Saturday, April 18, 2009

Weekend 3-Way: packing

I was up late the other night, shuffling through the movie channels for something interesting. The dial (as it were) stopped when I came upon Ordinary People, and I caught the last 30 minutes or so… from the part when Conrad goes on a date with Janine, then goes postal on the guy from My Bodyguard after the dismal swim meet. Actually, I can’t really remember which of those scenes comes first, but I watched them both. What a brilliant, well acted movie. The wee Timothy Hutton, Judd Hirsch in his thickly collared neutral cardigan sweaters, Donald Sutherland and his visible angst, and Mary Tyler Moore - ach, Beth (not you, Beth- MTM’s character Beth). She was so good – so, so good that you can’t help but smile at her golf ball toss and swagger before the fight in Houston; so good that you just want to punch her in the face when she didn’t return Conrad’s desperate hug. But the part that really stuck with me last night was at the very end, when it’s clear that the marriage is toast and Beth goes upstairs to her room and opens the closet to retrieve her suitcase, which she finds sitting empty and neat on the closet shelf. The poignant image of this scene is not Beth’s quivering reaction to the mess that has become her idyllic life, but the fact that on the very same day she returns home from her trip to Houston, her suitcase is unpacked and stored in an easily accessible place, ready to be packed for the next adventure. This is not the scenario when I have packing to do.

So this weekend's 3-Way must be:

What is your packing scenario?


I'm leaving on a jet plane in a couple of days, and it occurs to me that it is probably well past time to start thinking about packing. For me, packing is not just a chore; it’s an adventure that requires strategic inspiration and many, many lists. My strategy is to cover my bed with the clothes I’ll bring, trying to lay out outfits that will work for the purpose of each day. Then I will select my luggage, which, unlike Beth, means foraging a trip to the pit of despair, aka the garage. I’ll get the clothes in there, but inevitably discover that at least half of what I want to bring is in the hamper. So, I'll start some laundry, and try really hard to leave space in the suitcase for that stuff. Meanwhile, I’m working on undies and shoes and toiletries and accessories and books and electronics and lots and lots of whatnot. By the time the laundry is finished, I usually need a bigger suitcase. Now that I can’t see my outfit piles, I start to doubt myself, and begin throwing odd bits and pieces of generally unseasonable clothing into the now overburdened giant suitcase. It’s a total crapshoot whether or not I will be able to piece together a marginally normal ensemble on any given day of my trip.

I’m usually pretty good about the carry on, it’s so much better to travel light. I just need a couple of books, the laptop, and snacks. I’ll buy water in the terminal and I’m good to go.

This all sounds like a perfectly reasonable and doable, albeit taxing chore to tackle over the next 48 hours. But what I neglected to mention thus far is the veritable kiss of death. My kids are coming with me, and the last time I tried to let them pack for themselves, my girl brought about 12 pair of pants and not a single shirt. Help!

What a crack-up, Jacquie. Didn't your girl also forget undies and your boy forget shoes?

Here's the deal with me and packing. For years I used to travel all over, for work, and I had it down. I could go on a 2 week trip, to Europe or Asia, and get away with one wheelie-cart, usually carry-on. A few interchangeable business/casual numbers, a few pairs of shoes, a pair of sneakers, a swimsuit, book and my dob kit in my backpack. Those were in the days before 9/11, when it was all so much easier than.

Or so I hear. As I've mentioned, I've not been on an airplane since January 2001, so I am a stranger to the new world of mean air travel.

But, Mistah and I did travel around the country for 7-1/2 years in a Westy (I just changed "have been traveling" to "did travel". Sigh), and packing for that we had down to a science. Actually, science sounds too formal and rigid. We had it down to a creatively scientific art. Just ask anyone who's camped with us over those years. We had everything, and lacked for nothing.

Of course, when you travel with an electric coffee maker and lots of shoes and several chairs and a wok and spare coolers and a canopy and tons of books and booze and a grill and, during some of those years, an extra refrigerator, when, in other words, you travel heavy, your Westy can sometimes look like this:

I consider myself an accomplished packer, even though I don't travel nearly as much as I used to. In fact, an ex-boyfriend's father once called me the most accomplished packer he'd ever met. That trip I had one tiny fabric backpack for a week of sailing in the Caribbean, and even came up with an extra outfit for my boyfriend's sister on New Year's Eve.

Kids, of course, change this one-tiny-bag deal quite a bit. Their clothes are small, and I've always been able to fit all of our clothing in a single (checked) bag, but there so needy ON the plane. They need so much gear for the ride itself. They need lots of snacks, especially since the airlines stopped giving out ANY food during the flight, and some of it better be of the treat variety. Because of the myriad treats, I always feel compelled to add fruit and nuts and some semblance of other healthy food stuffs, so the food backpack gets to be quite a load.

They also need activities, which in our family means all matter of work books and sticker books and coloring books and regular books, and sometimes homework, and movies. Yes, movies. They are imperative and make my travel almost bearable, but it requires both a portable DVD player and movies. And all of this stuff needs to be schleped (sp?) by someone. Luckily my kids are getting older and this last trip my oldest's carry on backpack was as heavy as mine.

I can hardly wait for my second pack mule to come of age....


Kathi D said...

I ignominiously claim the title of World's Worst Packer.

Always too much of what I don't need and not enough of what I do. And put off till the last minute.

Anonymous said...

I pack everything I love and cherish - even if it takes an extra suitcase. I always take too much, but I never wish I'd brought something I didn't.

Springer Kneeblood said...

I always admire and appreciate people who pack light and well. I can't tell you the rage that builds up inside me as I sit on a plane and watch people try to put their steamer trunks, baby grand pianos, and extended families in the overhead compartment.

Femin Susan said...

I always admire people who pack light and well.