It’s the Most Ridiculous Time of the Year

I woke up this morning around 3.30, almost on purpose–my wake-up call was set for 4.30, so I went ahead and got out of bed, rather than spend an hour wondering if I were going to fall asleep and miss the alarm. R. walked me downstairs around 5.15, and I got on the shuttle to the airport. He’s staying on in Prague until the 30th; I, on the other hand, am going to the MLA.

I wish I could figure out exactly how this happened: I am leaving in the middle of my fabulous European holiday trip, traveling roughly twelve hours in each direction, to head back to the US for three days, in order to attend my least favorite annual conference. It makes no sense whatsoever, but my travel plans shaped up in a fashion that can only be described as willy-nilly, and next thing I knew–well, here I am.

Back in January or February, R. and I made a reservation for two weeks in Paris, to follow the MLA. I assumed that I needed to be in Philadelphia this year for a whole slew of reasons: my department is hiring, I’ve got a book that’s just out, and I’m on the executive committee of the Media and Literature discussion section. So when R. proposed that we spend Christmas in Europe, too, my planning began to get complex.

I started out with a round-trip ticket from Ontario to Paris, figuring that once we decided where we were going to spend Christmas, we could tickets for a train or plane from Paris onward. But I also (had the misguided notion that I) needed to be in Philadelphia smack in the middle of the trip, so using frequent flyer miles, I got a round-trip airline ticket from Paris to Newark, and a round-trip train ticket from Newark to Philadelphia. (And yes, incredibly stupidly, I paid for the ticket that was purely for fun, and used my miles on the ticket that was work-related, and that I could likely have gotten at least partial reimbursement from school for. I am precisely that dumb.) Then, once we settled on Prague for Christmas, I got a round-trip airline ticket from Paris to Prague.

So, if you’re keeping track:

Airline ticket 1: Ontario–Paris–Ontario
Airline ticket 2: Paris–Prague–Paris
Airline ticket 3: Paris–Newark–Paris
Train ticket: Newark–Philadelphia–Newark

As I’m sitting in the Paris airport right now, I have completed the first half of airline ticket 1, have completed both halves of airline ticket 2, am about to embark on the first half of airline ticket 3, and will follow that with the first half of the train ticket. Then, on the 29th, I’ll use the second half of the train ticket and the second half of airline ticket 3. And then, finally, on January 13, I’ll use the second half of airline ticket 1.

Except: it couldn’t be that easy.

My original intent, since I wouldn’t be at my mother’s for Christmas for the first time in ever (and yes, I made it to 39 without ever not going home for Christmas), was that I would travel home for the weekend of her birthday, which was right after classes ended. Fortunately, before I booked that ticket, but unfortunately, well after I’d booked airline ticket 1, Mom asked me to change my plans a bit, and come home for the weekend before we were leaving for Europe instead. As it turns out, R. and I were meeting up in Houston for the trip, so this way I could just start the trip in Baton Rouge with him. I got on the phone to Continental and changed airline ticket 1 such that it started two days earlier, detoured through BR, and then flew on as previously scheduled. And thus:

Airline ticket 1.1: Ontario–Baton Rouge–Paris–Ontario.

But then: a few weeks ago, I was asked to attend a meeting in New York, which was likely to be scheduled during the period when I was in Paris. I reluctantly declined, saying that I’d be out of the country until the 13th. The meeting was then shifted to the 14th and 15th, largely in order to accommodate me, so of course I agreed to attend. After several further phone conversations with Continental, we figured out that the best thing to do was to cancel the vary last leg of airline ticket 1, and start a new ticket there. So, finally:

Airline ticket 1.2: Ontario–Baton Rouge–Paris–Houston.
Airline ticket 4: Houston–New York–Ontario.

And of course it now turns out that my trip to the MLA is way less necessary than I thought it would be. My department is hiring, but at the senior level, and we’ve foregone interviewing at the conference. My book has just come out, and will be on sale in the book exhibit, but my press has opted not to attend. (Where will the book be? I’m pretty sure it’ll be at the AAUP booth, but honestly, I’m not positive.) So the entirety of this trip across the Atlantic is being undertaken in the interest of (a) attending the Media and Literature discussion section meeting; (b) having lunch with the editor at Pearson Custom whose Introduction to Literature database anthology I’m a co-editor of; and (c) schmoozing. This may well be the most ridiculous thing I’ve done.

In any case: if you’re at the conference, and are awake at weird hours, I’d love to have a drink or a coffee (depending on how weird the hours are). Drop me a line, and we’ll make a plan. And I promise to make it a simple plan.


  1. For someone who is cursed with travel misadventures, you’re just asking for trouble with all these interwoven tickets !

    I’ll light a candle in the hope of getting you and R and all your luggage here to Paris safe and in one unfrazzled piece by the end of the week.

  2. Marcus — I haven’t wanted to respond until now for fear of jinxing myself. But so far, so good. When I got to the airport in Prague, I presented the boarding passes for both ticket 2 and ticket 3, and said, “I’m booked all the way through Newark; can you check my suitcase all the way through?” The wonderful desk agent said yes, and made sure THREE SEPARATE TIMES to show me the tag she was placing on my bag, that it had all the correct information for both flights on it, and etc. Somehow, though, until the very moment when my suitcase came sliding down the conveyor belt, I was just not convinced that I wasn’t going to be attending the MLA in the slightly stinky t-shirt and jeans I’d travelled in.

    Laura — do buzz me if you’re here! I’ll email you my cell number.

    Misanthrope — I suppose the difference being that one sort of expects travel plans including Paris, Prague, and Philadelphia to take on a certain complexity. Getting to Dr. B’s should have involved directions that read “get on this freeway here, drive that way, get off way up there, turn right.” And, in fact they would have read that — had I bothered to bring them. You should see the documentation of all of these tickets and reservations that I’m traveling with right now…

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