Wednesday, January 12, 2011
**He'll Be Home For Christmas (Or Else)
["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published 1/13/2011] © 2011
Olof and I are almost frighteningly compatible with the exception of one issue: Work crises that compromise major family occasions. So I had a familiar sinking feeling when he reported last month that his business trip to Saudi Arabia had been extended a week to December 23. But not to worry, he said, we’d still leave the next morning for Christmas Eve with the kids in L.A. as planned.
Olof does not have good airline karma. In fact, the airline gods lose no opportunity to poop on his head. It took him three weather-snafued days to even get there. Which is why I suggested he say, “In deference to my adoring and endlessly supportive wife, I must regretfully insist on leaving The Kingdom by December 21 so as to guarantee my arrival and appear at least marginally conscious on Christmas Eve.”
“No can do,” said the ever-dedicated Olof.
Business is business. But blowing Christmas – the wife’s favorite holiday - crosses a line. I tried to express this as best I could.
“Not to put too fine a point on it,” I said, “but if you don’t make it back, by the time your wife lets you come home from the La Jolla Marriott, you’ll be a Platinum member.”
Olof maintains that I have no understanding of the realities of the business world, having spent my career in what he maintains is a university welfare environment where firing an employee for gross incompetence would be considered “mean”.
Be that as it may, I couldn’t help but recall the vacation that was cut short by the crisis in Montgomery or the son’s college graduation that was bollixed by the crisis in Dallas.
But even more, I was recollecting Olof’s rolling in from Stockholm on December 23 a few years ago and our leaving the next morning for the Bay area. Olof slept entirely through Christmas Eve at his mother’s, and through Christmas day and dinner at our son’s in Santa Cruz. The only time anyone saw him was when I woke him up to go to the airport.
“Olof,” I said to him at the time, “we are NEVER doing this again.
But here we were, doing it again.
A week before Christmas, I learned that almost everyone else on the Saudi project was leaving by December 22.
Hence, the weekend was spent sticking pins into little effigies of Olof, the CEO, the CFO, the customer, and the travel agent who would book a four-flight three-connection itinerary on December 23 through two major winter weather stops including an hour and twenty minute connection to clear customs and change terminals in Chicago.
I admit it was a little unfair to be sticking pointy penetrables into the CEO and CFO who are great guys and travel a ton. But they rated their own effigies by virtue of the fact that their families, unlike me, could reasonably expect a sentient human on Christmas Eve.
“Olof,” I said during our Skype chat that night, “What will you remember at the end of your life: all the company crises, or time spent with family?” I have no idea what he replied because the bandwidth was so perennially bad that I was never sure I wasn’t having Skarnal relations with some guy in Dhahran.
The short connection through Chicago was able to be changed to a longer one and a direct flight to San Diego instead of the idiotic layover in L.A. But as Christmas approached, the Riyadh to Frankfurt flight, originating in Qatar, was routinely running late. Worse, the Frankfurt Airport was shut down.
But I was going to be in L.A. watching my tiny granddaughter open her presents whether my likely-to-be-ex husband made it or not.
Logistics were problematical. I don’t drive on freeways anymore and the train was out with all the gifts. And even if Olof miraculously washed ashore on the 23rd, he would be on an 11 hour time difference, would have logged a grueling month without a day off, and would be working a final 20 hour sprint before embarking on some 30 hours of travel. Did I really want to be chauffeured by someone with the alertness of a root vegetable?
At the last minute, I booked a town car for the trip to L.A.: $300 (huge holiday surcharge).
Against all odds – and it was – Olof did arrive on the night of December 23. He kissed me hello and fell face down on the bed where he slept for 13 hours straight.
The next morning, the town car took me and the decerebrate Olof to L.A. where we had a nice lunch with the kids and he then napped until 5:00. But he did manage a very respectable four hours on Christmas Eve and even valiantly hung in there until 6 p.m. on Christmas day before crashing for another 12 hour snooze.
“See?” he said brightly when he next surfaced on the 26th. “I told you this would all work out.”