Thursday, October 30, 2014

From Paris, with Luggage

To pack is annoying; to pack well is an art form.  Even though I’ve traveled for business my entire adult life, I’m still hopelessly mired in the clause before the semicolon.  I also tend to procrastinate, which makes good choices at the last minute a lousy bet if you’re the gambling sort. Since I hadn’t even ventured into the suitcase closet (actually, that weird hurricane shelter-cum-storage area underneath the stairs) to look over likely candidates, I thought I might do a little gumshoe work to inform my packing picks.  First up, a visit to to check out professionally forecasted temp, precip, cloud cover and pollen count FOR AN ENTIRE COUNTRY.  This is akin to selecting just the right combination of apparel and accessories for a two week vacation in Miami, Boise and Reykjavik.  Not to mention all the numbers were in Celsius, which I realized later.  After some consideration, I decided rather than figuring out what I needed to bring, it might be easier to figure out what I didn’t need to bring with me.  Here are a few items I came up with:
  • A razor (better to blend in with the European women)
  • Freshly-baked croissants
  • Rosetta Stone for French (my window for learning a new language slammed shut sometime in the early 1970s)
  • Free weights
That was pretty much it.  Everything else seemed either extremely necessary or necessary-ish.  Hair care products alone could command their own bag if I let them.  And let’s not even start on footwear.  I arrive at the airport looking more like a sherpa (from which the word “shlep” was clearly derived) than a seasoned traveler and business person.  Since it was an international flight, no curbside check-in allowed.  Everything had to be hand carried across the parking garage, dragged in line and up to the gate agent:
Total weight: 315 pounds (perceived)
1 – 52.8 pound suitcase (no upcharge from gate agent – love ya sistah) with an insane number of tops, pants, belts, shoes, sweaters, outerwear and undergarments
1 – Bowling-bag shaped carry-on with an extra set of clothes, toiletries, meds, video camera, giant book on French cheeses and big box of assorted band-aids (don’t ask) should the 52 pound bag get lost
1 – Oversized zippered flannel carry-on with mags, Kindle, knitting, foreign voltage adapter, DC adapter for the plane, eye mask, ear plugs, inflatable neck pillow, snacks (movie theatre box of Good ‘n’ Plenty, white cheddar popcorn, gum, Mentos), sewing kit, quart Ziploc bag with liquids and gooeys, jewelry, personal computer and all manner of USB plug in stuff to super-power the aforementioned.
1 – Purse with wallet, cell phone, cosmetics, two travel packs of Kleenex, Tums, ibuprofen, hand sanitizer, 5 ballpoint pens (I either have a pallet-full or none), reading glasses, sunglasses and a travel pouch with passport and boarding passes 

After checking the 52-pound bad boy, I still had one carry-on more than the airline limit.  While stuffing my purse into the bowling ball bag, a green-blazered self-appointed suitcase-size enforcement officer sidles up next to me.  “That item is too large to go onboard,” he says, pointing toward the ridiculous baggage measurement apparatus about 15 feet away.  At first I pretend he’s talking to someone else, but when he leans down into my face with that stern look of a man who’s ruined a lot of innocent people’s vacations, I know I’m in trouble.  “I’ve traveled all over the world with this bag, sir, and size has never been an issue,” I say with cool confidence, only slightly economical with the truth.  After all, I’ve got half-a-trip’s stuff to protect in this thing, and it’s going into cargo over my dead carcass.  I deftly remove my chubby purse from the top and drag the bag over to the measurement thingy.  I stick it in wheels first.  No dice.  It’s about 3” too wide.  Green-blazer man’s hands are now on his hips, sneering a righteous sneer.  Then, thanks to what could have only been divine IQ intervention, since I don’t have a spatially-adept bone in my body, I take the bag and flip it on its side.  A shove here, a squish there, but it fits.  Like a really, really tight glove.  So tight, Blazer man has to help me pry it out.  Minutes later, bowling bag is riding the security belt and my extra set of undies, band-aids and giant cheese book are safely at my side once again.