Over the years, I have done quite a bit of packing. I’ve packed for short trips, long trips, overnight trips, international trips, moving trips–you name it, I’ve probably packed for it. I have also discovered that there is a sort of pattern in which I pack. I actually wrote this essay a couple of years ago, and have modified it slightly. I believe the original title was something like “The 4 Stages of Packing and Paranoia”.
Stage One: This stage begins about a month before the departure date. This stage is by far the most rational and consists of thoughts such as, “Huh. I’m leaving a month. I’d better start getting the things I need.” Nothing to it, really.
Stage Two: Stage two begins one or two weeks before departure. I lug my suitcases out of the closet or basement or wherever it has been placed since my last trip. I mentally figure out how much stuff I can fit in each suitcase and what should be placed in which suitcase (and in what order things should be placed).
For example, this time, all of my personal stuff is going in one suitcase and all of my family’s Christmas presents and stuff is going in another suitcase (with maybe a few pairs of my shoes if I can’t squeeze them in my personal suitcase). Suitcase layout is a difficult mental task! My pants are first, followed by my skirts and dresses, followed by my shirts and pajamas.
I also begin going to the store to get the last few things I need. Again, everything is done in a completely rational manner.
Stage Three: 2-3 days before leaving. I start seriously packing (there are already piles of things on my floor that are part of “non-serious packing” ventures). At this point, packing is not a big deal, because I still figure I have “plenty” of time. So far, I only have the things I really need, plus a few extra sweaters, an extra pair of shoes, an extra dress and and extra pajama pants (just in case). I’m very careful not to pack too much, because I never use half of what I pack anyway and my suitcase is always ridiculously full. (My arm muscle comes from lugging a suitcase around the airport two or three times a year; I am a pro at maneuvering a suitcase through a crowd of people walking like turtles.)Currently, my suitcase zips without me sitting on top of it and wrestling it shut.
The day before I leave is also punctuated with me running to the computer to make sure my plane is still running, what terminal I’m supposed to be at, which gate it leaves from, exactly what minute I need to leave and then checking again to make sure nothing has changed. I’m only slightly nervous at this point.
Stage Four: departure date (and the night before). No rational thought or action whatsoever.
This is when I panic. And get queasy.
I start wondering if maybe I really do want that shirt, or those shoes, and I know I’m going to want to read those other three books, and I probably will use that lotion I haven’t used in 6 months. So I start randomly throwing things into my suitcase, because I don’t want to forget something and be stuck without it for three whole weeks. For some reason at this point my suitcase won’t close anymore, even though everything fit perfectly yesterday. I shove one more pair of socks and some more lip gloss and bobby pins into the little flap on my suitcase, weigh the thing to make sure I’m not over (even though it’s already too late and I have to leave), bump and bonk the thing down the stairs and outside and into the car.
I’ll be worrying about what I packed all the way to the airport until I get distracted by finding my terminal and gate and writing my address on those silly little tags before I get my ticket and going through security and sitting and waiting for my plane while checking every thirty seconds to see if they’re boarding my plane and then my row. I’ll be fine once I’m in my seat. Really.
And you know what? I always forget something even though I never use half of what I bring.