Janet Sheridan: The pitfalls of packing

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Janet Sheridan

Packing for a trip ranks just below colonoscopies and bad haircuts on my list of dreadful experiences: too many clothes, too little space and the worrisome likelihood of looking wrinkled, cold or inappropriate.

No matter where or when we travel, I fail to pack correctly.

At my request, Joel checks the computer for the weather at our destination. As I listen to his report, I gaze out the window at the June snow falling in Craig and can’t imagine the 103-degree heat index predicted for St. Louis.

I decide the forecaster must be delusional as I add boots, gloves and turtlenecks to my luggage.

When flying, excess baggage fees curb my tendency to pack every article of clothing I own. But more than once, I’ve had to stick socks in my pockets and shoes in my purse, making it difficult to produce my picture ID in a timely manner.

When we drive, I feel free to take everything I might possibly need, so we look like freshmen headed to college. I shove loose items into every nook and cranny: down jacket, five novels, hiking boots and my current knitting project.

At the last minute, I add a carton of power bars in case there are no restaurants or supermarkets between Craig and Portland.

I use little of what I’ve taken, because I can never find what I want.

When traveling by myself, I feel compelled to pack no more than I can carry. Yes, I could tip baggage handlers and bellboys, but I like the independence of slinging my garment bag over a shoulder, clutching carry-on, purse and coffee in one hand, and pulling a rolling duffle with the other.

As I struggle along, red-faced and sweaty, I listen for the heavenly applause of my pioneer ancestors.

I am capable of packing less. In 1984, I spent 30 days in Europe with six mix-and-match pieces of clothing in red, white and blue, then marveled that everyone I met knew I was a tourist from the USA.

I enjoyed the simplicity of my clothing decisions on that trip; each day, I wore whatever combination I hadn’t the day before.

Once, during spring break, Joel convinced me to try to use some passes from his brother-in-law, a mechanic for American Airlines, to fly stand-by out of Hayden to anywhere warm.

I wore a wrinkle-proof, casual dress and packed a bathing suit, T-shirts and shorts in my carry-on.

Despite our 6 a.m. arrival at the airport, we didn’t get on a flight, so we headed home with our bags and unhappy personalities.

Craig and a disagreeable March day increased our despondence. A cold wind blew billows of winter debris along the streets, and flakes of snow threatened to become serious.

“Janet,” Joel said, “Let’s keep on driving to someplace south: St. George, Mesquite, Las Vegas, Lake Havasu. Let’s not even go by the house for more clothes.”

To his amazement, his normally cautious wife responded, “Go for it.”

What a carefree trip: we waltzed into motels with two small bags and told each other how nice we looked in our well-worn clothes.

Still, given my druthers, I like to pack by assembling anything I might need on my bed.

Next, I select the items I deem most essential: I fold, roll, tuck, and layer until my suitcase can hold no more.

Sometimes I accomplish this task after much pondering and a batch of brownies; at other times, I sense a nervous breakdown approaching, throw in the nearest items and call it good.

Either way, soon after the trip begins, I don’t give another thought to the clothing in my suitcase — usually when it dawns on me that my purse holds neither my prescription sunglasses nor my cell phone.

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