Tom's Blog

Vive Le Difference!


baggageMy active business life has spanned over fifty years, and most of that time I traveled extensively. For many years I would leave home on Monday, and return the following Friday. I drove and flew a ton of miles and my packing routine never varied. I packed the same, regardless of the destination or the method of travel.

I used one roll-on bag that would fit in the overhead bin of an airplane or in the trunk of my car. I put my hang-up clothes in a garment bag, that folded in the middle, could hang in the closet of the plane or the back seat of my car.  I carried one briefcase that had a shoulder strap. That was it.  I could pack everything I needed for a week of business meetings, and I could carry it all on the plane with ease.

When traveling by car, I knew that if I wanted a cup of coffee, a bottle of water, or a coke, I could pull into any service station and buy one. The same held true for snacks. When I returned home after a trip, I always replenished my roll-on bag with underwear, socks, handkerchiefs, etc., stuff that I carried in one of those plastic bags that you can expel the air from and reduce the volume. I also made sure my dopp kit contained my personal grooming needs.

I was ready to leave on a moment’s notice. On Monday morning I could get up, shower, have breakfast, pack my bags, and be gone in no more than an hour. This system worked for me as long as I traveled alone. I have on several occasions packed for a two to three week trip to Europe the same way, just increasing the size of my roll on bag to something that had to be checked in the plane’s baggage compartment. I learned early on that France, Italy, and the U.K. are not third world countries, and those items, like toilet paper and toothpaste, were readily available.

You’ll notice that I said this system worked as long as I traveled alone. Traveling with Clista is an entirely different matter.  In her previous life, Clista and her husband traveled extensively, both here in the U.S., as well as internationally. She’s been from the interior of China to all over Europe and Central America. She has long ago burned out on going anywhere, and if she had the choice, she would never leave home again. I no longer do much business travel, and when I do, I enjoy having her go with me.

Most of our travel is to see Clista’s children, and we can drive everywhere but to her daughter’s home in California. Unfortunately, even a trip to Nashville requires at least one night in a hotel. Clista hates hotels, and would gladly undergo two root canals and a liver transplant to avoid even one night. To say she hates it is a massive understatement. It is against this background that we pack for a trip.

The process starts around a week in advance of our scheduled departure. The first signs of impending travel show up as lamentations about how much she doesn’t want to go. This intensifies as the departure date grows closer, and reaches a crescendo the night before we leave. After dinner on the eve of our departure two processes begin. Clista starts to pack and the loading of the car begins.

Let’s deal with loading the car first because it is the easier of the two. She must decide what snacks we are to take with us and pack them in a cloth carry-all. Normally, the travel menu will consist of at least two, and sometimes three varieties of popcorn, at least one of which is caramel coated. We buy popcorn in industrial size bags and stay fully stocked at all times.

In addition to popcorn, we never leave home without Lay’s Stax potato chips in the salt and vinegar flavor. Notice I said Lay’s. Pringles will not do, and to suggest that they might is blasphemy. Clsita feels strongly about her chips and popcorn. Once the corn and chips have been packed, she will throw in some Pretzel bits, Sweet Tarts, M&M’s, and a variety of six pack Nabs. The snack bag will also contain cups, bowls, and salt and pepper.

The next step involves loading our paper goods. We will need at least two rolls of paper towels, napkins, and several boxes of Kleenex. Not only do we take full boxes of Kleenex, but we will also take several empty boxes to dispose of any tissues used enroute. This is in addition to a plastic garbage bag for non-tissue trash. The liquid items such as cokes, water and juice will have to wait until the next morning to be loaded.

After the dry goods are bagged up and sitting in the laundry room, the second phase begins. Clista will start to lay out the clothes she intends to pack. This involves moving the entire contents of her closet onto the beds in the guest room. Several hours will be spent mixing, matching, and moving the same outfits from bed to bed, to closet, and back. Anxiety reigns supreme, and there will be no final decision until morning.

At this point, I have been quizzed extensively about exactly what events we will be attending, and what the dress code will be. Normally, the only thing on our agenda will be taking family to dinner, and one might assume that what to wear would be pretty straight forward. This crass male attitude does not recognize the subtle distinctions of dining at Outback versus O’Charley’s, and it’s best if I stay silent on the whole process.

I will be called upon to offer an opinion on various combinations of tops, skirts, pants, shoes, and accessories during the process, and the only system that I can employ, is to accept the fifty-fifty odds on choosing the proper combo. Clista will usually stop talking to me somewhere in the evening after I have mis-read which set of earrings would look best at Waffle House. The only bright spot in one of these events is that after I thoroughly tick her off, I can watch anything I want on TV.

