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my holiday part 1: the drama of last-minute arrivals

Well, the editing got done. A four-hour phone call, interrupted a couple of times as I dashed away to rewrite key bits of dialogue. On the whole a more valuable day than the one I spent prying apart coffee filters and getting my hair cut, since I was able to convince my copy editor that the sex scene and most of the bad language should stay. (The book is for teens, after all, and it has to compete with television.)

After the phone call, I packed my bag and picked up the kids. Holiday time! What could be better than a few hilarious days in a big city with teenagers? At 6:05 the following morning, our plane left for New York.

Without us.

I would like at this point to mention my father. He is a planner, a file keeper, a filler-in of warranties. He is, above all, an abhorer of travel stress. He likes to confirm his flights the day before, and check in well (WELL) in advance. For a 6:00 am international flight, he might arrive at the airport at 3:00 . Heck, he might decide to show up the night before, and sleep over. All my travelling life I have heard him talk about how much he hates the drama of late arrivals.

Easy to make fun of a guy like that. Easy to laugh at his cautious calculations of time and distance, his preparations in case this or that or the other goes wrong. Easy to make fun of the ant -- until winter comes.

All my travelling life I have been the grasshopper, taking things more casually than my father, figuring I would rather spend time in the city itself than in the city's airport or train station. I have counted on my guardian angel, the kindness of fate and strangers, and the quick reflexes of cabbies. Yes, a couple of my arrivals have been somewhat last-minute. I have heard my name called over loudspeakers, and met the frowns of uniformed personnel with a rueful smile on my face. But I have not been caught with my travelling pants down until ... well, until the five of us arrived at the Delta terminal with just enough time to make our flight (there might have been a little bit of hustling through the airport, a teeny amount of panic firmly checked) ... only to be told that the flight had been oversold and that our seats were gone. The next flight left on four hours, and it was full too.

I looked round at my four children, who were reacting predictably. Thea, who had wanted to leave home much earlier (having inherited her grandpa's gene), was grim, Imo resigned, and the two boys were yawning uncontrollably.

I had a thought for my father, getting a phone call to say we'd missed our flight. Would his darker side get the better of him, after bearing all the teasing over all the years? Would a part of him, inside, be snickering quietly, or punching the air in a violent Told you so! gesture of victory? No. My dad isn't like that. He'd be shaking his head in sympathy.

But meanwhile I was in the airport with four kids who were looking to go to New York for a few days. What now? I wondered.


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