Holy December Batman, this time next week I'll be in England!
Yup, a 10 hour flight, 3 hour layover, 1 hour flight and 1.5 hour train ride await, starting on Tuesday night. A total of ~7320 kilometres (~4550 miles) lie between "home" in Vancouver and "home home" in Yorkshire.
I know that many (most?) of you are also a long way from home, and possibly from aging parents. And, like me, I'm sure that many of you live in fear of the call.
You know - The. Call.
The call from home that means "you need to leave for the airport now".
Last week, I thought I'd had The Call.
Stepping out of the shower at work, I realised that my phone was vibrating in my bag. I frantically started to dig for it under the clean clothes, towel, spare shoes, lunch, and other assorted crap that I haul to work every day. I just missed the call.
Hmmm, I thought, wonder who that was?
My "Recent" list showed that the missed call was from my parents. And that, during my bike ride into work and nice hot shower, I had in fact missed a total of nine calls from my parents.
I talk to my parents at noon PST (8 pm GMT), almost every Sunday. And at no other time during the week. This is the way it has been ever since I moved here almost seven years ago1. So nine calls at 8.45 am on a Thursday meant one thing.
At this point, a voicemail message alert popped up.
The message was two seconds of silence, and a click.
So clearly this was not the kind of thing that could be left in a message, but rather had to be communicated in person.
It was The Call. It had to be.
I frantically started to punch in my parents' number. (Have I ever mentioned that I'm a bit of a panic merchant?). I misdialled the first time, and got someone else's answering machine. I redialled, even more frantically, and my Mum answered.
"Hi, Mum, it's me - you were trying to reach me?" I said.
(Actually, it probably came out more like "Himusmee, tringrichmi?")
"Oh, hello love", came the cheery reply, "thanks for ringing back so quickly! Your Dad thought you'd be at work. I was just wondering, what size feet does [Mr E Man] have? I think I might get him some socks as part of his present. He seemed to like the ones I got him last time".
When my heart stopped pounding, I told her that
a) she'd scared the shit out of me,
b) yes, I'm at work, and in fact this phone call is making me late for a seminar, and
c) I have no bloody idea what size feet he has.
"Oh well, it's not really urgent, just let me know before you come over. Oh, and I got him a [thing], but I don't know if he'll like it, so I kept the receipt. It's from [shop] and it's [colour] - do you think he'll like it?".
"Oh, right, I'd better let you get on then. Sorry for scaring you. What's the seminar about?"
"Genomes2. Bye Mum, talk to you Sunday".
I love my parents, but they are obviously in need of some retraining. Starting with the existence of time zones3, cell phones, and email.
1) With one exception... this story really shouldn't have come as THAT much of a surprise to me, as something similar happened a few years ago.
2) I'm sure most of you are aware of the recent heated blogosphere conversations about the representation of women at conferences and seminar series. This "seminar" was actually a full-day forum, with nine (almost all local) speakers and a panel discussion. Five speakers were women - including the keynote speaker, and also the recipient of a Young Investigator award. Yay! I bumped into the event's chief organiser the next day, and congratulated her on an excellent event. "It was especially nice to see so many female speakers", I said. "Oh, you're right! I hadn't even noticed!". Double yay!
3) My sister will probably want to help with this - they once called her in London at 3.30 am on a week night, because they were in Canada and got the eight hour time difference the wrong way round. My Dad is still amazed that it's only noon in Vancouver when I call them on a Sunday. Mind you, he has also - more than once - responded to news that it's sunny in Vancouver with a surprised "Really? It's raining here". And these are smart people.