Out There: Going with the flow

“Last-minute trip” is an oxymoron – a concept that simply does not exist in my lexicon.

 I watched with jaw agape two weeks ago as my youngest son, due to start his army service soon, planned a last-minute trip to Greece with a couple of friends.
From his complete lack of planning, to a failure to do any research, to no concern about how he was going to get to and from the airport, the whole episode was a cruel reminder of the vicissitudes of time.
Once, perhaps, I could have been so spontaneous. No more. Spontaneity is a characteristic of youth. And, as my son constantly reminds me, I’m getting old.
Indeed, for me “last-minute trip” is an oxymoron – a concept that simply does not exist in my lexicon.
Last-minute payment of electric bills, yes. Last-minute RSVPs to weddings, sure. Last-minute filing of taxes, I can do that. But last minute trips? No way.
When The Wife and I travel, we research plane fares for hours, hotels for days, and things to do for weeks. By the time we actually get to our vacation destination, we’re already sick of it because of all the time we’ve spent in pre-trip research.
“OK, let’s just get this over with,” I quipped before a recent trip we took to Washington state to mark our 30th wedding anniversary, not wanting to read any more about must-see sites in Olympic National Park, or hotel deals in Port Angeles, or rental-car bargains in Seattle.
But not The Youngest. On Thursday he decides to go abroad, by early Sunday that boy is sitting on a jet plane.
“Where are you going?” I inquired.
“Some island in Greece?” he replied.
“Which one?” “I dunno.”
“Where are you going to stay?” “Some place.”
“What are you going to do?” “Some things. Nizrom [we’ll go with the flow].”
Ah, nizrom. There it is, that catchall word my son constantly throws in my direction. It’s his answer to anything I ask about his plans, dreams and preparations.
. Thank you very much, son. I feel so much better and more confident already.
If there is one thing that annoys this particular child about his parents, it’s our absolute inability to go with the flow, lizrom. If he’s that little leaf merrily meandering down that clear mountain stream, we’re the clod of hair clogging up the bathroom drain.
“You know what drives me nuts about you guys?” he offered recently, unsolicited.
“Everything is a big deal. If you want to go into Jerusalem, you worry about where you’re going to park. Just go, it’s not that big a deal. Trust me, you’ll find a place to park.”
He’s right, in theory.
In theory just go with it, be the free spirit, figure it out in motion. But in practice, if you know that you can’t find a place to park in the center of town, why go there in the first place and get all aggravated? Now when I explain to him this logic born of life experience, he just dismisses it with a wave of a hand and a mumbled “you’re getting real old.”
Right, you get old and start worrying about stuff like where to park, what the traffic will be like, and whether it’s too hot to go out at all.
YOU ALSO worry about little things like how to get to the airport.
Not my son. It is midnight on the night before an 8 a.m. flight, and this child has no clue about who is taking him at 4:30 a.m. to Ben-Gurion. Not going to be me, I informed him already, I have an early meeting that morning.
Nizrom,” he uttered, as I pointed out the irresponsibility of his total lack of preparedness. “We’ll call a cab if we need to.”
I shake my head in disbelief and suggest uselessly that he should have figured this all out just a little a bit earlier.
My son is lucky his grandfather didn’t hear the conversation. For if I just shook my head and offered a sarcastic suggestion, my father would have shuddered in absolute horror.
IN EVERY family there are those with different ideas about how much time you need to catch a plane.
Some cut it close, not wanting to spend an inordinate amount of time browsing magazines in the airport gift shop. Others want to leave for the airport plenty of time in advance, to allow for any unexpected occurrences – either on the road or in the security line at the airport – that could lead to a missed flight.
My dad is from the latter school, big time.
If my son started thinking about how to get to the airport only eight hours before a flight, my father would have already been on his way.
“Got to leave early, son,” he always reminds me when I visit him in the San Francisco area where he lives. “There might be traffic on the bridge.”
“At 3 a.m. for an early-morning flight?” I’ll protest.
“You never know,” he’ll insist. “Got to leave early.”
And we do. My father takes into account every possible eventuality: traffic on the bridge, an earthquake shaking the bridge, protesters blocking entry to the bridge.
And if we don’t drive but go by the local train, he considers possible delays there as well, such as not being able to find a place to park at the station.
“C’mon, Dad, we’ll find a place to park,” I remember telling him once.
“Just go with it.”
“You’ll understand one day,” he replied.
Yup, that day has arrived.
A collection of the writer’s “Out There” columns, French Fries in Pita, is available at www.herbkeinon.com and www.amazon.com