Type A Travel to Taipei: the Mom Version

For the past few years, my sister and I have spent the winter holidays in Abu Dhabi, where my parents live.  Last year, because she’s doing clinical rotations and didn’t get a holiday of any length, we opted not to go.  So when I ended up with a business trip to Taipei, I invited my mom to join me.

My mother is a Type A planner who prefers to get to the airport for a domestic flight two hours before departure just in case.  In the weeks before the trip, there were a lot of Skype calls and e-mails trying to figure out all of the details of flight arrivals and airport meeting points.  She flew in from Abu Dhabi, and I flew in from San Francisco, and neither of our mobile phones would work overseas at the time.  We were both at the mercy of whatever wifi happened to be available at our originating and layover airports.  Mom decided to arrive a few hours before me, make her way over to my international exit point, and wait and watch for me among the sea of people arriving in Taipei.  Not ideal, our only choice.

Once I got out of the crippling ice of Dallas, I got to Taipei without incident.  My mom did not have the same experience.  Before she left for Abu Dhabi, she and my sister called all of the credit card companies (with my sister on the phone to the companies and my mom on Skype — it’s as effective and stressful as you might imagine) to notify them that Mom would be using her cards outside the UAE and USA.  Then my mom photocopied her credit cards on my parents’ all-in-one printer.  Dad took her to the airport, and she got on the first leg of her flight, which got her as far as Hong Kong.

My mother doesn’t drink alcohol. She doesn’t have a taste for it, and because her tolerance is so low, half a glass of wine puts her to sleep.  Despite this, she is OBSESSED with liquor-filled chocolates.  If they are available for sale in her vicinity, she will buy them.  When she arrived in Hong Kong, she saw her favorite brand, got excited, and picked up a box.  She walked up to the cashier, reached into her purse, got out her wallet, and then realized that she had none of her credit cards.  After she freaked out, worrying that someone robbed her, she connected to the free airport wifi and got a hold of my dad.

Nobody stole her credit cards.  They were in Abu Dhabi, waiting patiently on the printer.  After photocopying them, in the flurry of activity before heading to the airport, she forgot to open the cover and retrieve them from the glass.  My mom was on an emotional roller coaster – panic over her stolen credit cards, relief that they were safe, panic that she had no access to funds.  Not only was she thwarted from snacking on her favorite kind of candy during the layover, but she was facing a week of vacation with only the $200 American dollars my dad handed over to her right before they left their apartment.

She stewed in her worry for the five hours between her arrival in Taipei and mine.  Well, she stewed for three of those hours anyway.  The Taipei airport is big enough that there are two international terminals; it took her two hours to get through customs, find someone who spoke enough English to tell her my flight would be arriving in another terminal, and find someone else who spoke enough English and had enough airport knowledge to direct her to the right bus.  My mom is always happy to see me; on this occasion, I saw not just happiness on her face when she spotted me in the sea of Asians walking the arrivals gauntlet but also massive relief.

Before the night was over, we went through the shock and stress of thinking that the hotel room was $1500/night.  It wasn’t – it was $150/night, but I have trouble dividing when 10,000s are involved, and that trouble gets compounded when I suffer from fatigue and/or jet lag.  I freaked out my client about the cost of the hotel (the same one I kept updated on my attempts to leave Dallas right before this trip), and then a small, niggling voice in my head convinced me to bust out my calculator app.  Problem solved.  Math skills are important.

That’s how the Taipei trip started.  We didn’t know it at the time, but it was a harbinger of the adventures to come.  I’ll say this for now:  you haven’t experienced deja vu until you’re in the position of turning your mother down when she asks you to buy an overpriced, crappy souvenir for her.

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