Spring break 2009 is upon us. High school and college students across the nation are getting ready to head to their geographic partying spots. If you live in Texas you are probably going to South Padre Island or Cancun, Mexico. If you live in Pennsylvania you are either heading skiing or to South Florida party cities such as Fort Lauderdale or South Beach. These are destination traditions that have withstood the test of time, fluctuating economies and social upheaval consisting of drug violence, and other unrest. Things were no different in December 1978. This was the year of my first spring break trip. I was 17 years old.
I had never been on a “spring break” when my parents broke me the great news that I would accompany my older brother Mark on a 5 day trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While Mark seemed happy to take me I suspect it was more a mandate from my parents that he was taking me with him or he was not going. Armed with my fake I.D. that said I was 18 we hopped in my my mom’s 1977 Cadillac and hit the road. The trip down was uneventful. Mark did most of the driving and only let me drive when he could not keep his eyes open. These were they days before XM Radio. There were long stretches of static in between cities. It seemed like “Staying Alive” from the Saturday Night Fever album and “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow were being played non stop. I passed the dead time day dreaming about coming out of my shell and meeting hot college girls at all those spring break wet t-shirts .
When we arrived it dawned on me that we did not have a place to stay. I frankly had never given it any thought. I assumed that Mark had it taken care of. These were the days when the the beachfront was a collection of small mom and pop motels. We drove from motel to motel until we found one that had a vacancy. It was 18.99 a night and only had one night available. We changed hotels twice.
The first night we were there, Mark told me he was going to a club called “Baby’s”. The hottest wet t-shirt party spot in Lauderdale at the time. He told me my fake I.D was not going to cut it, handed me some money and told me to have fun. That was pretty much the last I saw of him until he showed up the night before the morning we were supposed to leave. During that time, I walked on the beach, ate Burger King Whoppers and frequented a local pool hall nearby. Not quite the hot babe scoping, high school reject redeeming time I had envisioned. I befriended a Lauderdale townie who was hanging out at the pool hall. We ate burgers, played pinball and some pool. He and a few of his friends then mugged me at knife point in the motel parking lot. Adding insult to near injury my now former knife wielding friend thanked me for providing them the money to go party at Baby’s. I wonder if they ran into Mark.
Mark finally appeared a little worse for wear after three days of “3-fer a quarter” and non-stop wet t-shirt contests. I never bothered to tell him or my parents that I had been mugged. While our spring breaks took different paths, we were both ready to get back to Pittsburgh as qucikly as possible despite the fact that it was 80 degrees where we were and 10 degrees where we were going. We vowed we would not stop but to eat and use the bathroom preferably without turning the engine off. We hit the North Carolina/ Virgina border about 3 am. We pulled into a gas station. No one came out to help us so we helped ourselves. We filled up the tank. Still no attendant. I walked to the door and there was the attendant in a chair, head back, snoring sound asleep. Mark and I looked at each other, tip toed quietly back to the caddy and gassed it across the border into Virginia. I suspect some federal crime was committed when we crossed state lines with stolen gas. My first felony. I hope the statute of limitations has run. While getting mugged and my foray into federal crminal activity did not lead to a life of crime, I did get the gist of taking from others. I became an lawyer. Spring break 1978 was a learning experience.