Trip to Chicago
By Wendell Abern
Dear Frequent Flyers, et al,
I am writing this a few weeks before my semi-annual trip to Chicago to visit kids, grandkids and old friends.
Years ago, at the height of my “Mad Men” career — prior to computers, teleconferencing, Skyping and all those other technological advances — I traveled a great deal. Client meetings. Pre-production meetings. And a whole mess of other dumb meetings. All over the country. Frequently to New York. Even more frequently, to California, where most of the commercial shoots took place.
At the airport every week. Usually twice a week. Not a big deal.
But now that I’ve reached octogenarian status, these trips to Chicago have become monumental. I start worrying about all of the details months ahead of time.
In fact, I booked this September flight last February. Spirit Airlines.
Good ol’ Spirit Airlines, where I have accumulated more than 65,000 traveler miles. What this means at Spirit is that my free round-trip flight only costs me $134. And just to make sure nothing untoward has happened since I booked this trip, I have checked my reservation every three days for the past month.
Plus, I keep making lists, the most important of which is a compilation of things to do prior to my trip.
Which I started four months ago.
And every week or so, I e-mail a copy to my kids to see if they can think of something I forgot. About a month ago, my daughter called me.
“Dad,” she said, “I can understand why you’d want to have the car serviced before you come to Chicago. But why do you have to have your little guest-room-also-serving-as-an-office painted before then?”
“Because I don’t like the way it looks.”
“So? Why not have it done when you return, when there’s no arbitrary deadline?”
“There is no such thing as an arbitrary deadline, and I don’t like it the way it is!”
“Okay. Just wanted to check and see if you’re as receptive as ever to someone else’s ideas. It’s comforting to know nothing has changed.”
A few days later, my son called.
“I want to know what the penalties are,” he said.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Your list. It’s headed, ‘Absolutely Imperative: Must be Finished Before Trip to Chicago; Severe Penalties if not Accomplished.’ I want to know what penalties. And who inflicts them.”
“Oh, that. I just like to remind myself of what’s important.”
I stopped sending that list to my kids.
But there are other issues, which I find curious, if not strange.
I find myself fretting over things that would not even have occurred to me years ago: Better not eat too much of that; don’t want to get sick before my trip. Better drive carefully; don’t want to have an unnecessary accident before I go to Chicago.
I’m thinking like an 85-year old man, and I’m only 83!
A couple of weeks ago, I called my daughter to give her my itinerary. Time to finalize all dates and times.
“Dad, don’t forget to pack some sunscreen. You know, it’s September, and it’ll still be hot and sunny here.”
“I know. I lived there for 56 years.”
“I’m talking about packing! When you came in May, you forgot to pack socks.”
“That’s just because I rarely wear socks down here.”
“Dad, don’t forget to pack socks.”
“I won’t forget socks already!”
“And a razor.”
My kids never forget anything.
Meanwhile, I find myself constantly distracted by this trip. I lack focus on just about everything.
For example, I go to my condo’s pool twice a day … for my morning cigar and afternoon cigar. I consider the pool my office. It’s where I do all my writing and reading. During the summer, I’m the only one there during the week. And because our pool is not heated, it’s like my own private pool from September through most of May.
Well, last week, I was preparing for the pool while wondering how many long-sleeved shirts I should pack for my trip. And instead of coating myself with sunscreen, I sprayed deodorant over my entire body before I realized what I was doing. I tried covering it with the sunscreen, but in the ensuing aroma war, Old Spice roundly defeated Banana Boat.
And of course, it was the only day all week that Heidi was there.
Every condo association has one truly beautiful woman. Ours is Heidi, who is less than half my age and six inches taller than I am. (When I tried to convince her last year that five-foot-five is the new six-foot-three, she only laughed at me.)
When I walked in and peeled off my pool shirt, she took one whiff and said, “Isn’t it a little early for you to be visiting the local brothel?”
When I explained what I had done, she said, “Good lord, one would think you’re 85 years old.”
Next week, I have to have the car washed. And get a haircut. And make and freeze some dinners for my return. And shop for … wait a minute! I’m panicking again. I have almost two weeks.
I check my list of what I must do in order to prevent severe penalties: I’m doing fine.
I relax, breathe in and have another cup of coffee. Now all I have to do is haul out my list of what to pack for my trip, add socks, and go to the pool for my morning cigar.