In the first three days of our romantic Jamaican holiday, my poor decision making skills nearly killed my wife and me. I blundered into buying a deep tissue massage, and we would certainly have died if I’d had enough money for the two hour session, or if our masseuses had been a bit more muscular.

Yet we survived. In celebration, we summoned the will to drag our body parts to the beach the next morning, which was the first really sunny day of our trip. Back home I’d purchased some great spray-on sun block, so we needn’t smear our entire body surfaces with goop as if we were birthday cakes. The stuff came out of the spray can shockingly cold, but we coated each other with diligence, except for our faces of course. We slathered regular, semi-gelatinous sun block on our faces.

We took it easy on the beach. We relaxed for half an hour, swam in the ocean for half an hour, relaxed another fifteen minutes, and went inside to take stock. We saw the beginnings of a nice tan. On our faces. Everywhere else our skin had achieved the color of the surface of Mars. When we returned to our room, the temperature inside went up ten degrees.

It became clear that if we wanted to get home alive I must not make any more decisions of any kind.

The next day was Valentine’s Day, which called for romantic hi-jinks, since this was a romantic vacation. My wife was empowered to select romantic hi-jinks for us. She chose zip lining. As far as I knew, zip lining was how guys with guns dropped out of black helicopters to shoot other guys who didn’t happen to be looking up. My wife informed me that was a narrow view of the term. You can also dangle from a wire stretched between two trees and let gravity hurl you across the gap, with no opportunities to shoot anyone on the other side. That too is called zip lining. Since this was Valentine’s Day, and this sounded so damned romantic, and I wasn’t allowed to make any decisions anyway, I said, “Sure.”

Our romantic zip lining rendezvous would happen in a lovely canopy jungle, which sounded pretty good. But we were at the beach, where canopy jungles were conspicuously missing. The jungle we needed lay rather closer to the middle of Jamaica. We spent two hours on a cute bus driven by a charming fellow named Chris, and I learned three things on the ride. First, it does not pay to be timid when driving in Jamaica. Second, I would refuse to be a pedestrian in Jamaica. I’d sit in a room and starve before I stepped onto the street. Third, I’ve spent about six hours on Jamaican roads, and I have had the honor of passing through the only stop light on the island, twice, and never slowing down either time.

At Zip Lining Base Camp the guides organized us, distributed equipment, and gave a detailed lecture on technique and safety procedures. We all signed a waiver, which none of us really read. I did catch some phrases like, “able to walk for 30 minutes,” “not responsible for spine injuries,” “coronary event,” and, “nausea and vomiting.” Well, I figured the lawyers probably just made them put that stuff in there. As I walked by a table one of the guides asked whether I wanted to take such a nice camera with me. I said sure, I wanted to take pictures. He warned me it would be wet, but I said I’d be okay. He persisted, saying it might rain, but I just waved and kept going.

Three guides led us ten hapless dopes to the first zip line, and a few things became apparent right away. The guides were funny, funny guys. The guide who’d warned me about my camera had a better camera than mine hanging from his neck. Since I’d brought my massive Canon along anyway, the guides named me “Paparazzi.” And when we hit the first zip line the guides just hooked us up and told us to grab on and go. It was like that lecture on technique and safety had been some sort of dream.

The zip lining itself was a hoot, especially the longer, faster lines. The guides kept us from dying, and more importantly entertained us while they did it. But I’ll tell you a secret about zip lines. The end you start on has to be higher than the end you finish on. That means to get to the next line you have to walk uphill. Actually you have to walk up rough rock steps. Steep ones. And lots of them. After a while, some of us had our heads down, gasping like an ox in Death Valley. The disclaimers about coronary events and vomiting flashed through my mind.

Despite that, we zipped down seven lines in all and had a great time. I took some pictures that didn’t suck. As our bus hurtled back toward our resort, dodging larger vehicles and intimidating anything smaller than itself, I reflected that my wife had made a good decision.

Back at the resort and drunk on successful decision making, my wife chose an oriental restaurant for our big Valentine’s Day dinner. While the food was delicious, they served us an entire trough of sushi. My wife’s bowl contained enough noodles so that placed end to end they would reach the height of the Statue of Liberty. We’d been zip lining all day. We were hungry. We ate a lot.

In our room after dinner we lay on the bed and looked at each other. Valentine’s Day would seem like the right time for some romantic hanky panky, especially on vacation. Yet we lay on our backs like chubby otters, unable to do anything but roll a bit from side to side. My wife said, “It’s like a perfect storm. The deep tissue massage, then the sunburn, then zip-lining, and now we’re stuffed full of noodles. I don’t know if we can touch each other without screaming.”

We’re so in love. We’d better be.

