After all, I was so good this year, I thought. I planned ahead. I finished my Christmas shopping a week ago. I made sure that there was nothing pending at work that would require my attention before I returned from Panamá. I made plans for my weekend: take my car to the mechanic and go to a couple of activities on Saturday; football, laundry, and packing on Sunday. I even went to a midnight showing of RotK on opening day so that it wouldn't take time away from my weekend plans. Then, sometime on Monday afternoon, I was leaving Boston for Panamá.
If only it had worked out that way.
When I purchased my flight to Panamá, the travel agent said she would fax me my itinerary. I never received it, and being as laid back and easy going as I am (i.e., I'm a lazy procrastinator), I waited until Friday to call back. I once again requested that they fax me my itinerary, and they said they would.
Three hours later, nothing. So I called back. "Listen," I said in Spanish, "I still have not received my itinerary. I need you to send this to me right away because I'm flying on Monday, but I have no idea what time my flight is."
"You're not flying on Monday."
"What do you mean I'm not flying on Monday."
"Your flight is tomorrow."
I'm glad I didn't wait until Saturday or Monday morning to call, but ... oh, shit.
At this point, I can't tell you who was at fault. Did I mis-remember my travel dates? Or did my travel agent book the wrong flight? I was convinced I was flying out on December 22 and returning on January 13, but my travel dates were actually December 20 and January 14. It didn't really matter whose mistake it was, though: as far as the airline was concerned, I was flying on the 20th unless I ponied up an additional $200...which, after holiday shopping, just wasn't going to happen.
So, all my plans for a relaxed, hassle-free weekend: out the window. Everything I had planned to do on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning had to be squeezed into late Friday evening and Saturday morning and early afternoon. I had to cancel a voice coaching session I had been looking forward to for weeks. I spent an hour hurriedly transferring my apple wine from primary to secondary so that it wouldn't go bad and did not have time to re-rack my blueberry wine as I had hoped. I was not able to take my truck to the mechanic and will now have to throw away money on a rental car if and when I decide to take it in.
The thing that irks me most, though, was having to cancel my plans for Saturday night. JC, Tubby, Keya, Dan, Scotty, and I were going to get together at Keya and Dan's place that evening. We were going to exchange gifts, eat chili and pie, trim the tree, play games, and watch some football. This was to be my Christmas.
That last sentiment may seem odd to you, as I always fly to Panamá to be with my aunt and grandmother for Christmas and New Year's. But, as much as I love my family, I also cherish my friends and the camaraderie we've developed. I wish all my friends got along with each other, as naive as that desire is, because I treasure each and every one of them. Anyhow, my Christmases in Panamá aren't very Christmasy. We'll have a dinner at home or at a friend's home -- have a grand time -- but there will be very little that one could associate with traditional Christmas.
I spent several hours on Friday night trying to coordinate things between different groups of friends to do something that evening for gift-exchanging. I may have pissed off a couple of people along the way with my determination to try to make things work. (For which I make no apologies.) I wanted to give people their gifts, whether or not I received anything in return, before the holidays. (It just doesn't feel right to give Christmas gifts in mid to late January.)
I did manage to get three friends together late on Friday night. JC, Scotty, and Tubby were unable to join us, as they had already made alternate plans, and bitty and bubblebabble were too exhausted after a busy day of work, shopping, and other obligations; thus, only Keya, Dan, and Bri were able to get together. We went to Uno's in Kenmore Square for a late dinner and then to Cornwall's (next to the Barnes and Noble BU Bookstore) to relax, play games, and get gifts from me. (Of course, I was the only one who had done his Christmas shopping, so I'll be receiving a ton of Christmas gifts around my birthday and only a couple before Christmas.) I gave Keya her Guys and Dolls DVD (she *loves* that movie), Dan his Pirates of the Caribbean Special Edition DVD (which I was told was on his wishlist), and Brian his basketball hoop that plays music or clichés everytime you score a basket with the miniature basketballs or crumpled up paper (appropriate, since I tore my ligaments while playing hoops with him).
When I got home, Tubby and I casually exchanged gifts...or, I should say, I gave him his Friday night and he gave me mine Saturday afternoon. He got Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines and Felipe Fernández-Armesto's Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food, and he gave me O'Reilly's Tivo Hacks. He's redesigning his kitchen and is really into cooking shows in general and Anthony Bourdain specifically, and I recently bought a Tivo receiver, so the gifts were very appropriate.
Then JC came over on Saturday afternoon and we exchanged gifts. He is a history buff who is particularly into alternative histories, so I gave him What Ifs? of American History, a collection of essays by various prominent historians speculating on what might have been if certain key events had turned out differently. He gave me a set of Howard Dean playing cards, with pictures of various players in the Democratic party on the cards. He says it's a minor gift and that there will be something more "sophisticated" to follow when I return, but I think this is a great gift that gave me a good laugh and am perfectly content if there is nothing else.
I was not able to give out my other gifts, which pisses me off. I still have wrapped gifts for Scotty (Andrew Carroll's Letters of a Nation), treacle_well (yes, I saw that post, and I'm giving you something anyway, so there...thpppbbbttt!), bitty (you'd better not go buy this or be given this before I get back, darn it, 'cause I know this is something you'd want to have), bubblebabble, and Ndiege in Chicago (which Tubby has agreed to drop at a FedEx location for me today).
Anyhow, enough about gifts. I managed to talk JC into giving me a ride to the airport, so he waited patiently while I finished my three loads of laundry and tossed items indiscriminately into a suitcase. My departure was slightly delayed because (1) I couldn't find the slides I had to return to a client in Panamá (I'll have to FedEx them to him when I get back to the States), (2) I couldn't find my copy of Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, our next book club selection (which luckily Tubby had a copy of that he could lend me), and (3) the end of the Tampa Bay-Atlanta game was so exciting. Anyhow, I did finally make it to the airport, a mere 50 minutes before my flight was scheduled to take off.
Now, I thought that having a gimpy leg would entitle me to some sort of special treatment, but no. No ride to my gate was offered. Rather I was told to hurry to my gate and was forced to limp along as fast as I could. No seat reassignment to bulkhead, but they did put me on the correct side of the aisle so that I could stretch my bum leg a little. Okay, in Miami I did get a little better treatment. I still had to limp from the end of one terminal to the farthest away terminal (for those who know Miami International airport and think I'm exaggerating, from E31 to B2), but when I got to the gate they bumped me up to business class. I think I will wear that boot everytime I fly, because now that I have been spoiled with the spacious seats and attentive service of business class, going back to economy will be such a disappointment.
So I am now in Panamá, earlier than anyone anticipated. This is going to be a depressing trip, as my grandmother seems to have aged 20 years in the past year. She now looks like her 93 years. She does not walk, and she does not talk. She spends all day sitting in her bedroom staring out into space or lying in her bed. Her body is nothing now but a collection of bones inside a baggy skin that used to house a big, strong body. She is clnically depressed and the intubation she had to withstand during a procedure in November has damaged her vocal cords, but all that we seem to get from the doctor is "What more do you expect? You're lucky she's still alive at 93." But this isn't a life for her. We want her to be with us, but we want her to enjoy quality of life. She seems to have given up the will to live and is little more than an occasionally animate corpse. This is going to be a depressing Christmas, but we'll make the best of it that we can.