I was just settled into my airplane seat and in the process of unfurling the USA Today when a voluminous leather satchel came swinging through my personal space – narrowly missing my head. I looked up as the wayward soul trying to find his seat mumbled an apology, as he hauled in his bag and tossed it onto the seat across the aisle. At his feet was a piece of oversized luggage so huge it could have doubled as a walk-in closet at my house. This was his carry-on?
As I tried to reset myself and once again unfurl my paper, my personal space was again challenged with a close-up view of a rather expansive posterior draped in navy Velour sweatpants, positioned such that Homer could achieve sufficient leverage to complete a clean-and-jerk lift with his enormous bag.
I have to admit, I was impressed he could even heft the beast over his head, which is where it now hovered, as Homer sought to now use the arm of my seat to place a size 14 foot shod in white running shoes. As my chair threatened to collapse, he gamely applied additional leverage while energetically grunting like a weight lifter in a vain attempt to coerce his bag into a space clearly half the bag’s size.
Thankfully the steward and stewardess on the flight finally bustled up and quickly offered to have the oversized carry-on checked. Homer seemed surprised and mumbled something about not having any trouble with the bag on other airlines.
Homer could stand to take a few minimalist packing lessons from a friend of mine, Duane Raleigh. He once showed up for a week-long European junket toting only a gym bag large enough to carry several pair of hiking socks, a change of clothes, and perhaps a toothbrush. He had no checked luggage.
Apparently, Duane was taking the Ex Officio proclamation on the company’s underwear packaging a little too literally — “17 countries. 6 weeks. And one pair of underwear.” I could only hope he was finding time to wash and dry each night, instead of resorting to turning the pair inside out for freshness.
Me, I exist somewhere between the two. I never take more than I can carry in two bags, with one being a checked piece that is never so large as to be considered oversized luggage. To arrive at what goes or stays, I rely on the tried and true pile and stuff methodology of packing. That type of packing calls for a wheeled duffel. The night before departure, I’ll wander between the garage and the bedroom tossing items from various equipment closets and dressers into category-appropriate piles depending on the weather and trip activity needs. From hiking boots to hydration packs and ski goggles to long underwear, it takes me a mere 30 minutes to stuff my duffel sufficiently full, leaving just enough room for the few items I might acquire while enroute.
During a trip, I resort to pile management. It drives my wife, who packs for trips with military precision and organization, nuts. But like my office, I know where everything is and, as I explain patiently to her every time she questions my methods, I can easily sniff the difference between the clean and dirty apparel assortment. It’s the one thing I really did learn in college.
Yeah, I’ve tried folding and rolling and all that planning stuff. But, eventually, all the cubes seem to do for me is turn the larger stuffed piles into smaller cube-shaped ones. At least my piles are cubically organized.
No matter the packing method you prefer, I guarantee this. Should our traveling paths happen to cross one day, rest assured my carry-on will fit easily under the seat in front of me. Oh, and when putting it there, I promise to keep my posterior out of your face.