My friend Paulie called me the other night.
“Go where?” I asked.
“I don’t care,” he answered, desperation in his voice. “Any of these places–Chile, Honduras, Belize, Bahamas–whatever. Let’s just go.”
“Slow down now, Paulie,” I said calmly. “You got a fishing destination catalog in the mail today, didn’t you?”
“Okay, and how long has it been since you’ve been hunting or fishing?”
“Almost a month.”
“All right,” I said with confidence. Clearly, Paulie needed an objective voice to help ground him back in reality. “Have a seat, relax, and I’ll try to talk you down. Okay?”
“Look,” I started. “Spring will be here soon, and–“
Paulie interrupted me. “No it won’t. It’s only the beginning of February.”
I had to give him that. “Okay, that’s true. Maybe not soon, but eventually, and–“
“Eventually? I could die of boredom before ¿¿¿eventually’ gets here!”
I was actually pretty bored myself, but I persevered. “Okay, consider this, Paulie: I know for a fact that I’ve heard you say more than once that you like winter.”
“I lied,” he said flatly. “We all lie. Everybody in the north country says they like winter, when in fact we only like it for about a week, when it’s new. The rest of it pretty much stinks.”
“Well, I can’t argue with that,” I conceded. Truth is, there’s not much to like. Most of the hunting seasons are closed, and the rest didn’t really matter now because there was too much snow. In fact, I hadn’t been out in quite a while, either. “So, which catalog did you get?”
“It’s got a big rainbow on the front.”
“Oh yeah,” I said, “I’ve got that one right here.”
“Check out the tarpon on page 12.”
“Whoa!” I said. “Look at the size of that thing….” It was just a momentary lapse, though, and I made a quick recovery. “We’re getting off track. Besides, there’s no way we can afford any of these trips. You know, Paulie, we’re being taken advantage of here.”
“Of course!” I felt as though I was on to something. “It’s no coincidence these catalogs show up in February, you know. These people are very crafty. They probably have well-paid researchers who come to the north country to study exactly how many days we have to spend tying flies and organizing our tackle boxes before we finally go nuts and are willing to trade our retirement for a fishing trip.”
“Could be,” Paulie said, unfazed. “But take a look at page 15.”
“Oh my God,” I gushed. “Look at those flats. How cool would that be? Palm trees. Bonefish. Umbrella drinks….”
“Come on,” Paulie said again. “Let’s go.”
“There’s no way I can drop five grand on a fishing trip.”
“That’s the six-day package. Take a look at the two-day price.”
“Well, okay, but that’s still a lot of money,” I said. Just then, my wife, Robin, walked into the room and took a peek over my shoulder. “Then again, it is pretty reasonable comparatively. Does that include everything?”
“Everything but the airfare.”
“Hmm,” I paused. “How much do you think the airfare would cost? You know, if we could get a cheap flight–“
A sudden kerfuffle caused me to drop the phone.
When I picked it up again, Paulie said, “You there?”
“Listen,” he said, “we could go to the Keys instead. That’s even cheaper. Take a look at page 22.”
“I can’t,” I said.
“Robin just threw my catalog in the garbage.”
At least somebody could be objective and grounded in reality.