Sometime in November or December, I went to an on-base class to learn how to use the Space Available Travel system. Flying Space A makes it possible for active-duty military members and their dependents to utilize extra passenger seats on military transports that would otherwise go to waste. It’s a complicated and not particularly user-friendly system, but it is a way to finagle a free flight, which is nothing to sniff at. When I told my mom that I had finally taken the class, she said “Great! When are you coming home?” And so the plotting began.
Without any trips on the immediate horizon, my mom had the idea right away that I should try to come in and surprise my dad for his birthday. After all, it’s a big one, and what could be a better present than a surprise trip home? Because of the way the Space A system works (no advance schedules, no regular routes), we both understood that there would be no guarantees; I might make it home, and I might not. But my father was scheduled to go to Paris and Israel for a week and a half with the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, so I had a decent window to try and get home before his birthday celebration.
And, miraculously, I made it! Almost immediately after my dad left for Paris, I was able to get on a flight to Hawaii that would ultimately get me to northern California, where my free ride would end. The trip was long, and not particularly comfortable, and funny (I got to sleep on the floor of a C-17 next to a jeep that was also catching a ride), and cold, and noisy – but I made it.
Of course, I was still worried that someone would find out I was in New York and – wittingly or unwittingly – tip off my father. For the past week and a half, I have started every conversation with “I am in NY but I'm keeping a low profile so please don’t tell people or post anything on Facebook.” My mom and I also spent a long time figuring out how I could call my dad in Paris and/or Israel without tipping him off to the fact that I was in the states, (Skype dialing worked well), and discussing the best ways to execute a surprise. Perpetrating a fraud is hard work!
But it was worth it. My dad finally made it home this morning, and boy was he SURPRISED. Don’t worry – there’s a video:
All in all, I’d say this mission was a success. Big thanks to everyone who helped me pull it off – even if it was just by keeping your mouth shut! Shabbat Shalom from Forest Hills…