As we were planning our next stop after New Zealand, an appeal came from Melbourne, Australia: Please come back. The Ohanessians, whose hospitality we thought we’d worn out in December and January, were pleading. There were many reasons to keep on with Plan A, but daughter Candy presented several countervailing reasons to go to Plan B. The most persuasive was this one: “Since you’re in the neighborhood anyway…” To put this in perspective, you’ll want to know that Melbourne is a 4 ½ hour flight across two time zones from Auckland. That’s close to the flying distance between the East and West coasts in the US. Some neighborhood.
So, feeling neighborly, we decided to drop in. This time we had no trouble getting to the airport, checking our bags, boarding the plane, surviving the flight and disembarking in Melbourne and taxiing to the O’s. Then, however, our continuing saga of luggage lost, forgotten, misplaced, recovered, or stolen kicked in again. We almost lost another suitcase. And this time was serious. It was mine! I should have seen it coming. We got into a natural-gas-powered taxi at the airport. There was reason to suspect there could be trouble ahead. When I looked in the trunk (“boot” here, which seems to make sense to the natives), the large add-on natural gas tank consumed much of the space. The driver was still able to cram most of our luggage in, but my suitcase was consigned to front seat passenger’s space. Good solution. All was well until we emptied out the trunk and headed toward the apartment. Then Joy noticed my missing bag. I whirled around and chased the taxi as it was driving off. About the time I lifted my cane to gently catch his attention as it accelerated, he noticed the blue object to his left and hit the brake. Apologies, explanations, acceptances. And I have the suitcase. Once again, my cane to the rescue.
In a comment to our last post, friend Rosemary noted that Joy’s suitcase seems to have a mind of its own. Yes. And now mine, ordinarily giving me no trouble, nearly got lost. The truth is, these bags have demanded. In fact, it was early in our journey (our “Next Phase” but, we hope, not our “Last Phase”) that I wrote the following meditation on the intricacies involved in and vigilance required for luggage management. I share it here for your edification:
“You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” The finger on the wall warned Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, that his judgment day had arrived (Daniel 5). His profligate, hedonistic lifestyle had worn out God’s patience. He called for the scales. The verdict: Belshazzar’s vices outweighed his virtues. He had failed the scales test. Before the night was over, the king was dead.
To my knowledge, no one has dropped dead at an airline check-in counter, but I do know the scales test is one every overloaded air traveler dreads.
Picture a hypothetical couple. The harried duo make their way to the counter, their luggage (maybe containing all their worldly goods) in tow. Fear rises. Their minds can think of nothing else. The test. They might have even been arguing about the upcoming trial before they left home. Will the luggage pass? Have we stayed within the weight allowance? Or has one of them pushed her luck too far at last? These veteran travelers—this hypothetical couple—would have to confess that in each successive country their luggage has addition pounds.
Baggage obesity is not a fatal disease, but a cure requires drastic measures. Banish the excess, throw away a few treasures. Or, if that is beyond you, try this ploy: redistribute the offending contents, say, to your partner’s suitcase. This takes time. The initially nice person behind the counter suddenly grows cold and impersonal. She (mostly this person is a she) stubbornly hangs onto your boarding pass until you can prove your bag has dropped the offending weight. There’s no grace in the exercise. It’s all done by the book. The law must be satisfied. (One suspects she takes secret pleasure in watching the marital tension rise.) Words grow curt. “I told you so” is often heard. This is not a pleasant scene.
(Remember: I’m speaking hypothetically here. Nothing like this has happened to us. But we’ve heard tales.)
They are of two types, these spouses. Almost universally, he is a minimalist. His bag’s poundage falls well within the proscribed weight limit. You don’t have to look at his suitcase to know that. Just observe his relaxed demeanor—relaxed about his bag’s acceptability, that is. He can travel light. He packs the few essentials and very little else. If something is missing he can pick it up in the next country.
His partner, a maximalist, is not of his mind. She has foreseen every exigency and brought along just what’s needed to meet it. The maximalist swears as a matter of religious conviction there is always room in her soft-sided luggage for one more thing. She feels she can prove that all suitcases are designed by their maker to be crammed and stuffed and stuffed some more, stuffing without end, Amen. Meanwhile, her partner is also feeling religious. He prays the zipper will hold.
Here is where the weighing-in can threaten the sturdiest marriage. When the maximalist’s bag fails the test, the minimalist steels himself for what’s next. He has carefully calculated. He thoughtfully arranged his toiletries and socks and underwear and shirts and slacks to prevent creases and preserve a certain freshness of appearance. All is about to be lost. A new round of stuffing begins, only now it’s his suitcase that is threatened, his forethought rendered futile. Should he hint that every passenger needs to fly within the prescribed limits so that each bag passes on the obesity test on its own? No, for if he dares to suggest such, he is then accused—by the maximalist and the luggage police and all the passengers in line behind them—of being a selfish cad. Why not share his extra space? Why won’t he come to the rescue of his beleaguered companion? And why doesn’t he hurry up so other passengers can get their boarding passes, for heaven’s sake?
At this moment firmness of resolve is called for. To yield here is to have to yield in all future flights, in all subsequent countries. No lesson will be learned, no behavior will be modified. Be firm, man. You may be hated, but you will have prevailed. And you will be able to board the plane.
Please don’t misunderstand me. As I said above, this meditation on scales and weights and pushing the limits of the law (and beyond) has nothing to do with the Lawsons. I am happy to report that as of this writing all our suitcases have traveled with us from state to state and from country to country. None has ultimately failed the test (although there might have been just a little redistributing of the load from time to time). Nothing at all like what the foregoing paragraphs have imagined. Nothing at all.
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