Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Last Day

Every good vacation always includes a last day.

This last day should be a little melancholy, should include a feeling of finality, the satisfaction of having completed well executed plans. Though you may have had a moment or two of impatience with your spouse, children, or traveling partner, in the end you should love them more.

You should also be feeling a little sober when you contemplate the tasks awaiting at home, but if it is a true last day, you are invigorated and ready for the tasks, ready to re-embrace routine. I can't wait to start on the five books I must read before class.

Questions will start running amok in your mind. Will the plants be alive? Will the bees have absconded? Will the child,  the neighbor, have picked up the mail and how many overdue bills will be waiting?

You may start to worry about the next week's jet lag or will I be able to sleep on the plane? Worst of all, will life seem trivial or mundane after the important work or learning this trip has bestowed?

You should already be focusing on the treasured memories. You should have categories: people, food, beauty, the hysterical. Make room for the mishaps: the almost forgotten canvas in the last hotel, the restaurant that wouldn't take your visa, the cab who overcharged you but you didn't feel like the fight.

You should double check for your passport, be thinking about the airline check-in and what you will leave behind in case your luggage is too heavy. Is the bag of trinkets worth the weight overcharge of $50, or are the worn sneakers that trekked through the acropolis really worth taking home?

Of course not. Leave them behind. The cleaning woman may have a son who wears just your size.

What intangibles will you leave behind? Your kindness or the well deserved tips for your attentive waiters? What intangibles will you take home? The smiles you helped to create, the memory of your patience waiting to board the tram?

So on this last day wiggle your toes in the sand a little longer, take one more dive under the waves. Leave the last of your coins you can't exchange with your waiter. Leave them in the airport charity box. They'll be put to better use than rattling around as souvenirs in your desk drawer.

Be careful not to let your last day be spoiled after receiving an email from your airline suggesting you switch flights because tropical storm Cindy is moving up the coast and the airline can't guarantee you will be able to land at JFK. Or you may worry the 90 minute in-between connection may be a tight fit.

Luckily you didn't know on this glorious last day that luggage from Santorini wouldn't unload for 90 minutes. You don't have the foresight that you and your spouse will split up: he will wait for the luggage and you will try to check in for the Athens to New York flight. When you explain the predicament to the airline counter lady, she will say, "Don't worry," and she tries to put you at ease by asking "How was Santorini?" but because, she knows of your plight, she will wait for Tony, and when she says, "We can only wait for you ten minutes more," you couldn't have imagined the serendipitous moment when Tony finally turned the corner with two minutes left and you would start yelling his name and even though he couldn't see you, he was grateful to hear your voice.

You couldn't have foreseen that you'd get a fast lane pass into the security line and when you finally arrived at the gate, they were still boarding and they even knew your name. And those Doritos you purchased with your last euros tasted so good because they qualified for comfort food and that's just what you needed.

You couldn't have imagined after smoothly retrieving your luggage in New York and breezing through customs, even taking time to go to the restroom, that the security line would be monstrously long. Because of the canvas you've toted from that first week in Athens is too big to go through regular security, you are sent to a longer line. But you've learned and Tony goes ahead.  The predicament requires boldness, so I ask the airline crew of 12 men and women ahead of me, "Can I please go ahead of you? IF I don't, I will miss my flight. They will wait for you but they won't wait for me." Their nonchalant nods are appreciated, and I cut the line.

As I run to gate B 12, I also couldn't have imagined Tony would be standing as the last person pleading for the gate agent to wait.

"Is she coming?" she asks.


"Do you see her?"

"NO but she's through security by now." I continue running when I see the relief in Tony's eyes. We are the last to check in, the door closes. We board the plane.

The next morning when you awake at 2:00 a.m because your internal clock is 9 hours ahead, you will try to fight it. Give in, get up and get to work. It will all even out in a week. Relax...

You're home.

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