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This family does a fair bit of traveling. We’ve all lived through the struggle of packing for different climes,making sure we include all of our prescription needs, toiletries, shoes, etc. Gill is the least bothered by the entire process — since most of her travel involves coming home where she keeps a second wardrobe. Well, perhaps the term ‘wardrobe’ is a bit generous. What she has here is a motley collection of old underwear, pants with holes in them, sweaters stretched so much they could be coats, and coats so old and disreputable I worry she’ll be arrested for appearing in public in them. The one, her favorite, screams ‘drug dealer’ and looks very shifty. So she borrows my or L’il Sis’s clothes. Practicality and thinking ahead for what she might actually need are not her strengths.

I am, of course, exactly the opposite. I overpack. I take everything I can cram into my suitcase, lashing the pile down with the provided straps, and then sitting on it until the zipper (sort of) closes. I have been trying to be more deliberate in my choices and take less, but my attempts are not totally successful. So for the recent trip to New Zealand, I went with one medium-sized case pretty much filled to bulging. Those little side pockets that expand cause me no end of grief. I’m always under the weight limit but my case takes on the misshapen form of  Shrek and tends to list to one side or be very tippy.

The problem is, no matter how many times I convince myself I will buy NOTHING to bring home, I inevitably cave. “Oh, just this small book for Gill. And a couple of souvenirs for all the kids’ Christmas stockings (yes, they are all over 35 but still get stockings!) And these funny chocolates in the shape of native animals and birds. And a few rocks and shells from the beach…” And on and on and on.

During this latest trip, we had the good fortune to meet up with a couple from the UK. We all had similar interests and we hit it off, spending much time together. While The Man In My Life and the other man talked technical and scientific stuff, the wife and I browsed the shops, giggled endlessly, and had a wonderful time buying little gifts to take home.

Towards the end of our tour of the South Island, our chickens were coming home to roost, so to speak. We had each bought quite an accumulation of stuff — stuff that had to be somehow put into our cases for the return trip. Oops. That was when we began negotiations with ourselves. Think bargaining with the devil.

I began:”Well, there’s no way all of this stuff will fit. Maybe I can leave behind some bulky toiletries and use the space for souvenirs. Or this pair of pants I’ve been wearing almost every day. I am so tired of them I’d really like to burn them! But if I pitch them at the end of the trip, that will make space for the t-shirts I bought. And that blue top…I never really liked it anyway, so I’m happy to dump it. It’s faded — not unlike myself– and it deserves a decent burial. That would allow me space for this gift for L’il Sis.”

The other woman was making the same devilish bargains with herself. But we convinced ourselves we were making choices for the ‘better good’.I suggested, “Maybe we could wear four layers of clothing on the plane to free up suitcase space!”

We were chuckling, colluding together while the men were oblivious to all the ‘tchotchkes’ we were piling up at shops. In a habit left over from another era and a bad marriage, when I occasionally resorted  to ‘hiding’ new purchases from my ex and then saying, “Oh, you mean this ol’ thing?” when confronted. I don’t know of a woman who hasn’t done that!

But in this instance, it wasn’t a matter of the money spent, it’s the matter of space and weight. It would be really embarrassing to be turned away because of overweight or oversized baggage for the return flight! And, the sight of a tiny woman like myself struggling to drag an obviously overstuffed bag through the long maze in the airport to reach the exit, would likely embarrass The Man In My Life into offering to help schlep it. Then, in my stubbornness to remain ‘independent’ and not admit I’d perhaps gotten a bit carried away,I too would be embarrassed. Not the best end to a great trip!

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