I just flew back from Florida, and boy are my arms tired. No kidding. Vacations are exhausting, especially if you're the designated laundress.

Two questions always plague me before a trip: What should I pack? And will the plane crash? My husband doesn't have this problem. Fearless, he actually sleeps on the plane, a luxury I can't afford - after all, someone has to make sure the wing doesn't burst into flames.As for what to pack, his approach differs from mine in that I make wardrobe decisions before we go, while Mitch simply brings everything he owns and decides what to wear once we've arrived. He then wears everything at least once so I won't accuse him of taking too much stuff, hence the mountains of laundry upon our return.

I never appreciated until recently how my first job prepared me for my future. I was 16 and had begged my father to find me a summer job so I could earn money for nail polish. Being in the dry cleaning business, he found me a job in a laundry, where I stamped names on the insides of shirt collars. The morning truck delivery buried me in dirty shirts promptly at 8 a.m. I'd stamp and stamp and stamp, finally seeing daylight by around 2 in the afternoon, when I'd enjoy a tremendous feeling of accomplishment until the 2:15 truckload of shirts came and buried me again.

I kept that job for eight days until quitting in a huff and spent the rest of that summer reading "The Myth of Sisyphus." That's the story about a guy who pushes a giant rock to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down and have to push it up again and again, for eternity. Well, Sisyphus had a great job compared to mine, mostly because his was mythological and mine was real. I vowed I'd never do anything like it again, but I was wrong.

Besides doing laundry, this particular vacation involved waiting in lines to visit attractions. The whole state of Florida is really one big theme park, offering the excitement of Disney World, Sea World, Busch Gardens, Wet `n' Wild, hurricanes, tornadoes and the Gulf of Mexico, with its lively sharks and jellyfish.

One patriotic thing we did was visit Universal Studios in Orlando. It was quite interesting, mostly because it was the first commercial I ever paid to get into. I also now feel like I really know Steven Spielberg. And for the first time, I saw a restaurant offering an All You Care to Eat Bar, a welcome change from the typical All You Can Eat Bar. It certainly relieved the pressure to perform.

The most memorable moment occurred during the family reunion, which was the reason we went to Florida to begin with. A dispute arose regarding whether it was appropriate for my husband to have a Beanie Baby (I believe it was Bongo the Monkey) perched on his head during dinner at a fancy restaurant. My aunt felt it was not. My son agreed with her, feeling that Ziggy the Zebra would have better fit the restaurant's black and white decor.

Tempers and nostrils flared. I told my aunt that considering her girth, Mitch's behavior was more appropriate than her consumption of a Chihuahua-size steak and half a key lime pie. Verbal fisticuffs ensued, culminating in my dramatic flight from the table, followed all the way to the parking garage by my son and aunt, both in tears. (On his behalf, I must clarify that Mitch did not wear the Beanie Baby for the whole meal, only during the appetizers. Later it sat on the table as a centerpiece.)

The next day everyone kissed and made up. My aunt bought my son two new Beanie Babies. We flew home safely, albeit afflicted with a mysterious "sand flea" rash, causing my dermatologist to suggest I wash all our clothes twice. He's got quite a sense of humor for a doctor.