The folly of family vacations

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					The folly of family vacations
BY DAVE BARRY


Parents, school is almost out, which means it's time to make those summer vacation plans, load up the
family car and take off, quickly, before the kids get home.

I am, of course, joshing. You should take the kids; there's nothing quite like putting the whole family into
the car and hitting the open road, leaving your worries behind, driving mile after carefree mile, sometimes
getting as many as three carefree miles before everybody in the car hates everybody else and gunfire
breaks out in the back seat.

Yes, medical emergencies can occur on even the best-planned family trip.

That's why, before you set out, you should familiarize yourself with the: OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT
CLASSIFICATIONS OF BAD MEDICAL THINGS THAT COULD HAPPEN ON YOUR VACATION

I refer here to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is the system used to report
medical problems to U.S. government agencies. Alert reader Denise Martin sent me a copy of the ICD,
which classifies every conceivable kind of medical problem, including the following, which I am not making
up:

E845 -- Accident in spacecraft

E912 -- Bean in nose

E966 -- Beheaded by guillotine

E906.8 -- Butted by animal

E842 -- Glider fire

E915 -- Hairball

E908 -- Injured by cloudburst

E912 -- Marble in nose

E906.8 -- Pecked by bird

E844 -- Sucked into jet aircraft

Do not let this list alarm you. Statistics show that, on any given vacation trip, your family is likely to
experience no more than four or five of these emergencies -- even fewer, if you exercise strict parental
discipline (''Jason, you let your brother out of that guillotine RIGHT NOW, or we are NOT stopping at the
Tastee Freeze'').

Speaking of sharp objects, you'll want to be especially careful if your vacation destination includes a rain
forest. I say this because of an alarming experience I had last summer when the Barry family held a
reunion on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. One afternoon, a bunch of us Barrys packed some
healthy trail provisions in the form of a large box of Cheez-Its and drove to the Quinault Rain Forest,
which is one of those nature preserves where they put up lots of informational signs with drawings of
specific wildlife items that you never see anywhere except on the signs.

For example, if the sign says that the area is the natural habitat of the River Otter, you can be sure that
there will be no River Otters within miles of it. The River Otters, who can read at a 6th-grade level, will all
be deliberately hanging around the sign for some OTHER animal, such as the Toe-Sucking Bigtail Bat,
which meanwhile will be hanging around yet ANOTHER animal's sign. This pattern continues throughout
the animal kingdom, forming what zoologists call the Great Chain of Totally Incorrect Nature Signs.

Anyway, we went to the Quinault Rain Forest to expose the younger generation of Barrys to nature and
teach them to appreciate the vital ecological importance of our dwindling rain forests, without which the
world would soon run completely out of mildew. The first thing we saw, on arriving in the rain forest
parking lot, was a bulletin board with a recently tacked-up notice that said, I swear:

ATTENTION!! THIS PERSON IS KNOWN TO BE IN THIS AREA.

(This was followed by the person's name and physical description, then:)

LAST SEEN WEARING EARRINGS, A TATTOO (ON SHOULDER), CAMOUFLAGED PANTS (MILITARY TYPE),
AND A VEST. CARRYING A MACHETE. THIS PERSON HAS ASSAULTED A GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE AND IS
CONSIDERED DANGEROUS.

As you can imagine, this notice put something of a damper on our rain forest experience. It's difficult to
fully appreciate the habitat of the Northern Flying Squirrel when you are expected at any moment to
encounter the Camouflaged Machete Loon.

Nevertheless we followed the little nature trail and read all the informational signs, which appeared to
have been written by graduates of Extremely Creative Writing 101. For example, at one point, my brother
Sam and I were munching Cheez-Its and reading a sign that said, quote:

``Lean your head back; peer into the forest canopy. Search for the subtle activity and listen as the gentle
breezes muffle the sounds of life above.''

''Are you gonna do that?'' I asked Sam.

''I'd be afraid that a squirrel would go to the bathroom on my face,'' he replied.

For some reason, I feel compelled to point out here that Sam is a Presbyterian minister.

Anyway, we got out of the rain forest without any mishaps, and I'm sure that by now the machete person
has been captured by the authorities or eaten by otters. So you and your family probably have nothing to
worry about this summer; just relax, have fun, and enjoy a totally carefree vacation, wherever you roam,
from sea to shining sea. Speaking of which, E-906.3 is the ICD code for shark bite.

				
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