Got Baggage?

baggage

I travel quite a bit for both work and pleasure. I am a frequent flier, complete with award miles to spend, TSA Pre-Check benefits, priority boarding with three different airlines, and free checked bags. I have travelled for work for almost seven years, now, and have evolved in my preferences over that time. Originally, I did all “carry-on”. For a few years, I compromised style and comfort for the total inconvenience and sheer hell of dragging my miniscule suitcase everywhere with me. On more than one occasion, I ran from airport gate to gate at a clip so desperate, my roller board didn’t roll so well, and because I was in such a hurry and already burdened with my overstuffed computer bag (backpack), I simply drug it along, on its side behind me. Once, my carry on suitcase teetered off the escalator step, and, failing to simply let go of it, to avoid taking out the folks on the steps below me, I clenched the handle and, ever so slowly, lost my balance until it pulled me down several steps into a heap on the floor. I landed atop my suitcase, at the foot of the escalator, in some airport, somewhere. Seattle, I think. But, because I was all “carry-on”, I never lost my bags. My bags and I always arrived at the same airport at the same time. But, I had to deal with jockeying my way on to the airplane at the earliest point in time in order to secure adequate space in the overhead bins for my “as large as permissible and wholly over packed” roller board bag. Talk about stress! And I made no friends in the boarding area when it came time for my boarding zone to be called.

luggage stuffing

I was at a company meeting in Chicago a few years back, arriving late, exhausted, bags in tow. I met a couple of late arriving co-workers in the elevator and one such co-worker had with him, the largest, orangest, suitcase I have ever seen in my life, accompanied by another orange suitcase, nearly as large, one I would have considered “the largest ever”, before this encounter. Our company meeting was to be only three days. I couldn’t help but comment. My co-worker, a larger than life gay man with a particular way of doing everything, who is oft quoted as saying “sounds like a you problem”, filled me in on his big baggage policy. In his behemoth, orange suitcases, he has room to bring his favorite, down, pillow, from home and all the other creature comforts he cherishes (I didn’t ask for any more details). Life on the road should not equate to compromise, he stated. I nodded. True. How true! Another co-worker, also an adorable gay man, always checks his bag, though more reasonable in size, because he likes to bring “full-size” bottles of shampoo and contact lens solution. “I hate refilling little plastic bottles all the time.” I nodded. Right. How right! Yet another co-worker always checks her bags because she distrusts hotel linens, and, so, packs her own Egyptian cotton linens of an absurd thread count, whenever/wherever she goes. And finally, the shoe diva, a co-worker with an insatiable appetite for very expensive shoes, had an impressively sized, auxiliary, suitcase, checked, of course, for “just shoes”. Suddenly, my life seemed so inadequate, so dismal, so sparse, so compromised; jostling tiny little plastic refillable bottles in their entirely too small quart sized 3-1-1 bag, one pair of “practical shoes” (a synonym for “ugly” in the language of footwear), no work-out clothes, only one bra, no satin pillow case, no favorite bottle of wine, all TSA compliant and a pain in the ass to drag around from gate to gate, terminal to terminal, airplane to airplane, overhead storage bin to overhead storage bin. It was then and there that I began my baggage evolution.

Staff members try to move huge trolley case during Chinese Export Commodities Fair in Guangzhou

I am now the proud owner of my second set of matchy-matchy, wine colored, Samsonites, one slightly smaller than the other, but both, in combination, in volume, close to the largest suitcase I’ve ever seen! Yes, I have already worn one set of suitcases out, we can actually thank a TSA agent in BFE, Montana, for finally busting the zipper on my road-worn suitcase. Why he felt he “had” to search it, I don’t know. What, the next massive terror attack is going to originate at a Tuff Shed size airport in BFE, Montana? I digress.

thanks TSA

In my suitcases, I carry with me, now, every creature comfort I desire; a bottle of wine for every two days I will be away from my wine cellar (which, truthfully, consists of a single, cardboard, box in my garage), corkscrew, and squishable, plastic, stemless, wine glasses, a champagne/large format beer bottle closure, a bar of exquisite dark chocolate, a bag of my favorite cereal, dried apricots, almonds, a cutting board and paring knife, a couple of really cute, plastic bowls, for my cereal yogurt, a coffee-press-coffee-mug, satin pillow cases, fuzzy wuzzy slippers, every pair of shoes/boots I feel I may be in the mood for, multiple sweaters and jackets, work out clothes, athletic shoes and a yoga mat. Once, I even brought dumb bells, when I knew I was going to be in a hotel sans a fitness center and away from home for three consecutive weeks. And I am now, feverishly, on a quest for a small, battery operated, coffee bean grinder.

