The Bassett kids, especially Johnny and Vickie, help keep their father in line, shooting his balloon full of holes whenever it begins to swell. He's a particularly easy target when he starts stewing over the inconsequential. One day at the Toronto airport, fully 45 minutes before departure, he and Vickie were waiting in line for tickets when he noticed a cluster of idle airline clerks at another counter. He raced over but was told that that counter was for passengers already ticketed, information which prompted arm waving and muttering about inefficiency and ineffectiveness and injustice and....
"Dad," interrupted Vickie dryly, "go buy an airport."
The prime responsibility for managing the emotional maelstrom that is John Bassett belongs to Susan, who is what he is not: well organized and socially graceful. But beneath the amiability is a strong will. During a tumultuous period in their marriage, when teams and leagues were folding and a red sea was flowing from the bank books, Bassett grew furious one morning when a hard-boiled egg she cooked for him turned out to be soft.
"You can't even cook an egg," he yelled, throwing it at her. She dodged; the egg splattered on the refrigerator.
"And clean that up," he added, marching out in triumph.
For days the congealed egg remained on the refrigerator door. Susan invited friends into the kitchen for lunch, for tea, or just to chat. Everyone looked at the egg on the refrigerator. It became the talk of Toronto. Finally Bassett gave in. He got a scraper and peeled off the mess.
Bassett's impatience was responsible for Carling's name. He and Susan, who is related to the Carlings, the Canadian brewing family, had no female names ready when the baby arrived. Bassett shrugged his shoulders. "Name her Carling," he blurted.
On Hilton Head Island, S.C., Bassett is in the first stages of high anxiety an hour before a limousine is to arrive to take him to the airport. He has just spent three days at Hilton Head with Susan and Carling. Now Bassett is worried that the limo won't show. No reason. Just worried. Twenty minutes before the hour is up he is outside, walking back and forth.
This was to have been an idyllic vacation with Susan and Carling. He hadn't even brought along the briefcase that serves as his mobile office and as a compendium of his life, crammed as it is with everything from his passport and birth certificate to bankbooks and legal pads tattooed with arcane numbers relating to various projects. The briefcase is being airlifted to meet him at his next destination, and for the last two days Bassett has been furiously scribbling notes on scratch paper. Idyllic is not his style.
In some circles Bassett is regarded as only a fair businessman. Too many peaks and valleys. More than once the Bassetts' outwardly privileged existence has been precariously mortgaged. Once a boyfriend's father sat Vickie down and lectured her about megabuck economics and where her father went wrong. "He always puts up his own money," the man said, adding that the first rule is to use someone else's dough for the risky part. "He thought he was doing me a favor," Vickie recalls. "All I could think was, I'm glad we're the way we are, instead of like you.' " Says Eby, "John's a shooter. He goes for it."