I happen to be one of those authors who absolutely loves being on book tour. I’ve been on eleven of them (whoa, that many?) and I’m gearing up for my twelfth tour, to promote THE KEEPSAKE. And for the most part they all went smoothly — well, except for the awful morning of September 11, 2001, when I was on the way to the airport and heard, on the driver’s radio, that all flights had been shut down. All I wanted to do was get home and be with my family, but I ended up stranded in Seattle for a week.
Aside from national emergencies, though, I’ve found book tours to be largely pleasant if hectic affairs, with only the occasional travel glitch. But at the moment, I’m sitting in an airport waiting to board a flight that is already seven hours delayed, thanks to thunderstorms in Chicago. I know that this is just one of those Acts of God that no one can predict or control. Lord knows, my publisher’s travel agent has worked heroically over the past few hours to get me to my destination.
But there’s no arguing with the weather.
It seems to me, a frequent traveler, that these airline fiascos seem to be happening more and more often. Planes are crowded and flights are overbooked. The seven-hour delay, the ten-hour delay, the cancelled flights, are now so frequent and routine that a multi-connection airline trip requires the same mental preparation required to charge into battle. I now expect something to go wrong. I expect to miss my connections. I try to get into my destination city the night before rather than the day of. (And even then, as with this trip, I may not make it to my appointment.) I expect to go hungry (pack granola bars!) and arrive exhausted, if at all.
I never, ever check my baggage. Because the airlines will lose it. They see my battered suitcase come rolling by on the conveyor belt and say, “ah ha! Let’s misplace that one again!”
I still love going on book tour. What I don’t love is U.S. air travel. I long for a good, reliable train network that can whisk me from coast to coast. I long for the days when I (on obsessive-compulsive about being on time) could count on arriving as expected. I long for some predictability in travel. It just ain’t gonna happen. Not these days.
So I take a deep breath and just try to be Zen about it. The reward for all the stress is the chance to meet wonderful readers and booksellers. I’d travel to Timbuktu to meet them.
I just hope they’ll understand if I don’t show up as scheduled.
I’m probably stuck in an airport.