By the time the Hanson family got to the check-in desk at their hotel in Maui, the normally mild-mannered Dale had lost his patience.
“Look!” he whispered a little too loudly, elbowing his wife Donna. “That’s the couple that cut in front of us in the car rental lineup!”
It was definitely the same couple — the tall, bald man in a loud Hawaiian shirt and his wife in a flowing flowery dress, hair sprayed into a complicated updo that Donna would never attempt.
It had been a long day for the Hansons. They’d waited in their seats on the plane for an extra two hours before they left Vancouver. Five-year-old Jenny had thrown up midway over the ocean. The airline had lost Elaine’s suitcase. With the time change, midnight in Hawaii was 5 a.m. for the Hansons, and none of them had slept on the plane.
“That guy’s lucky I was raised to be polite,” Dale had said to his family while they waited behind the oblivious couple in the long rental line, kids resting their heads on the suitcases.
They stood, glaze-eyed in the hotel lobby, waiting while the southern man and his wife leaned over the only open counter. When it was finally his turn, Dale asked if there were any ocean-view rooms left. “I’m sorry, sir,” the receptionist replied. “The couple in front of you got the last one.”
Soon the Hansons, except Elaine, were dragging their luggage into adjacent “garden view” rooms on the sixth floor.
“I wonder if Trina’s still waiting for us in the hotel bar,” Elaine said. “We’re three hours later than we planned.”
Jeff laughed. “She’ll be there. You know my sister.”
When Jeff’s sister Trina had announced she’d be getting married in Hawaii on December 26, the Hansons knew they had no choice but to brave the Christmas crowds and fly to Maui. Elaine had searched the Regina stores for a bridesmaid dress summery enough for tropical weather. Donna had packed an extra-large backpack full of toys and games to amuse her grandchildren during the flight. Dale had found a rotating schedule of neighbours to look in on the dog and cats while they were gone, and Jeff had made last-minute arrangements for a trucker to haul three loads of canola the day before Christmas Eve.
“I always thought she’d get married on the farm,” Donna had said to Dale back in October, after Trina had phoned with her news. “I’ve been keeping those rose bushes trimmed for no reason.”
“The roses wouldn’t look like much at a December wedding in Saskatchewan,” Dale had reminded her. “There’s lots of flowers in Hawaii.”
It made sense for Trina. Sure, she’d dreamed of getting married in the Hansons’ yard. But that didn’t make practical sense, with her and Tom living in North Carolina. She didn’t want to leave all of the planning for her parents. “Tom’s family will have to travel,” she said, “and if we don’t have the wedding on the farm, you guys will have to travel. If everybody’s flying somewhere, we might as well fly somewhere fantastic.”
Dale and Donna hadn’t been able to argue with that logic. Donna had always wanted to go to Hawaii. And wouldn’t it be fun to take their grandchildren to the beach before they were too old for family vacations?
But now, dizzy from lack of sleep, and nauseous from the smell of Jenny, Dale was doubting the wisdom of the whole thing. “Why can’t our daughter get married at the Weyburn Legion like everyone else?” he snapped.
Donna opened the connecting door between the two rooms. “Elaine? Jeff?” she called. “If you find their pajamas, I’ll put the kids to bed. Take Dale down to the bar for a drink and see if Trina’s still there.”
Elaine found Connor and Jenny’s pajamas and brushed her hair at top speed, before Donna could change her mind. Soon the three of them were back in the elevator, heading down to the pool bar.
Outside, Dale looked at the patio lanterns lighting up the palm trees and breathed in the salt-filled air, trying to calm down. He led the way to the bar.
“I’ll have something with coconut,” Elaine said, starting to get over the trials of the day.
Just as Dale got the bartender’s attention, a man sitting on a stool to his right raised a hand and said, “Excuse me.” The bartender turned away from Dale and took the man’s drink order. Dale looked on in disbelief. It was the same man Dale had already tangled with twice that day.
“Listen, mister. You barged ahead of us at the Thrifty counter. You stole the last ocean-view room in the hotel. And now you’re going to make my daughter-in-law wait for a coconut drink? Do you know how long it took us to get here? Do you know how cramped a plane is for a guy my height?”
Jeff and Elaine looked on, speechless. Elaine had never seen her father-in-law like this before. Jeff had seen it, but only once, back in 2004. The man Dale was yelling at seemed confused, squinting at Dale as if to see if he knew him. On the stool behind him, the man’s wife leaned forward, trying to figure out what was going on.
Jeff wasn’t sure if he should get Dale out of the bar before things got worse, or take out his phone and record whatever it was Dale was doing. Would it seem funny someday? Would they be thrown out of the bar? Dale kept shouting, even waving his hand and pointing at the bewildered man.
Soon Dale was blaming the surprised stranger for everything from the high price of the hotel to the Weyburn grain terminal not wanting to take in their canola until the day of their flight. Just when Dale had started to explain how hard it was to find someone to look after the dog, Trina rushed toward them.
“You’re here! It’s great to see you! When I saw your plane was delayed, I didn’t think you’d get to the bar tonight. But here you are! And you’ve already met Tom’s parents!”
Jeff and Elaine’s eyes grew even wider as they realized Dale’s victims were about to be Trina’s in-laws. Dale was shocked into silence. He put one hand on the bar to steady himself.
The man on the barstool looked at Trina’s wide smile, turned to his wife, then looked back at Dale. There was a second of silence before he made his decision. He held out his hand to shake Dale’s. When the man grinned, Dale, Jeff and Elaine saw he had the same bright blue eyes and dimples as Trina’s fiancé, Tom.
“I’m Larry,” the man said. “This is my wife Paula. Sounds like you had a heck of a day. I’ll order a round of drinks.”
The wedding went on as planned. Elaine’s suitcase arrived, and Jenny’s stomach settled down. Dale confessed to Donna about what had happened in the bar, but it was years before Larry and Dale finally told Trina.
“Jeff!” she’d said to her brother. “I can’t believe you didn’t take a video!”