Over the course of a family vacation, I engaged my parents, children, siblings, brother- and sister-in-law, and nephews in a high-stakes, life-changing thought experiment. Everyone had to answer the same question: Out of all of us, who would make the best Amazing Race partner?
The Amazing Race is an adventure/reality game show which follows teams of two as they race around the world, performing physical and mental challenges to win trips and cash prizes. It is dramatic and silly, exasperating and exciting, and just generally great — kind of like family.
At least, I thought family was great until a grand total of 0 of my closest relatives chose me as their best potential partner. And to make matters worse, an overwhelming majority of them chose my husband. And to further exacerbate the situation, I had the audacity to choose him as well.
Having given it significant thought, I know that the ideal Amazing Race partner is a physically strong, clear-headed individual who is focused and good-natured. They are skilled at navigation and stay cool under pressure.
To be fair, my husband is all of these things. He’s the guy you want holding the map as you try to navigate to an obscure boutique tattoo parlor in a crowded Cambodian market. He possesses the kind of crunch-time decision-making skills that are required to determine if replicating a pair of ancient Greek sandals will be faster than learning an intricate Irish step dance.
And while it pleases me to have married well, and though I do derive benefit from my spouse’s organizational prowess on the Amazing Race of life or whatever, I can’t help but feel a bit overlooked.
While I may not be able to do concrete things like “read a map” or “make a decision in real time,” I possess many fine qualities that often go unnoticed. For example, I always bring snacks. You can’t run the Amazing Race if you’re hungry; you need protein bars and chocolate-covered pretzels to give you energy and lift your spirits.
In addition, I am a very nice person to have around. Perhaps my Nordic sharpshooting skills and my ability to quickly fill a bucket with scorpions are a bit lackluster, but I will not complain as we dash through the Outback. I’ll even pass you the pretzels.
Our varying Amazing Race skills were on full display last week. I was planning to take the kids to a concert in Tel Aviv, while my husband was away on a business trip to Florida.
This was a big task for me. When you’re married to such a talented guy, you tend to rely on his endless competencies, and stick to tasks that fit squarely in your comfort zone, such as filling up the water bottles. So it was rare to find myself in the position of deciding whether it would be easier to drive to the concert or take public transportation. And if we drive, where should we park? And what time should we leave?
This had the potential to be a magical night for my kids — I didn’t want to mess it up by getting lost or being late. I worried that I would make a mistake that would prompt them to shake their heads at my ineptitude and say, “I wish Daddy was here.”
As I consulted with friends and poured over Google maps the night before the concert, my husband called from Florida.
“There’s a hurricane coming. It’s not clear yet how bad it will be, but I may have to change my flights and hotels and rental car and reschedule all my meetings so I don’t get stuck here over Shabbat.”
And while I vaguely remember saying all the right, empathetic things, what I was thinking was, “Dude, could you cool it with the whining? You can’t possibly expect me to help you orchestrate your international escape from Hurricane Idalia! I am trying to plan my one-hour drive to Tel Aviv! Also, do you have thoughts about where exactly I should park?”
The options of big city parking boggle my mind. How much should you pay? How far should you be willing to walk to your destination? Is it better to park farther away so you hit less traffic on the way out? Which of the 37 lots that Waze is suggesting makes the most sense?
A friend and I finalized a plan to drive together to a lot that looked promising. I packed the snacks, loaded up the car, and hit the road. And while my husband was adeptly speaking to travel agents, booking flights, single-handedly lassoing the hurricane into submission, and making it all look easy, I was rerouted by a police car blocking the entrance to my lot and suddenly found myself with no plan.
As I panic-pondered my next move, while maniacally stuffing chocolate pretzels into my mouth, my son looked up from his phone in the back seat. “Okay, I found us a new lot that’s four minutes away. Just get off at this exit and make a right.” Apparently being a good Amazing Race partner is genetic.
So without missing a beat, I was deftly directed to a free parking lot, just 20 minutes from the amphitheater.
As we found seats at the concert and settled in, my phone buzzed with the news that my husband had boarded his first flight and would be home the following evening. Awash in this good news, and feeling victorious about having gotten us to Tel Aviv in a safe and timely manner, I began to relax and enjoy the evening. The curtain went up and my son’s favorite band began to play. He had waited months for this. We started singing and jumping along with the rest of the crowd. But he paused for a second and said to me, “I wish Daddy was here.” And I felt the same way.
The famed Daddy arrived the following day in time for dinner. We swapped tales about the concert and about his mad dash through the airport. He was happy to be home, but also starving, after an 18-hour day with only plane food. In his haste to book it out of the Sunshine State, it seems that my man had forgotten to pack snacks.
And I smiled. Because I think next time he’s forced to pick a hypothetical race partner he may reconsider his options. Navigational skills and Irish step choreography be damned. The gal with the chocolate pretzels is always the best choice.