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Off to a holiday but not without some mayhem first

Apply for leave... book air tickets... clean out the fridge... lock the front door.... There's no end to the myriad little tasks that have to be judiciously carried out before the Middle East-based expat can calmly proceed on annual leave to his home country.

No sooner is the leave period sanctioned, then it's time to make a dash to almost every travel agent or airline or, as is the trend nowadays, on to the Internet, to book the most convenient flight out. Once the flight tickets are booked, it becomes second nature to call the travel agent or airline periodically to ensure that the tickets are held in the booked names, on the off-chance that the tickets may be allocated to other passengers.

Generally overlooked for much of the year, the kitchen calendar suddenly gets much attention as the countdown to the day of departure is pencilled in with much ado, and the kids fixate on crossing off the days: 25... 20...15....

What good is it flying off on holidays if the family's suitcases are not up to it, what with their being lugged half-way across the world on numerous earlier holidays? Thus begins a desperate search in the shops for new suitcases. Suitcases that are economically priced and capable of carrying more than their fair share of items.

Having empty suitcases is one thing. Filling them is another, and the family gleefully believes in the latter, which has to be accomplished by numerous nail-biting trips to the shopping malls and souqs. Nail-biting because it is usually the old man who has to bear the costs of the new acquisitions, be they footwear or clothes.

After all, can't have the family going down attired in a one-year-old wardrobe. That just wouldn't do. Can't have the neighbours back home remarking on how the kids seem to be wearing the same clothes that they wore on their last annual visit home.

As the days wind down to departure day, the intensity of phone calls to the relatives at home mounts, as do the phone bills. The calls pertain to what's being bought or been bought for all the home-based folks in terms of the latest electronics, cosmetics and ready-made garments, to mention a few. And just when one has assumed that every one of the relatives has been bought a "little something from the Gulf," one of the bunch comes alive with an e-mail that spells it out: 'If it's not too much trouble, can you get the latest mobile phone, one with all those WAP features?'

Alas, there's no mention of an offer of reimbursement for the cost of the mobile phone, which, as you happen to know, costs around four figures. And you thought you would get away cheap by getting the relative in question an FM radio in the shape of a mobile phone, from one of the ubiquitous Dhs10-Dhs20 outlets.

On departure day, and just as the suitcases are about to burst at the seams, the bathroom scales have to be pressed into service to check the weight of the laden suitcases. Soon enough, it's a case of mayhem, as the needle surpasses the baggage limit of the airline, prompting the off-loading of odds and ends from the suitcases in a near-futile bid to be within the allowable weight restrictions.

At long last, the mission is accomplished and thankful sighs are raised at a task well done. Then, trrring... trrring.... The doorbell rings. It's a friend of a friend, who hasn't been a friend for very long, and who has heard through the grapevine of the upcoming trip home, and would you be so kind as to carry a "tiny parcel" for some folks back home. This can't be happening, can it, you quiz yourself silently.

Being the meek kind, a slight nod of the head is enough for the stranger to thrust a 4.5kg package onto the dinner table, making good his escape on the pretext of having parked his car bang on the road. Never to be seen or heard of again.

Finally, 14 minutes into the flight and with the no-light-weight-parcel tucked on your lap, the thought flashes -- was the ceiling fan in the living room switched off? Definitely not, making it the only task left undone on the 'to do' list in the runup to the holidays. Can't accomplish it all. Or can we?

Article Courtesy: Gulf Today

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