The Elephant in the Room
I'm in a really foul mood. I have had to spend the whole day going to Calais and back so my Dad can buy a whole load of cheap wine for my stupid brother's wedding next week. He said he needed my help. What help? I slept till we got the ferry for France, played games on my Ipad and then went to the wine supermarket. He thought I might need to translate for him – yes, I learned French at school and even though I say it, I'm pretty good. Of course all of the people in the warehouse spoke English – I think most of them were English – so I my fabulous translation skills were not required.
My Dad likes to think he knows a lot about wine so we had to traipse around the entire warehouse for hours until he had accumulated enough wine to float a battleship. My only consolation was that I'd get some when we had the party for my brother next Friday. After we got the truck loaded up then we turned around and lined up for the ferry again. So I'm sitting here killing zombies wasting another couple of hours on the boat, and then the hour drive to get home.
So, why I am in such a bad mood? Let me tell you. Today is Saturday, the first day of the summer holidays. I got back from boarding school yesterday evening and looked forward to eight weeks of doing absolutely nothing. You kids who go to regular school think your life is controlled for you. Well, let me tell you, you don't know nothing.
Bells, bells, bells. The first one gets you out of bed. If you are lazy and try to go back to sleep, forget it – there's another bell five minutes later. Then its rush to the bathrooms, get washed, change into school uniform, and wait for the breakfast bell. And so on for the rest of the day. Seven days a week, thirteen weeks straight. After a while you hardly notice them because the school makes sure you are brainwashed to do everything according to the schedule dreamed up by some sadist in Dark Ages.
So I had got home yesterday late morning, threw my school clothes in a heap knowing I did not have to touch them again for a couple of months, got into shorts and a t-shirt, ate, watched TV, ate, watched more TV, all on my own schedule because my Dad was not home yet, and looked forward to Saturday when I could sleep in for as long as I wanted – at least until noon, maybe longer, wander round the house half dressed, watch a football game on TV, and just generally do nothing at all. This was my plan for the summer, and I intended to make sure I made the most of it by doing absolutely as little as possible.
Then my Dad came home and my plans fell apart. After the requisite hugs and greetings and small talk about the trip home and everything, my Dad asked me
"So now you are home for a few weeks, what are your plans for the summer?"
Well, being fourteen and not too sophisticated about dealing with loaded questions (my Dad is a lawyer, I should know better), I put a little smirk on my face and gave the worst possible reply.
"Well, Dad, I am planning to do as little as possible for the whole vacation. I shall take each day as it comes and do what I feel like when I feel like it".
"Excellent. Because you have no plans I am taking you to Calais tomorrow to get in the wine we need for the party before your brother gets married. You speak good French so you can translate when needed, and help load the truck I borrowed."
"But Dad it's the first day of the holidays and I really need sleep and I'm sure the people over there speak English and I'm sure they have people to load your truck."
"Well, you don't know for sure so you have to come. Anyway it will give us time to catch up because I haven't seen you for weeks. We are leaving at 6:30 because we get a free ferry ticket on the 8:00 boat from the wine store. I'll wake you up."
"But that's even earlier than when we got out of bed a school. I'll never make it."
"I'll wake you up, don't worry. I think I've got a spare bell to use if I need one. You can sleep in the car and on the boat." (Ha, ha, very funny…not)
I said my Dad is a lawyer. Never try to argue with lawyers because they go to university for years to learn how to twist everything you say to their advantage. If I had been smarter, then I would have had some fabulous plan arranged that would have given me the excuse not to go. But I opened my big mouth and look where it landed me.
"Why can't we go next weekend when I've caught up with my sleep?"
"Because the party is next Friday, genius."
"We could go during the week. You could take a day off work for a change"
"No can do. I'm in a trial all week, no chance of any time off. Anyway I've borrowed a truck, and the tickets are all set, so we are going. You can sleep in Sunday until we go to church."
So its Friday evening, and I'm faced with the inevitable prospect of an early start to go to Calais and back. So now I have to work on Plan B.
At school they try to teach us how to negotiate. Rather than let us fall back on standard teenage arguments like 'whatever' or 'because' or 'who cares' which are very good for making parents tear out their hair or go and get another gin and tonic, we are encouraged to pursue a different approach. Also it allows them to use such witty counterarguments as 'because I said so' or 'because I'm your Dad' or 'just do as I say'. This makes teenagers to try to pull out their hair or punch holes in their bedroom balls, or whatever.
So here goes with Plan B.
"So, Dad, if I have to go to Calais tomorrow at some ungodly hour in the morning and waste the whole of my first day of vacation doing something you want to do, what's in it for me?"
It's not often you hear a lawyer remain silent. My Dad is no exception. So he immediately replied:
"OK, so what do you want in return?"
Ummm. I guess I had not thought this out too well because I just expected the standard response that I was to do as I was told. So I had to improvise.
"I'm not sure yet but I'll let you know when I know. And it will include additional payment for going to church on Sunday which is something else I did not include in my plans for the summer. OK?"
"Well, Mike, I'm proud of you. Maybe they are teaching you something at school about how to make your way in the real world. I didn't expect you to so grown up about it. So, yes, I'll take the risk of letting you tell me when you are ready – as long as it is something reasonable and not illegal. And I'll buy you a really nice lunch in Calais tomorrow just for being nice about me messing up your first day of vacation."
Now I'm speechless. Actually I'm really scared because my Dad appears to be a human being rather than the zombie in human form that we have learned to cope with over the years.
"OK. Thanks, Dad. See you tomorrow."
I actually gave him a hug before retreating upstairs to my room, carefully closing the door rather than slamming it, and making sure it was locked just in case he decided to come in and see me when I was in the middle of fantasizing about really sexy French boys lining the streets of Calais.
So, finally, I'm on the ferry going home killing zombies and pretty much bored with everything. At last we were told to get back into our vehicles.
And that's when I saw him.
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