Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak

During the seven weeks that I cared for Benny alone in Michigan, an odd thing happened. I became a control freak. So the day before we left for San Francisco, I was looking for new things to worry about, and decided to fret about the drive to the airport.

We’d hired a car, but what about Benny? His booster seat was in a moving van heading west. Should we bring his old car seat? What would we do with it at the airport, since he won’t need a car seat on the plane? I finally called the car service and they said not to worry, Benny could just sit in back, belted up. But I couldn’t let it go at that. I also changed the pickup time my husband had arranged from 3:45 a.m. to 4:15 a.m. the next morning.

Well, that final bit of micromanaging was to have dire consequences. At 4:10 a.m. on Sunday morning, we were standing in the dimly-lit living room: bags packed, cat drugged, stroller folded, Benny in his coat. No car. 4:20 a.m. No car. 4:30 a.m. No car.

Ron called the car service and learned that no car was coming. The man I’d spoken to had changed our pickup time to 4:15 P.M. Aaagh! Quickly we dashed to the dining room cabinet, pulled out a phone book and started calling cab companies. Then we endured a 20-minute nail-biting wait (which included a false alarm from our newspaper carrier. Damn, I’d forgotten to cancel our Detroit Free Press.)

A cab finally pulled up and we raced over, tossed in our luggage and screeched away. The cab made the short trip to Metro Airport in record time. We arrived panting at the check-in counter (mercifully empty), with Benny in his stroller, clutching his stuffed sheep, wide-eyed with the drama of it all.

“Oh, you’re on the 6 a.m. flight?” the airline woman asked. “I was just about to close it up.”

“We have a cat!” I wheezed, waving the health certificate.

“Yes, I see,” the lady said soothingly. She obviously knew a nutcase when she saw one.

Security was, of course, a pill. Benny refused to go through the arch alone, so I had to push him through, then follow as he yelled. I forgot to take my laptop out of the bag, so they needed to give it a thorough anti-bomb scan. Meanwhile, another security guy made Ron pull Callisto the cat out of her carrier and carry her through the arch.

We made the plane with no time to spare, the last ones to board. By now I was almost weeping with stress and my usual fear of flying. Ron, the saint that he is, amused Benny during the plane’s taxi and liftoff while I listed to my iPod and tried to convince myself we weren’t going to die.

The rest of the flight went beautifully, probably because it was completely out of my control. Benny napped in his stroller during our layover in Houston and Continental Airlines does a nice breakfast service, which we got on both legs of the flight. We landed in Oakland, Calif., on time and miracle of miracles, so did our luggage.

Benny picked out Coit Tower, Alcatraz and the TransAmerica Pyramid during the taxi ride over the Bay Bridge. I pressed my own nose against the window glass and tried to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We were home.

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