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For years, like two, I never suffered from the plague called “lost bags”. Every time I got off the plane and headed for the baggage carousel, there were my two wine colored Samsonites with their “Priority” tags affixed, spinning slowly, around the conveyer. In the past year, though, I have arrived a day or so before my luggage on more occasions than I can count. Knock wood, I have not, yet, had my treasured wine-colored bags and cherished contents permanently lost. Does that actually happen?

baggage 4

You may be thinking I have too much stuff, she who supposedly embraces minimalism, and while that may seem the case, I do have everything I need, and plenty of options, too. On too many occasions, when traveling more sparsely packed, I have had to purchase a pair of shoes, tights, slacks, a sweater, toiletries, wine, purses, scarves, and, yes, on more than one occasion, an extra suitcase to haul the new loot home. Now that I am habitually over packed, I am ready for anything. I love spontaneity, and one must be prepared for spontaneity! One must be adequately prepared for spontaneity! You can’t go out target practicing in the boonies in heels and a skirt, you can’t go on an impromptu airboat ride in a business suit, and you can’t go to a fine dining establishment in soiled, holy jeans and a wife-beater. I pack for all occasions. On all occasions.

baggage 2

In a further attempt to avoid arriving with full bags, but minus some, one, critical item, I have taken to buying triplicate of toiletries, hair styling appliances, corkscrews and bottle closures, and such; home use, suitcase, gym bag. I keep little bags of organic, whole, raw almonds EVERYWHERE! My computer bag, my running pack, my suitcases (both), my purse, my gym bag, my desk drawer, my cupboard, of course, in the glove box of my car, and, I believe I saw a bag in the center console of my car, too. I was a Boy Scout leader for over a decade; I embrace preparedness beyond reason. My bags, now, are never quite unpacked. I do immediately remove my clothes, no matter the time of day I return from my trip, and dutifully launder them. I’m not one to keep smelly, dirty clothes, festering in my suitcase. I may need them again, soon, and I’d like them clean and ready to go. Besides, who wants to open a suitcase full of stinky, dirty, clothes three weeks, three months, or three years after they arrived home? I never put my bags in storage, they are always rolling about in my room, always at the ready, always in the way, a constant reminder of the lifestyle I lead.

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Yes, I check my bags, as many as I can, as full as I can possibly pack them. Yes, they have been temporarily lost, but, I still say, it’s all worth the risk. More often than not, I am all comfy at my destination in my fuzzy slippers, sipping a fine glass of wine, or walking about wearing a lovely pair of shoes and an adorable sweater, after a great workout and a hot shower with all my favorite potions and lotions, my industrial quality blow dryer, straightening iron, and curling iron infused with Moroccan argan oil. It’s totally worth the risk. It’s totally worth the effort. It’s totally worth the expense. I finally got tired of a compromised experience, travelling from, living from, a tiny suitcase, week after week, month after month, limiting my risk, limiting my quality of life, while on the road.

baggage 3

I almost always arrive to spend some quality time with someone special to me, only to be greeted with something like, “shit, girl”. Yes, this is my shit. Yes, I’m a girl.

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I have baggage. In the literal sense and in the figurative sense. And don’t we all. For what it’s worth, I manage by baggage pretty well. I can pack my suitcases to precisely fifty pounds, and not an ounce more, I lift them in and out of the trunk of the car by myself, on and off the shuttle bus, and up and down stairs both at home and at some hotels where the elevator is of questionable mechanical integrity. I’d like to say the same about my figurative baggage. I manage. Though it may look as large, bold, and unwieldy as my large, purple suitcases, with the zippers barely holding shit in, but likewise, I’ve got it all handled. Like the Samsonite gorilla.

