When it comes to travel, I’m not a total loser. I have two travel-related talents:
1) I pack light.
I hate to brag, but I’m great at this. Tell me we’re leaving for a week and I’ll show up with an overnight case. This is partly because I am my own sherpa and partly because I often travel with my husband a/k/a the Travel Nazi. The Travel Nazi fervently believes that the mark of a travel amateur is someone who overpacks, then — horror of horrors! — checks his bags.
In the year 2000, I took a trip to Cape Cod with some friends and blithely checked my bag. I still remember seeing it disappear on the carousel, since that was the last time I ever saw it. It was forever lost in the great travel beyond, flown to — who knows? — the great malls of Dubai or Rapid City.
I haggled with the airline, I borrowed clothes, I bought new and crappy airline-replacement clothes, and worst of all, I reported the series of tragic incidents to the Travel Nazi. He didn’t say much, but I’ve been married to him for a long time and can read his mind on such occasions. He was thinking it was my own damned fault for checking my bag. For obvious reasons, I haven’t checked a bag in the past 11 years.
2) I am also unusually adept at the passive-aggressive art of keeping and improving my place in line. I take this quite seriously. I am usually a pacifist and coward, but I will not let you or a even a creep with a machine gun usurp my place in line. According to my sister, I was the fastest person she had ever seen make it to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem; I take that as a compliment.
OK, so I bring these bona fide talents to travel — along with an ability to become very passive and pliable and immerse myself in a book when everything is chaotic and running behind schedule. But after my plane trip back from New York yesterday, I am convinced that is not enough.
I sat — passively, pliantly — in my aisle seat, reading, waiting for the plane to leave. Twice, three times, a hundred — oh, what does it matter, since it could have killed me? — I almost got bonked on the head by a bulging suitcase being stuffed and pounded and shamed into an overhead bin. (If I prefer to sit in an aisle seat, maybe I should get a fucking helmet. Why do I prefer to sit in an aisle seat? Because I am a menopausal woman, that’s why. Next question?)
The aisles teemed with passengers and their carry-on bags, desperately seeking a bin, any bin, anywhere. They sputtered to a halt. I got bonked, this time, by a backpack. I know I should love humanity, but I was beginning to loathe humanity. I tried to remind myself I should hate the airline, instead. I felt like an extra in Casablanca (where “they wait … and they wait … and they wait … “). Where was Bogart when I needed him the most?
Finally, everyone and everything found a place and the plane took off and the attendants did not serve lunch to those of us in coach. Next time, I am checking my suitcase and stuffing myself into it. It can’t be any worse.
(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about learning the story when you don’t speak the language