We normally go to bed no later than ten P.M., but on the night before a trip I might hit the sack on time, but Clista will still be shuffling clothes from room to room. At some point, usually after I have dozed off, she will come into the bedroom and inform me that we should be on the road by eight the next morning, and she really hopes I’ll be ready. All of my assurances fall on skeptical ears. Very likely, somewhere between four and five o’clock, I roll over and try to go back to sleep, in spite of the constant movement between her closet, her suitcase, and the guest room. The wardrobe process is now in its final stages, and angst reigns supreme.

Finally at about six-thirty, I’ll get up, make a cup of coffee, and get the paper out of the driveway. With paper and coffee I will retire to my little home office, read the paper and work the crossword puzzle. This will be interspersed with periodic visits to the door and admonishments regarding the fact that I really need to get moving.

The packing process is entering its final stages. By seven the hang up clothes will be ready, and Clista will be deep into packing her suitcase and delaying the most difficult of all decisions. What shoes to take? Imelda Marco didn’t have any bigger shoe issues than Clista. In her defense, I have to say that Clista does not put much value on possessions. Shoes however, are the exception. She usually manages to narrow her selections down to between six and a dozen pair for the average two day trip.

Somewhere around seven-fifteen I’ll go shave and shower. This usually takes no more than ten minutes, and I’m dressed in another five. I’ll grab my roll-on, make sure everything is in it, get my hang up clothes, and head for the car. I’ll have all my stuff loaded by a quarter to eight. Then I take a large cooler and place four to six of those frozen plastic containers in the bottom, and fill it with water, cokes and juice. Once this is in the back seat, I’m ready to load Clista’s stuff.

First I place the two bags of goodies and paper goods in the front seat. I’ll make my first test run to see if her suitcase is ready, which it is not, but I can load the fifteen outfits that are on hangers. Next there will be at least one overflow bag containing personal items that will not fit in the suitcase; it will be ready to load. It is now seven fifty five, and all that’s left is the suitcase. Finally, it’s ready and we head to the car.

This is a crucial moment. I’ll be quizzed about just what I have loaded. An inventory of food, drinks and paper goods will be recited. Clista will then put ice into our insulated cups and put them in the cup holders, before going back into the house to make sure all electrical appliances that will not be used are unplugged, the cats are inside, the cat sitters instructions are in place, and all of the doors are locked.

There are usually several trips back into the house before we get everything right, and somewhere just after eight we pull out of the driveway and head to McDonalds for breakfast and departure. Is it any wonder that she hates to travel?

Categories: Tom's Blog

8 replies »

  1. Well Tommy, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you had called one of the children before going down this path we would have given you the low down! That said, we are all very happy that the two of you are taking these trips together.

    You might want to try a little bourbon in that coffee.

  2. Actually I’m growing to like Clista’s system and realize that I might as well since this is clearly the proper way to travel. Why do you think I just traded a Cadillac sedan for another Odessey? I’m getting with the program.

    • Alice, in your case the situation is reversed. I remember you going through customs in Paris with the rock Phil conned you into carrying. Like the custom agent said, “Are there no stones in America?”

  3. And I thought I wanted to get married again! I just miss someone to share my life with. I just don’t want to spend a lot of time alone, but, I do. It will be 2 years on May 27 since I lost Kathi and I still miss her alot. I have a really good relationship with a great lady , Eve, who lives in Nevada City, 30 minutes away, whom I see every week. She has a 110 lb German Shepard name. Kobe named after Kobe Bryant, with the Lakers. He is very gentle, but would be very intimidating, if you didn’t know it. I just saw a piece featuring. Duke medical center and Dr Friedman and the latest development in combating brain cancer, treating the tumors with the polio germ and getting surprising results! Have you heard about it? I will always 2nd guess my decision not to take Kathi to Duke, but Dr Friedman discouraged it. I don’t know why. I have learned that time and prayer are the only things that work

  4. Well, this subject strikes a chord. Somebody once said that over-packing by women simply demonstrates their ability to plan for any eventuality. Now, I’m a good packer but many times during a multipurpose vacation trip requiring lots of gear ( e.g., underwater photography, then mountain trekking) I have been known to grumble, “Gee, I forgot to pack a (fill in the blank)”, to which my lovely wife will say, “Well, I packed three. Do you want one of mine?”

    Bless their little anticipatory hearts!

  5. Sonny, there is a certain sense of relief that comes with knowing that you can just relax and depend on someone else packing and hauling all of the hard to remember stuff on a trip. The older I get the more willing I am to let go and let Clista.

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