baggage 6

The “baggage” we are carry, often, is a result of taking risks in life, in love, in employment, in experiences. The “baggage” we carry almost always provides us with the catalyst to learn, to grow, to become greater that we once were. Hurt, perhaps, lost, a for a little bit, like a misplaced suitcase, but whole, again, with a little time and the right attitude. And, like a suitcase, the baggage we carry, can be unpacked, laundered, and put away when we’re ready. Living life without taking risks is much like trying to live for a week out of a puny piece of luggage; a fairly unenjoyable experience. Risk is to reward what caution is to compromise. And, usually, baggage.

baggage 5

Too often I hear people dismiss people, acquaintances, would be dates or lovers, job applicants or friends, because they “have too much baggage”. May I just say, if you think you don’t have baggage, you are a) incorrect b) tempting fate c) in for big trouble d) in denial. Baggage, in life, equates to “troubles”, of course, “trials”, “problems”. Please, really, tell me, who is completely free of troubles, trials, or problems, ever, in their whole life? Only fibbers, braggarts, and liars. And, perhaps, like beauty, those troubles, trials and problems are merely in the eye of the beholder. We all have scars, we all have baggage. To be so closed minded as to label someone as having too many troubles, trials, problems to be worthy of friendship, of acquaintance, of employment, of companionship, is really, quite cruel. And limiting. And foolish. For, in my experience, from my own experience, and in observation of many, people of admirable wisdom, people with the most self-worth, self-confidence, and, by far, the best stories, are those who’ve handled the most “baggage”. So, “shit, girl”, you bet!

baggage 7

 

Scarlett’s Letter June 16, 2013

I’ve made it to New York City and had a lovely time today sharing some of my favorite sites with my daughter who now lives in up state New York. She has joined me for the week. We’re going to have fun! When I’m not working. Which won’t give us much time, so we are cramming everything we can into every free moment we have. We are very well practiced at this.

We were on our way to dinner and I noticed a couple walking down the street. I pointed them out to my daughter. The woman was carrying her purse; the man was carrying his backpack, dragging a suitcase and carrying her enormous Vera Bradley duffel bag. At least I’m fairly certain it was the woman’s Vera Bradley duffel bag, I honestly don’t know many men that choose to carry Vera Bradley duffel bags. In public, unless it’s the wife’s/girlfriend’s/spousal equivalent’s. I see this all the time in my travels. Have you ever tried to carry a duffel bag with all the clothes, make up, shoes, straightening irons and everything else a woman likely to carry a Vera Bradley duffel bag would need to be as lovely as her luggage? It’s frickin’ heavy!

I will admit, I have entertained the idea of acquiring a Vera Bradley piece, or two, but I know for certain I don’t want anything that I have to carry over my shoulder. I already have a purse and a backpack.  I don’t want anything that doesn’t roll. The only luggage I will ever carry I will never actually carry, unless I’m in the backcountry, backpacking. I insist on luggage with caster-style wheels, that will roll in any direction, and four wheels, not just two, so I can push my luggage down narrow passages without having to tip it and drag it.  Or carry it. Second, I can’t imagine the lovely quilted fabric would hold up to the abuse I dish out for very long.

I bought the best purse (very large purse) a little over a year ago. It was designed by a mom who is also a make up artist and who travels a great deal. It is stylish, well thought out, extremely well constructed and absolutely adorable. I get compliments on it every single day. But, in spite of it’s high quality and excellent engineering, superior materials, construction and design, I have worn it out to the point that it is almost embarrassing to carry. And still I carry it. The company has stopped making them for the time being, but I’ve launched a very loud and consistent campaign for a new batch. My point is, if this well engineered, high quality, well constructed super bag is in tatters after sixteen months in my care, no quilted duffel bag or tote is ever going to hold up to the kind of travel and abuse I am responsible for.

I was sharing my thoughts on this with my daughter when we saw another couple walking down Third Avenue, the woman, who by the way, was wearing Under Armor, as in pretty BAMF workout clothes, carrying just her big purse. Her man was carrying his backpack and a Vera Bradley duffel bag. Two different couples within ten minutes, within two blocks! It is an epidemic!

