The Shuffleboard Kid
The suggestion that one year in a dog's life is equivalent to seven in a human's is probably appropriate to kids and adults, as well. Summer can be an eternity to a kid - and two weeks nearly so. While an adult is almost immediately counting down the days when his vacation will end, the kid is generally thinking of the time at hand. Two weeks is an impossibly long time to contemplate.
Survival mode for a kid on vacation almost always means the challenge to Not Be Bored - particularly when the adults are off relaxing by the pool or entertaining themselves with a cup of coffee. Many kids out to dinner with their parents have formed brief alliances with mortal enemies caught in the same situation. They might remain enemies in school, but here in adultland, they only had each other, and put aside their differences rather than Be Bored.
At ten, age really matters. Generally, you hang out with kids your age or older - almost NEVER younger kids, lest you be considered One Of Them. On this vacation those concerns didn't apply.
I was checking out the shuffleboard courts (do they even exist anymore?) when I came across a boy I only remember at The Shuffleboard Kid. He was about seven or eight - an impossibly large age gap at home - and was playing with his mom. I was invited to play, which I suppose was her convenient excuse to beat a hasty retreat, for soon just the Kid and I were playing shuffleboard - and so forming a fast friendship based solely on Nothing Better To Do.
About the only thing I remember with certainty about The Shuffleboard Kid was that he was a bit sensitive - particularly, it seems, about animals. In fact, if he's an animal activist today, I might have witnessed the beginning of his lifelong quest. The Kid and I attended the hotel's sixteen milimeter screening of the original "Doctor Dolittle," which featured Rex Harrison as an 18th century vegetarian vetenarian who also, by the way, talked to the animals. At first, the screening almost didn't happen. Hotel staff couldn't figure out how to adjust the wide-angle lens on the projector to allow the film to project in its corrrect widescreen mode. I'm proud to say that my dad, the film executive, saved the evening by showing them how it was done, and thus making the screening possible.
After the film, Shuffleboard Kid was in tears. Why couldn't we treat animals like people? It just wasn't right! He seemed deeply hurt by the lack of what today I might call Equal Access For Animals. I thought it was really a major over-reaction, but I stood by my friend, tried to reason with him a bit, but generally just shrugged and hoped he would get it out of his system. It reminded me that he was, after all, Just A Little Kid.
For the first couple of days, The Shuffleboard Kid was my Best and Only Vacation Friend. His standing was about to be challenged.
Ben was on the scene.
Part Three: The Ben Era