‘Who’s that on the top balcony? I haven’t see them at the pool yet. Are they new?”
Jane’s question reached me through my comatose state me. I cracked open one eye to peer at her and weigh up whether or not to move. She was facing the balcony she was staring at while I was lay in the opposite direction. I was sprawled in an almost stupor in the afternoon heat, only moving to shift my sun-bed around occasionally to maintain some contact with the small amount of shade off the umbrella. It seemed like an awful lot of effort to turn to look where she indicated. I was very comfortable.
This state was light years away from the start of our holiday.
I have to say, my recent encounters of trying to pass through airport security en-route to my holiday destination sure-as-hell wasn’t the relaxing start I want the beginning of my break to be. I’d had enough the year before on my way to the same holiday destination. (See
Nikos And His Cocktail Shaker – Part 1)
The trip to the airport didn’t help I must admit.
My eldest daughter had very kindly offered to drop us off in the early hours. My immediate reaction was Brilliant. Then I began weighing up the pros and cons as my wife began to change things.
Initially it was a weight off my mind. look at it this way. Now, I don’t have to worry about whether or not to take the car or get a taxi. Do I get a cab and worry that the very chatty driver is fishing to find out how long we are going to be away so he can pop back and break in at his leisure. In a vindictive move, try all my remaining shoes on knowing he has chronic athletes foot, walk round with my spare underpants on his head, and, a particular dread of my wife’s, turn a light on and leave it on(!!)
Or do I drive and leave the car in an airport long-stay car park, then, spend the 2 weeks dealing with an increasingly fevered imagination until I can collect it.
Has some young chap who worked there
A. Damaged it parking it.
B. Damaged it each time he moved it closer to the collection point as my holiday came to an end.
C. Four hours before I was due to arrive back, become disillusioned, decided it was a crap job, taken some entertaining drug, nabbed the first keys he spotted (mine) and fucked off on a high speed race round south Manchester with various body parts dangling off, creating an fabulous trail of sparks that the police helicopter didn’t need thermal imaging to follow.
So, when Em offered to drop us off I was all for it. Until, my wife told her not to collect us at the time we would have left for the airport because she didn’t want her getting up so early. So, where we normally arrive at the airport three hours before we fly, get through security, and just relax for a couple of hours or so until we board, now, we would be a good hour later. I mean, that early arrival is all part of my holiday routine. I like being there so early. I finally feel like I can forget about work. I’m actually on holiday.
When Jane told Emily to pick us up an hour later, then turning and asking me what I thought, well, then I know I’m not really being asked an optional question.
Its like being asked a hypothetical question by your wife. I always weigh up my answer. Ask, if its a trick? Does she want my honest – more importantly I hasten to repeat – hypothetical answer. Of course, she says Yes.
I always get the answer wrong.
I should know better, when her eyes narrowed just before she said Yes. But in this instance, for the sake of my own peace of mind, I felt I had to disagree and try negotiate a better departure time.
“What about just doing what we normally do? Three hours early? Peace of mind. Breakfast! Hooray.”
“Oh no. Think of Emily. She’s doing us a favour. It wouldn’t be fair to make her get out of bed any earlier. She needs her sleep.”
Now I know Em, it wouldn’t be a problem. This was just her mum worrying about her. I shared a glance with Emily and she recognized my discomfort. She immediately offered to come at the time I wanted to leave, bless her, but Jane was determined not to put her out.
To cut it short, it was agreed Emily would collect us later than I wanted to leave but not as late a Jane wanted to depart at.
I like my routine when I go on holiday. Finish work a day or so before. Immediately wind down knowing that’s it for two-and-a half weeks. Pack haphazardly the evening before departure (it drives my wife mad) then do nothing until it’s time to leave and get to the airport three hours before the flight, completely relaxed.
I like to let Jane stress for both of us.
Now, My comfort zone was destroyed.
I was immediately filled with foreboding and faced a battle with my own form of OCD knowing in my mind that my pre-set routine for getting up, dressing in my carefully-selected-for-maximum-travel-comfort holiday outfit, load cases to car, listen to wife check, check,checkcheckcheckcheckcheck passports, boarding tickets, doors, cooker, windows, taps, plug sockets, curtain position – open/closed/partly open – Jesus, it goes on and on.
