Monday, January 01, 2007

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Since the topic for the day is Manic Monday--Life's Ups and Downs, I thought I'd talk about surprises. There are people who thrive on the unexpected. They bubble over with enthusiasm at surprise parties or if they're whisked off for a romantic weekend getaway.

Not me.

I don't like surprises or last minute plans. I'm the kid who was always shaking the presents underneath the Christmas tree. Heck, I'm the kid who led the reconnaissance missions to find the presents before they were wrapped! I must have driven my parents absolutely insane. :-)

Oh, I've tried to be spontaneous, but I find it stressful. I work for a major US airline, and since employees fly standby, last minute trips are doable if I pick a destination where the flights aren't full. Other people I'd worked with had done it, so I decided to give it a try. On a Thursday, I picked a city that I would fly to the next day. I listed myself on the standby passenger manifest and would wing it on the hotel and rental car. I was going to do things on the spur of the moment. I was!

Okay, I didn't. I cancelled my listing on Friday morning. I just couldn't do it. I need to have a guaranteed hotel reservation and the rental car put on hold. I need time to research activities and historic sites at my chosen destination. I need plans!

That doesn't mean I can't be flexible. When I went to Australia, flights filled up and my parents and I ended up flying out five days early to ensure we got there. We had no hotel until our original arrival date, but I was fine with that--mostly. I think jetlag played a huge role in my calm acceptance, but, hey! That counts. We ended up in a nice hotel in Sydney's Chinatown and it was within walking distance of a lot of interesting destinations. And I loved the surprise we got when we checked into our original hotel in The Rocks. They upgraded us to the penthouse! We had a wonderful view of the opera house from our lanai and I'd go outside every morning, have coffee and watch the boat traffic in the harbor.

On this same trip, my dad made some interesting arrangements that I knew nothing about until a day or two before this particular tour. Wine tasting. I know what you're thinking, this is hardly something anyone would object to surprise or not. But I didn't tell you the unusual part yet. We rode camels to the winery!

Yep, camels.

At first, I was nervous because the gait was so different from a horse (not that I had a lot of experience on horseback, but at least I'd done it before) and I worried I'd fall off. After I became used to the way the animal moved, I started worrying about the camel in back of mine moving forward and biting me. I heard camels bite. I also heard they spit, but I wasn't sweating that. I figured I could just wipe spit off, but a bite? After a while, though, I stopped worrying and started enjoying myself. Hey, I was riding a camel in the Australian Outback and this was a once in a lifetime experience. And out of everything we did, this is probably the most memorable tour of the entire vacation.

I've reached the conclusion that if I have the big picture taken care of--to use travel as an example, hotel reservations made, time to buy guidebooks and read about an area, and so on, I can handle spontaneity on the smaller day-to-day details. There are a couple of things I find funny, though. First, I handle change in my life well. I might not like it, but I don't resist it or fight it. Given my feelings about surprises, I'm amazed by this at times. And second, when I write, I don't use or develop an outline. I might have a general idea of an upcoming scene, but that's all the guidance I have. I've given up trying to decipher my idiosyncrasies and now I just accept them.

Are you someone who likes surprises? Can you be whisked away from an impromptu event without worrying? Or are you someone like me who likes a framework for stability?

Patti O'Shea
Shards of Crimson - Available January 2, 2007


Sally MacKenzie said...

LOL, Patti. I hate surprises -- but I'm also a seat of the pants writer. Now THAT surprises me. I suspect I'm also a bit of a stick in the mud. Maybe if I'd grown up in this world of IM and cell phones I'd be different? My teenage and young adult sons are always winging it, making plans at 9 pm to go out when I'm starting to think about getting my jammies on and calling it a day. (Okay, maybe that's just because I've qualified for my AARP card, but even when I was young and single, I think I had to have a plan.)

Anonymous said...


I'm a Capricorn and all the astrology books I've read say that this sign behaves as if they're little old men/women as children and the older we get, the younger we act. :-) I'm also a first born so I was given a double dose of responsibility. It's hard to throw that aside in the name of spontaneity.


Christie Craig said...


Love the camel ride story. Love the blog.

I'm the type of person who doesn't mind surprises, but I don't like change. So if something lands in my lap and I'm surprised, I'm delighted. But having to make changes and plan for that change is hard for me. Crazy thing is that both my children are the same way. My daughter, when a teenager, used to get furious when a mom whom she was babysitting for would call and ask her to arrive a few minutes early. She would always do it, but to me she would rant about how she had already made her plans. And she would do this even if it was ten minutes early.

As you know, in the publishing business things are always changing. So I have to constantly remind myself to roll with the flow.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Christie!

Change isn't easy, but I still prefer it over surprises. I don't know why. Of course, sometimes change is heralded by surprises. :-/ If I hadn't gotten used to accepting change before 9/11, I would have had to learn. The airline industry (and my particular airline) have had nothing except change for the last 5 years.

And you're right, the publishing business is another industry with a lot of change.