Once a very, very, very long time ago, two Neanderthals were sitting by the shore of a river in the early evening after a long day of hunting and fishing.
“You know, I have been thinking,” said one of the Neanderthals, who was known as Chert, to his companion. “I’m getting really tired of living in the cave. It’s always dark, no matter how big we build our fire, the smoke hangs in the air, and then there are those damn bats. I mean the guano gets everywhere! I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty hard to feel romantic with the wife when her hair is filled with bat crap.”
“I know what you mean,” replied his companion, who was known as Granite. “You wake up each morning and try to wash off in the river but you still smell the guano all day.”
“So here’s what I am thinking,” continued Chert. “I’m an exceptional hunter and you are the best fisherman I have ever met. And our sons are improving their skills every day.”
“I’m with you,” replied Granite, who appreciated the compliment from his companion.
“Well, what if we sold our skills?” said Chert. “I’m sure there are other men out there who are sick and tired of hunting or fishing every day. And their wives are equally sick and tired of cleaning the animals and fish and doing the cooking each day.”
“I’m sure that’s true,” replied Granite.
“So we let it be known that if families want to come here we will do all the hunting, fishing, and cooking for them. We’ve got a beautiful location here next to the river, with a decent sized eddy pool nearby. Just beyond the shores there are lush woods just waiting to be explored and, probably best of all, there are very few things around that want to eat us.”
“And exactly what do we get for all our hard work?” Granite asked, reasonably.
“In exchange for all of this,” Chert said with a sweep of his arm, “and all the food they can eat, they’ll bring us three good-sized rocks for each person they bring and that we have to feed. You and I don’t have time to gather rocks, plus hunt and fish, so we get the rocks brought to us and we use the rocks to build beautiful homes for our families. No more living in the stinking cave!”
Not surprisingly, Chert’s idea was well received. As word spread of Chert and Granite’s enterprise Neanderthal families from across the region began to arrive, dutifully bringing their stone payments and then lounging on the shores of the river while Chert and Granite and their respective families did all the work.
In short order both Chert and Granite had new homes for their families and as more Neanderthal families came bringing rocks, other homes were built to house the guests during their stay. Soon an entire community of homes lined the river’s shoreline.
One evening, Chert and Granite lay on their backs on the river’s shore staring up at the moon and then the unforeseen consequences of a good idea began to materialize.
“I don’t think I have ever been this tired,” said Granite.
“I can’t seem to find any part of my body that doesn’t hurt,” said Chert. “We need more help if we are going to keep this going. Just the two of us, and our families aren’t enough.”
“My wife no longer stinks of bat guano,” replied Granite, “but we are both too tired to make more sons. I don’t know what we should do.”
“We need a vacation,” said Chert.
“A vacation?” asked Granite.
“Absolutely,” said Chert. “That’s what everyone who comes here is doing, getting away from their busy days of hunting and gathering to enjoy a little rest and relaxation. Well, we deserve a break, too. We need a little rest and relaxation.”
So Chert and Granite arose the next morning and, with their families, set off to find someone or someplace that would offer them a vacation just as they had been providing to countless other Neanderthal families for a long, long time.
In Chert and Granite’s absence, Neanderthal families continued to arrive at their beautiful compound on the river’s shore. They brought the requisite rocks and sat back waiting for food to arrive while they enjoyed the rest and relaxation provided by the freedom from daily responsibilities.
But Chert and Granite were gone. Indeed they never returned. Possibly there were consumed by wild animals or, perhaps their futile attempt to find a vacation destination like the one they had created led to their starvation. Whatever the case, the Neanderthal families, who came to stay at the compound by the river had no one to hunt or fish for them.
Understandably, these Neanderthals were angry and, with righteous indignation because they had paid good rocks to be catered to, they refused to hunt or fish for themselves, choosing instead to spend their days looking for the Neanderthals that were supposed to be feeding them.
Thus it came to pass that all the Neanderthals either starved to death or killed one another in fights over who should be hunting and fishing for food to prevent starvation. And this is the real reason that the Neanderthals became extinct.
Not too many years after the last Neanderthal had died, two Cro-Magnon men and their families came across the still intact compound by the shores of the river.
“Holy Brontosaurus burgers, Bob,” said the Cro-Magnon named Ed to his companion. “Will you check this out?”
“This is fantastic,” replied Cro-Magnon Bob. “Durable stone shelters, a river for fishing, woods for hunting, and even some open land over there where we could try to grow some food. Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Ed?”
“I think I am,” replied Cro-Magnon Ed. “I am so sick and tired of hunting and gathering. Always moving. Always going there from here. It’s time we settled down.”
“I am right here with you!” said Cro-Magnon Bob. “And I’ve got dibs on that shelter over there!”
And that, dear readers, is the true story of how the world’s first vacation destination led to the extinction of one species and led to another species moving their society from hunting and gathering to community-based. Now you know.