I knew I was going to be sat twitching with nervous energy trying to looked relaxed on what was supposed to be the beginning of a relaxing holiday.
As you can imagine, I was up extra early waiting for my daughter to arrive, cases positioned, handles set just-so, poised with sweaty palms, so I could rush forward, grabbing said handles, dash out the open door to the waiting car. Dash back inside, perform a fireman’s lift on my tap-tigtening wife and force her in the car. A quick sprint inside the house again for hand luggage, pulling the door closed as I headed back to the waiting vehicle. In through the open door and pulling away from the kerb before I tugged it shut.
I was at heightened DEFCOM 2 ready to tip into DEFCOM 1.
So. We were due to be collected by 4.20am. And my calm exterior began to unravel at 4.05.
Because, I received a text at 4.05.
Just left! You excited?! :):)
Don’t text just drive. Yeah really excited. Are you driving now? Don’t stop driving to reply. Just drive. :):):O:D:P
The phone rang 10 minutes later making me jump as I stared out of the window where I was stationed, willing Emily to arrive.
(The exclamation mark sank my hopes further)
“I’ve got a puncture!! The wheels a funny shape!!”
(The wheels a funny shape??)
I must quickly explain my thought process at this point.
I looked at my watch. Calculated what would be quicker. Phoning a taxi right now and seeing how long it would take to arrive, collect and drop us at the airport, and how late we would be. Or, dash to where my eldest daughter was stranded, in the dark, with a flat tyre and struggling to get the nuts off the wheel. Mmmm. What to do. Did I know a good taxi service? I could always order Emily a taxi too. After ours.
Then normality clicked back and I told her I’d be right there. I grabbed the car keys and galloped out shouting up to Jane briefly what was happening and to be ready to leave!
Be calm, I thought, when you get to Emily. This, as I leaned over the steering wheel tipping sixty.
Don’t let her see you stressing. It’ll stress her out more. Lets be nice and calm. Like Clint Eastwood. Icy calm.
While the real me was running round in circles in the privacy of my own mind pulling my hair out wailing:
The flight! The flight! We’re going to miss the flight!! I knew I should have driven! No one fucking listens to me!!!
I spotted Emily hovering in front of her car as I drove towards her on the deserted road. She was hopping anxiously around her disabled vehicle waiting for me. I went past then did a quick U-turn pulling up behind her car. As I jumped out of the car striving to look the personification of Calm, Emily came towards me greeting me with,
“It’s ok Dad – I got the jack set up – the wheels ready to come off!”
She looked at me with those haven’t-I-done-well eyes and made me feel bad all over again. I looked down at the drivers side front wheel and realized it wasn’t just flat, the hub had impacted on something and actually bent. It really was a funny shape. Then I spotted that the wheel was off the ground.
“Well done Em, but we need to loosen the nuts before we jack the car up. Just step off the road chick.”
I bent over to wind the car back down only to discover she had forced the jack under the door and had cranked the seating of the jack into the door itself.
“Ohohoho. Look Em. You jacked the car door instead of the car. Ahahaha.”
Em walked back round to look.
“Is that the wrong Place?”
(Be calm. Be. Calm.)
“Ah – Yes. Look here?”
I showed her where the jack was forced into the door.
“Just wander over to the pavement Em.”
“Not to worry.” I threw her a smile. “We’ll just lower it back down.”
I attempted to wind the arm of the jack which completely failed to move.
“Is it not going down?” Emily was by my side in the road again.
“No babe. Its a bit stuck.”
I took a ragged breath.
“I’ll just have to use a bit of force. Juststepbackofftheroadqueen.”
My anxiety levels had gone up an all new notch. (Jesus I think I’m getting pains up my arm)
I exerted some considerable force all the time aware of the minutes sliding past.
“Are you sure I really managed to put it in under the door?”
Em queried, back leaning over me.
I gave a final eye-popping wrench at the jack, rapped my knuckles on the floor and deposited skin as I lost my grip, completely failing to move the lever.
I stuck my knuckle in my mouth, tasting my oil covered fingers. Any pretence of calm I was maintaining finally disappeared.
Yes! Yes! You jammedthefuckingjackinthedoor!!!!GETOFFTHEFUCKINGROAD!!!”