I was nearly apoplectic! So was my daughter! I can’t imagine, and she agrees, ever, ever, ever asking my significant other to tote my stuff around because it’s more than I can handle. Now my gentleman, like my daughter’s hubby, will insist on helping, and sometimes we reluctantly agree, but we both believe that a woman should be responsible for, and capable of, managing her own stuff. If not, we are either packing too much, or we are weak. Perhaps it’s our independent nature, perhaps it’s our love of backpacking, where you could never, ever, every ask someone else to carry your stuff. You just man up and carry your pack! Okay, true, on more than one occasion we did offload an item or two from our pack into my son’s, but, by golly, we packed less the next time. And the stuff we offloaded was “community” stuff, like rainflies or a cook stove or water purifier, not our wardrobe and luxury items (luxury item, we allow ourselves only one when backpacking). And, women backpacking with men have a certain code of honor to maintain, we are already out to prove we can trek as well, as fast, and as strong as the guys, no way are we going to wimp out on carrying our own stuff.

The second thing, here, guys; when your girl begs for a Vera Bradley duffel bag for some gift-worthy occasion, buy jewelry instead. She will be delighted with jewelry, it will cost about the same, maybe even less, and you will never, ever, ever have to carry it. If she just HAS to HAVE Vera, buy a wallet instead and put the jewelry inside as the “big surprise”. Just don’t tell her I told you!

Vera Bradley Guy and Under Armor Girl. What's wrong with this picture?
Vera Bradley Guy and Under Armor Girl. What’s wrong with this picture?

Scarlett’s Letter June 13, 2013

Another day nose to the grindstone, just getting stuff done. I’m just trying to get hyper-organized and get all the loose ends wrapped up before I leave home for a month. On Saturday.

Good news, though! Bless the airline gods! Two of three segments upgraded to first class for my red-eye flight Saturday night! If I can’t sleep, I can drink free wine!

Mom goes to the medical center routinely and has blood work done to monitor her anemic condition. My dad used to always go online and print out any medical test results. That, now, has become my responsibility. I knew I had the capability to print to my printer at home, from anywhere, but I just hadn’t really set it up and worked it all out. Today, I mastered it. I can actually pull up her results on my iPhone, from wherever I am (as long as I have internet) and have them print on the printer in my office at home. Magic. I love technology.

With the installation of a few cool iPhone apps, I have also centralized a whole bunch of random notes, passwords, membership information and other annoying data. I’m just feeling so “together”.

I had an amazing lunch, chicken tacos, out on the deck. One of the luxuries of working from home (occasionally); actually being able to cook the largest meal of the day for lunch and having a “light” dinner. I really think this is much healthier for us. And being able to eat outside and listen to the birds. Ok, crows. We have a flock of crows hanging around that have chased all the birds away, and one crow sat on the very tip of a tree limb and carefully watched me eat my tacos. I guess crows are better than the turkey vultures that used to perch on the deck railing and stare in the kitchen window at my parents while they read the paper in the morning!

I made, made, made myself go to the gym tonight. And I’m so glad I did. I went to a yoga class and had an instructor I haven’t had before. She was awesome! We did about an hour of strength poses followed by a half an hour of inversions and relaxation poses. Just the thing for my tight muscles from all the running I’ve done this week! I came home limber, relaxed and hungry and ate the other half of my Amy’s Margherita pizza with some red wine.

My biggest project for the day, and one I’ve kind of put off all week because I was busy masterminding it; wrapping the gifts I got my Sweetie for his birthday (which was a couple of days ago). Since we live so far apart, his gifts will be arriving when I do. I just had to figure out how to get them from here, to there. I’ll be checking them, like luggage, for a fee, which is still way less than the post office would charge. I admit, like everything I do, I may have got just “a little” carried away in “wrapping” the box. It will be funny to see it come off the luggage carousel. I’m sure he’ll be able to tell in about a half a second which item is his gift. I may have spent as much on tape as I did the gift (kidding). But I had fun with it, and it’s all done, and ready to go. Which I am not.

Ahead tonight, and tomorrow; packing for four weeks. One week of work and play in Manhattan, the better part of the next week in New Jersey for work (so heels and pretty clothes for two weeks) followed by two weeks in Alaska, fishing and stuff (so jeans and boots for two weeks). Again, I think I have it masterminded. And, if all else fails, I have my credit card!!

The gift. Do you think he'll be able to tell it's from me?!
The gift. Do you think he’ll be able to tell it’s from me?!
My chicken tacos. So yummy!
My chicken tacos. So yummy!