Eleven Things I Love About Vacation
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – 1. Packing as an exercise in self-definition. I love to go a-wandering, a knapsack on my back. A pair of shorts, a few shirts, a good book. A harmonica, maybe. What more does a person need? Let's see: 14 sport shirts, 12 pairs of underwear, three swimsuits, two dress shirts, four pairs of long pants, six pairs of shorts, 12 pairs of white socks, a sport coat, sweats, sneakers, rubber shoes for the pool, large bottle of Tylenol. My ancestors packed less when they were transplanting their entire lives from the old country. Of course, they had worse luggage.

2. Flying coach as an escape from executive status. The last time I sat in the back of the plane was...well, on our last vacation. No, wait a minute. There was that hop down to our convention in New Orleans last winter, when the discrepancy between first class and steerage was $1,500 and a dish of cold nuts, and I bit the bullet for Uncle Al. That was different. I was being noble and mindful of shareholder value. This time we're in row 23 because we have to be. I'm in a window seat that is exactly one inch narrower than I am. My knees are in my nose. The last time I was this cramped was when I had an MRI back in 1993. Continental has done everything it can to remind the coach passenger that we are all nothing in the eyes of God. This insight does much to separate me from the business existence I am leaving behind, where I generally am treated quite nicely and get whatever I want relatively quickly. Gaining that distance is necessary if we are to have a successful vacation, so I think we're off to a good start.

3. The first view of our room as a prism of my net worth. Nothing to complain about here! This space is wholly fitting for my station in life. It doesn't look out onto a brick wall, since there are none here. It doesn't smell like the last guest's bathing suit. It's comfortable. There's cable. The patio fronts onto the pool, and there's a view of the bay. While I am happy, I do take a moment to wonder whether somebody is engineering some kind of unscrupulous effort against me back at the office yet. Nonsense! Nothing of the sort is happening. Because it's Sunday.

4. Our bank of chaise longues. Location, location, location, ladies and gentlemen. These are in prime real estate. Right by the pool. Not too far from the bar. I would say they are, quite simply, the best seats in the house. I take a moment to appreciate my wife, who was up at 7:30 A.M. to lay down towels and magazines on the seats to claim them. Only those who come to play achieve an umbrella. We got one. My wife was actually forced to fight off the husband of a Connecticut radiologist who is here on a junket. Can you imagine? The guy comes along after everyone else has established their turf. He's got a baby in a stroller. Big deal. And he tries to move our umbrella! What a dorque!

5. My first rum drink beneath the umbrella. So tangy. So sweet. Ahhh...They don't load them down with too much alcohol, do they?

6. Peace of mind. So hard to gain! So hard to maintain! Nothing like it. Look at that sun. This is heaven. I wonder if I should call my voice mail. I should. I shouldn't. Yes. No! So okay, I called it. There were no messages. Hmmm. I wonder what that means.

7. Great workout. Forty minutes on the treadmill. A hundred reps on the iron maiden, or whatever that weights-gizmo torture device is supposed to be. Fifteen minutes on the crosstrainer to cool down. My body vibrates with good health!

8. Fatty breakfast meat. I like the bacon closest to the little square of white bread they use to soak up the grease. The sausages are very large, and grilled so that their skin goes pop when you poke them. Tomorrow I plan to have a ham omelet the size of a football. Thank goodness I'm doing all that exercise. A life in balance, my friends. That's what it's all about.

9. Von Breeland and Murchison. On Wednesday, they call from the office and leave a message. A little orange light on my telephone greets me as I return to pick up a Nerf ball from the room. #$&*%! What could this portend? A merger I am missing? A shift in the tectonic plates of the corporation? The last time I was on vacation, we merged with Tazmania! I listen to the message. It is Von Breeland. He has called this tiny spit of land in the middle of the vast ocean to inquire whether I would like to take part in a conference call on the Nitsky-Mazinowsky lawsuit, which may end up costing the company, worst-case scenario, $10,000. I erase the message, and in that moment my spirit soars above where the swallows zoom and flutter, and I realize how negligible and transient are my daily concerns. I go play Nerf with the children. Thanks, guys.

10. Kitty. Day two or three, I think it was, a white kitten with brown splotches parked herself on the edge of our space and started mewing. You know the act. At first she seemed satisfied with the nondairy mix they use to make pina coladas and half a used cheeseburger, although she demanded it be cut up small. The next morning she graduated to whole milk we bought at the deli on the premises. That night my wife stopped eating a perfectly good $30 piece of grilled salmon about halfway through, and at the end of the meal she had it wrapped in tin foil. Kitty dined on our patio that night. By the end of the week we were all used to spending a good part of each night before bedtime out back, feeding kitty and watching her roll around on a beach towel. She was now getting into our laps and biting us when she felt like it. "Oh," we said. "Bad kitty." On the last night, after a dinner of duck and mahi-mahi, kitty was invited inside, where she hid under the bed and made a pest of herself. Later we sat under the stars, petting kitty, and said goodbye. There were some tears from the kids, but we knew we couldn't take kitty home. Home is different.

11. Sunday night. I'm sitting in my armchair in my study. It's hard to remember what I was so worried about ten days ago, when last I grappled with the monster. Tomorrow I will get on the train. I will hit the desk. I will wrangle my e-mail into submission. I will work the phones. And as I do, I'll put on my other self like a coat and wear it until it once again feels like a part of my skin. It was great to be away. It was great to get lost. But seriously, ladies and gentlemen, I love New York.

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.