I did one of those jump-up-turn-round-throw-your-arms-in-the-air maneuvers, that you do when shit really hits the fan. This was followed by a quick goose stepping routine round the middle of the road gesticulating at no-one in particular.
You know the moment?
One of those “We’re-all-fucked-women-and-children-first-my-arse” reactions that occur after you finally realize, your not Cool Hand Luke after all. That moment, when the veneer of calm you’ve been papering over the nerve jangling anxiety that, actually, with every Tick of the clock, is pretty obvious to everyone else who you thought you were kidding but who, were just watching for that wafer thin amount of control to blow away with the gentlest puff of wind.
I’d gone from Clint Eastwood to Frank Spencer.
Then striving for calm, chest heaving with my exertions and seeing Emily looking at me like it was the end of the world, I struggled to think clearly.
The jack. The jack! My jack!! I ran to my car to grab my jack. Sorted! I’ll just jack Em’s car with mine high enough to take the pressure off her jack and remove it. There you go! Some people need to take a chill pill!! Think it through. Problem solved!! That’s what a clear, calm thought process does for you.
I lifted my boot and leaned into the back of the car, pulling up the cover over my spare tyre, with, at this point, considerable urgency. Not seeing it immediately I lifted the spare tyre and fumbled underneath for my jack. This became more frantic as what I blindly felt for was out of reach. The whole thing degenerated again with me ripping out the spare wheel cover, then the spare wheel and feeling round the empty space for what I could plainly see wasn’t there.
I think I actually screamed but it came out as a wheezy whistle. Jesus. I needed a paper bag. Better yet an oxygen tank.
I ran back to Emily’s car and turned into Basil Faulty and began kicking the jack, then took to hitting it with the wrench. What I was saying eludes me now. No doubt it was encouraging and colourful.
It suddenly popped free from under the door and I think I whooped a bit. It was a matter of moments to correctly position it, tighten into position, release nuts, jack up remove nuts, change wheel blahdeblah and so on. I didn’t even stop. I grabbed the damaged wheel – and it was knackered, the whole metal rim of the hub was bent in – I dashed to the rear of Em’s car throwing it in. Turning back to Emily ushered to the drivers side striving to come across completely cheerful.
“Okaydokey Em! No problem! In you get! Off we go!”
I sprinted to my car and jumped in, fumbled the key into the ignition and started the engine. I looked over my oil covered hands on the steering wheel to give Emily an encouraging wave, only to see her already accelerating away with a slight sqeal of tyres.
It didn’t take long to get home, rush in and grab the luggage, using the cases like pig boards to guide Jane complaining and still trying to check things as I steered her to Emilys car. Back In, switch the light off and dash back to the waiting vehicle, slamming the door behind me. I never expected to feel G-force in a Corsa but was thrown back in the seat as Emily launched us up the road before the car door was closed behind me.
“I’m so sorry! I can’t believe this has happened!”
Was all Em could utter for the first five minutes as she gripped the steering wheel, trying to focus on her driving but continuously turning to me in the front seat and looking at Jane in the mirror. In the end I had to tell her to stop when other reassurances didn’t help, concerned after all this she would kill me before I even got to the airport. I have to hold my hands up though, my heightened stress levels hadn’t helped Emily and may have contributed to Emily feeling so bad. I felt incredibly guilty.
But not enough to worry about it too much at the moment. We still had a plain to catch.
“No problem Em! Don’t worry about it! we’ll be fine!”
I gave a slightly manic laugh.
“I’m sure we’ll get there no problem. We should have almost an hour and three quarters to get through security. No worries! Please. Just look at the road and not me?”
We arrived at Terminal 2 relieved just to actually be there. We gave hurried hugs, trying to reassure Emily in a distracted way to be careful driving home. Then, waved her off as we crossed to the terminal entrance.
We abruptly stopped as we walked through the automatic doors. The queue to check in desk snaked, zig-zagging across the floor and off down a corridor heading off to Terminal 1.
This was just the icing on the cake.
I felt my shoulders completely drop.
I looked at Jane. Nothing else for it. Deep breath.
We rushed off to find the end of the queue. Just in case someone got there before us and made it longer.. We now had Ninety minutes to get through security.
Surely. Nothing else could go wrong..