of the way through his first (of what will be seven viewings) of "Spice World." Annie is repeatedly singing about some new Starbuck's creation: the Lavida Mocha. I'll have to try one of those when I get back in town.

Day 1: 11:05 a.m.
Bouncing out of the driveway at 25mph, I am reminded that this is not a rental car. Funny thing about rental cars, I start to tell Amy, they're designed to take speed bumps at 50 MPH, drive 100 miles with the oil light on and another 100 on a flat tire, and you can even snuff out your cigarettes in the upholstery. But she's not paying attention, her nose is buried in Elmore Leonard's, Be Cool.

I guess this is what they call quality time.

Day 1: 3:00 p.m.
Gas stop in Blythe and I need to check my messages. But my cell phone's not getting a signal here. I excuse myself from the family to use the pay phone inside. An hour later, Amy sends Jeremy in after me.

Day 1: 4:20 p.m.
I'm beginning to have second thoughts about being away from the office. So much is going on with the outsourcing negotiations and the problems with the online cut-over. I'll either look negligent for being away, or I'll be so buried when I come back, I'll look like I can't keep up. I start to get that knotted up neck muscle thing, which my wife perceptively picks up on.

"Relax," she says, "you're on vacation."

Easy for her to say, she's the one on Zoloft.

Day 1: 4:21 p.m.
Jeremy tells me for the 35th time during his second viewing that there aren't five Spice Girls anymore. One of them--I think he said "Paprika Spice"--left the group.

It's my breaking point.

"I swear to God, if I have to hear that one more time," I holler, "I'm gonna pull this van over!"

"And do what?" Jeremy asks. "Check your voice mail?" Everyone has a hearty laugh... except me.

Day 1: 9:00 p.m.
Arrive at the La Quinta Motel near Disneyland. As a business traveler, it's not quite what I'm used to--I wait 20 minutes at the ice machine while two men fill their bathtub-sized coolers.


Factoid: The 50-foot letters of the famous Hollywood sign, originally erected in 1923, are the equivalent of a 43,200-point Arial font.
The kids want to go down to the pool right away. I need to check my e-mail. I ask Amy to take the kids to the pool and promise I'll be down in 10 minutes.

Day 1: 10:15 p.m.
On my way down to the pool, I meet the family in the elevator coming back up. "That was fast," I say.

"Funny," Amy responds, "I was going to say the same thing... only more flippantly."

"Cripes, is it after 10 already? I'm supposed to be on a conference call with our Tokyo office."

Jeremy and Annie reluctantly turn off the in-room $9.95 movie they just ordered. Just as well for them, we need to get up early tomorrow to go to Disneyland.

Day 2: 7:30 p.m.
It's a very productive day at Disneyland. We break up into groups so that everyone can do what they want. Amy has the kids, and I have my Windows CE portable and a wireless modem.

I meet them at the exit gates, and they certainly show no signs of having spent the day at the "Happiest place on earth."

Me, I am grinning ear to ear. I know how to enjoy myself. No long lines for me. I spent the entire day pleasantly riding the train around the park answering my e-mail and doing a few meetings.

Amy tells me we have to talk.

Day 3: 6:00 a.m.
Rise and shine. We're off to Universal Studios.

The family is suspicious. "Don't you have to check your voice mail?" Jeremy asks.



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