A palpable wave of hatred is surging over me as I sit on this Jamaican beach. My friends are hurling that wave at me from a thousand miles away while they look out their windows at snow. I may not be welcome in their homes when I return. They certainly will not allow me near their children. I might infect them with my contempt for the spirit of everyone suffering together.

As I sip my rum and coke I’ll attempt to explain myself. I’ve had a hard six months. Nobody likes a whiner, so let’s leave it at that. I decided to get out of town before I began rising in the dark of night to slaughter unsuspecting wayfarers. And before my wife had to impale me in my sleep to protect the innocent. A toasty resort seemed like just the thing. Some of my friends mocked me for choosing a resort for which you pay a huge, heaving chunk of money up front and then don’t pay for anything else while you’re there. My friends prefer to experience the genuine Jamaica—the Jamaica of the people. I prefer a vacation that requires me to make as few decisions as possible. I’ve been here three days, and the only decision I’ve made is whether or not I want ice in my drink.

That’s an exaggeration of course, but almost accurate. We have a refrigerator/mini-bar in our room, and I had to decide what beverages to ask for. We were limited to one mini-bar bottle of each type of liquor, which I thought a bit stingy, but what the hell. I ordered rum and forgot about it.

After breakfast yesterday we waddled like geese down to the beach. A red flag lies beside every beach chair, and when you lift the flag a nice gentleman hustles over to bring you whatever you want to drink. A ragged-voice fellow moved down the beach singing Bob Marley and Sam Cooke, and he staged himself with as much virtuosity as any Shakespearian actor I’ve ever seen. A friendly fellow wandered the beach selling jet-ski rides, parasailing, and marijuana.

I began to feel embarrassed to lie there like a veal calf, so I walked up to a shack that housed a fountain soda station, just so I could say that I foraged for myself at least once. Attached to the side of the shack was what I could only call a bubble gum machine of booze. Four liquor bottles hung upside down in a glass-front box—gin, vodka, whiskey, and of course rum. A spigot tapped each bottle so that any passerby could take all he wanted. Now I’m not much of a drinker. But at that point I realized that not drinking rum would be an insult to the people of Jamaica. By now the people of Jamaica should like me a lot.

The Bubble Gum Machine of Booze

By noon we were bored with swimming, drinking, and laying on the beach. So we spent the afternoon swimming, drinking, and laying by the pool, which is more of a change of pace than you might expect. We dragged back to our room and were greeted by an entire fifth of Appleton Jamaican rum. I realized that in Jamaica “mini-bar” means no more than half a dozen full bottles of liquor at a time.

We wandered to one of the restaurants and were told there’d be a short wait. They couldn’t say exactly how long. An hour later, still waiting at the bar, we laughed at the German couple next to us who’d given up and huffed away. We’d never wait an hour for dinner at home, but it seemed fine here even though we could have walked 90 seconds to another restaurant and be seated right away. We didn’t have anywhere else to be.

This morning we decided to do something different, so we signed up for a massage. I’ve never had a massage, so I found the menu of massage types a fascinating read. The ones involving bamboo and hot stones didn’t sound like too much fun. My wife let me decide, and I picked the basic massage. Then I saw there was a “deep tissue” option. I figured that if a massage is good, then deep tissue must be better. I sprang for the 90 minute version. Our masseuses, Diane and Doreen, directed us to our room, where we disrobed and flopped on the tables like halibut.

I knew that “deep tissue” had been a mistake when Diane placed her thumb under my shoulder blade and pressed it through my body into the table. From the whimpers and rapid, shallow breathing at the next table, I assumed my wife was coming to the same realization. I can best describe the event as two nice women dropping a fire hydrant on you in slow motion for an hour and a half. After pulling my spine out like a licorice whip, Diane moved south, eventually reaching my feet. She crushed my feet, and I now understand why that was such a popular medieval torture. I’m not sure what she did to the soles of my feet, but I think she may have brought in a rhino to gore me a few times.

But the most interesting part of the experience was Diane’s discretion. I lay under a sheet to protect my modesty, but during this procedure modesty was a fuzzy concept. While moving about to assault various parts of my body, Diane manipulated that sheet with the skill of a fan dancer. At one point she stopped and placed a cloth over my eyes, and I found that a bit ominous. But I then realized that it was another attempt at modesty as Diane went to work on areas uncomfortably close to very private places. The cloth over my eyes was apparently an appeal to the “ostrich effect”—if I couldn’t see Diane then I would assume that she couldn’t see me either.

Diane and Doreen at last relented and left us with polite words and smiles. My wife and I stared at one another for a while, as if we were spies amazed to have survived a KGB interrogation. We rolled off the tables and dressed. My wife was so crippled that she couldn’t lift her arms high enough to tie her bathing suit. We staggered back to our room, our plans for the beach now destroyed. My wife refused to talk to me, or even look at me.

That’s what I get for trying to make a decision. From now on, ice/no ice is the only question for me.