I sleep in later than I mean to and have to shower, dress, and pack so fast that I barely have enough time to steal a hotel pen. I’m meeting my friend Charles for breakfast, and we decide to use the hotel restaurant. This turns out to be a mistake, as Charles manages to order the world’s most expensive bagel, a whopping $18 because along with the juice and coffee it qualifies as a “continental breakfast.”
Our plan is to walk to the Museum of Natural History, but it’s such an extraordinarily sunny day that instead we end up just chatting on a bench in Central Park. During this time I watch a lot of parents with prams go by, and enjoy peering at their babies until I see one with beady little eyes and a hairy face. It’s a miniature poodle. Yes. In a pram.
That afternoon I have lunch with my impossibly cool agent, Luke, in the kind of restaurant where ladies come to complain to each other about their nannies. (Seriously. I hear them.) I also meet Luke’s dad, legendary agent Mort Janklow. This is a little nerve-wracking, because if the stories I’ve heard are true, when Mort enters the room editors fall to the ground and cry. But he seems quite normal; friendly, even. I guess that’s how it works: the killer is never the one you expect.
I catch a ride out to JFK where I stand in the check-in line behind a Hasidic Jew and a blonde woman dressed as a cowgirl. I feel as if the Universe is trying to tell me something, but I’m too stupid to understand the message.
It’s a little over six hours in the air to L.A., then I have a couple hours on the ground before the 16-hour flight to Melbourne. The most interesting thing about this is that we cross the International Date Line at around midnight, so I miss Friday entirely. When it’s my time to die, I want that day back.
This makes it Saturday when we touch down in Melbourne. I’ve taken no more than ten steps off the plane when I hear someone saying, “Yeah, they’d make Riewoldt captain in a second anywhere else.” They’re talking about Aussie Rules Football. Ahhh. It’s good to be home.
I find myself walking quickly toward the baggage carousel—not just places-to-be quick, but drug-mule-freaking-out quick, and force myself to slow down. Of course, I know the odds are pretty high that (a) despite our plan, Jen and Fin might not have made it to their airport in time, and if they have, Fin may be (b) asleep, (c) in a bad mood, or (d) cry when she sees this smelly, unshaven man shuffling toward her. But I can’t help being so excited about seeing them again that I have to use the bathroom. In retrospect, I’m a little surprised I wasn’t stopped by customs agents and internally searched.
Then I stand by the baggage carousel for an hour. It’s not just me: the whole planeload of passengers waits and waits. Crappy Australian baggage handlers! I just know they’re outside having a smoke break or reading their union pamphlet on workers’ rights or something equally insignificant. Actually, bags are coming down the conveyor belt, it’s just that there are about a thousand people waiting for them. It seems that a lot of planes have arrived at the same time.
I am seriously considering just leaving the terminal and worrying about how to get my bag later when finally—finally!—it appears. I collect it and, one security check later, am permitted to pass through the sliding doors into the main terminal. There is a huge horde of people waiting outside and I have no idea how I’m going to find Jen and Fin among them. Then I hear, “Max!” I turn and there they are, three-deep in the crowd: my beautiful wife Jen and Finlay in a sling on her chest. And then the most incredible thing happens, something I could never, ever put in a story because it is too far-fetched to be true: despite all these people and all this noise, Fin looks directly at me and gives me a big, gummy smile.