12 March 2011

Big Red

I think I might be turning into my mother.  Most people starting a blog with this sentence would mean this in a bad way.  I most certainly don’t.  But it does mean I pack a really damn big suitcase.

When I was little we had Big Red.  Big Red was the biggest hard-sided suitcase ever created.  It was also red.  Big Red went with us on every family vacation and especially on family vacations where Mom needed to dole out all the gifts she’d been saving up over the past year to give to all her relatives up north.  It was prohibitively enormous, and luckily it died before the 9/11 era so we didn’t have to watch its inevitable awkward fall into disuse once luggage prices started skyrocketing.

My mother had packing that thing so that it just cleared the 50-lb weight limit down to a science.  49.5 was sort of a standard number – before we left home she’d kind of heft it a little and declare it sound, and just to check my dad would get it on the family scale and sure enough she’d be right on.  Maybe a pound under.  And then she’d play Tetris with it again and manage to shove in those extra towels she’d earlier discarded.  It was incredible.

(And I know you’re not supposed to start a sentence with a numeral like I did up there, but frankly ‘forty-nine-point-five’ felt lame to type.)

So I’m sitting here packing for a four-day vacation and I’m pulling out the big guns.  I don’t have a Big Red, but I do have a Sizeable Black-and-Teal and I’m stuffing it to the brim.  I’m trying to decide between six and seven pairs of shoes.  I think I have about eight days’ worth of outfits.  I have both my swimsuits (and the earrings to match, of course!).  I have at least a month’s worth of toiletries.

Sizeable Black-and-Teal (SBT) has seen me though everything, and I love it to death.  But damn, is it heavy!  It is not something to carry up stairs.  I know because when the escalator in the metro exit at Dupont Circle in D.C. wasn’t working I had to carry the beast up it.  If you haven’t seen this escalator, it is perhaps the longest escalator ever manufactured.  Okay, it’s not.  But it’s really, really long.  And it was longer that day than it ever had been before.  Or since.

And I’m about to be sexist, so watch out.  Here’s the best part about being a girl: I didn’t have to heft SBT by myself.  Two lovely strapping young lads picked up the back end and helped me carry it up the whole way.  And when I took my SBT “backpacking” through Europe (I do not backpack.  I roller-suitcase.  And it is a hundred percent better), whenever I got on a train and had to heft that puppy over my head there was always some gentlemanly fellow traveler to help me.

Actually I don’t want to be sexist.  These people do these things out of the goodness of their hearts and the world should have more of them.  It may or may not have anything to do with masculine chivalry.  It’s just I pretty much only get guys helping me.  But then again, guys are pretty much bigger and stronger than me.  So ergonomically it all makes sense.  If you are not the type of person to help a fellow traveler in need, you should strive to be. 

(For the record, I do strive to be.  I’ve changed girls’ busted tires and offered to ship guys’ stolen street signs back across an ocean for them.  I didn’t end up doing the latter one, by the way.  That’s illegal.)

Anyway, here’s me, all talking and no packing!  What would my mother say? 

Maybe I should put in that other dress…

UPDATE (Nov 2011): I happened to go back to Dupont Circle with SBT last weekend, and you would not believe what happened!  We made it through the whole stay together just fine, me and SBT, and the escalators were working well – until my friend and I were running back from Arlington to pick up our bags before rushing out to the airport.  The up escalator died again and we had to run up it to get to the hotel, which wasn’t so bad... but then, as we were heading back with suitcases in tow, I put one foot on the down escalator and it stopped.  I am not even remotely tweaking this for dramatic effect.  Ask God.  I had to lug SBT all the way down the exact same escalator I had to drag it up three years ago, and I did it by my lonesome.  I am hoping this is only some sort of poetic capping to my travels to D.C. for neuroscience conferences.

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