Frequent traveller: Oh motherBack to Forum
Anonymous2 Dec 2009
In which our correspondent finds the stresses of long-haul business trips are nothing to travelling with mum and dad…
In my long and varied career as a frequent flyer, I have faced many challenges. I have traversed time zones, hemispheres and state borders until I’ve not known my rather rounded derrière from my elbow. I’ve crossed the Atlantic six times in two weeks. I’ve been hauled into tiny rooms at immigration and been subjected to the kind of interrogation I wouldn’t even have expected from my ex-husband. And more recently, I’ve had to squeeze the same backside into ever-contracting economy seats for long-haul journeys as my company squeezes its travel budget.
But when it comes to it, none of these experiences is as stressful as travelling with your parents. Recently I signed up for a weekend trip with mater and pater, figuring it would be good to get some bonding in before I pack them off to the nursing home. It will also get me out of hosting Christmas dinner. We are travelling short-haul, with Ryanair – oh the joy. I have booked the flights and checked us in online, as the spiralling charges levied by Mr O’Leary have my parents in a spin, and while they have just about mastered the art of sending an email, they are not what I would term “silver surfers”.
We are flying early on a Saturday morning and I drive to pick them up a full three hours before the flight is due to depart. The journey to the airport should take an hour and we’re travelling with hand luggage, so I reason this allows more than enough time for toilet stops and hobbling our way around the terminal. And given the amount of time I spend in airports, I have no desire to be there any longer than necessary.
I have whiplash, by the way, the result of a road menace even older than my parents ramming me up the behind the week before. Which goes to show that whatever fears people may have about air travel, you are more likely to be taken out on the weekly supermarket run.
So I pull up in the unwieldy bus my insurance company has given me to replace my zippy little motor, knock on my parents’ door, and take a deep breath. I am Zen, I am the Dalai Lama himself. My father, meanwhile, is about to spontaneously combust. I should have been here an hour ago, he roars, the traffic will be a disaster and there’s no way we are going to make the flight. I love it that despite my many years of globe-trotting, I can’t be trusted to get us up the M1.
So I bundle them in and we set off. The roads are empty, as I had expected, and I turn up the radio to drown out the complaints in the back. I can’t turn my head for the whiplash, my father, who no longer drives, is telling me how to drive, and my mother needs the toilet. I am Mother Teresa.
We pull into the car park two hours before take-off and I usher them into the terminal and up to security. Oh boy. My mother has two handbags and can only take one of them through. I open one to see what I can take out and find a tin of biscuits and a litre-bottle of cordial. My father’s Old Spice is over the 100ml limit and there’s no damn way he’s letting them take it. And why the hell does he have to take off his shoes?
Finally we reach the other side, with a good hour to go before the gate shuts. Naturally, my parents want to go straight there. I point them in the right direction and head to the nearest bar for a brandy, then stretch out duty-free shopping until the final call. At the gate my father is apoplectic. My mother needs the toilet again.
We board the plane and thankfully it is full, so I can’t sit with them, instead cramming myself in between a stag party member and a goth. Both are oblivious to me and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a long time since I’ve been chatted up on a flight, I’ll be honest, and besides, my parents are watching. I have another brandy, refuse the scratch cards and fake cigarettes offered to me by cabin crew, close my eyes and muse on how much I’m looking forward to my next long-haul.
I point them in the direction of the gate and head to the nearest bar for a brandy.2 Dec 2009
You are both extremely brave and naive to have undertaken this assignment. Air Travel is certainly not for the faint hearted, when once, it was supposedly considered a luxury dedicated to the elite. All the international airports are now designed for the fittest and outwardly mobile, challenging to a point of running a marathron to get from the airgate to the immigration checkpoints. So what’s the point of becoming an air warrior? In hindsight, people on either end of the scale of life, small babies and geriatics should be banned from airtravel altogether.
There are many other alternatives to using the plane to get from A to B, some of which I would envy if had the time, but then, who can control time but yourself? If you want to bring Mama and Poppa, get on a cruise or a train, whatever, and save yourself the hassel. You can only blame yourself….3 Dec 2009