A chance to flee, 'free'

With March right around the corner, it would be nice to be thinking about whether to use mulch or plastic sheeting to keep down the weeds in the pea patch this year.

But after a long, cold winter of international discontent, I'm instead compelled to consider duct taping sheets of plastic over my windows and doors, per Washington's rather dubious directive for enduring an act of chemical or biological war.

You too? Need to get away?

Maybe you're in the military, with travel plans already prescribed. Otherwise, you might just dump those forbidden tiny scissors out of your nail kit and find a low fare.

That's if you're still employed. And provided there's any of your wage-frozen salary left after you've paid that spectacular heating bill.

If "something for nothing" sounds good about now, check the mailbox. Time-share sellers are at it again, hoping to stoke your mild (or nonexistent) interest in vacation-property ownership with highly discounted lodging for your troubles.

Your troubles? That's the part where you sit in on sales pitches of varying intensity, and maybe troop through a model apartment.

The ethicist within you may wrestle with the propriety of taking a cut-rate vacation if you know deep down that you're not really looking to buy. But as Neal Learner found out in reporting today's lead story, 10 percent of those who take the trips end up buying (sellers know how to target). That percentage suits the industry - with its mastery of block bookings and other money-saving tactics - just fine.

Perhaps you'll raid your cash stash (having one is another of the fed's suggestions) to go see a time-share property. You may even use it to join that 10 percent. Save a roll of plastic for the new place.

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