“Do you think you packed enough stuff?”
“I’m not sure, I’m checking my list.”
“There is a limit to how much the car can hold and we’re only going to be gone for 24 hours.”
This is just a sampling of a typical conversation between my brother and I as we prepare to go to a ministry event that requires us to stay overnight. It seems like every trip we debate the difference between things we will actually need and my obsessive, compulsive packing disorder. If it were up to him, we’d pack a change of clothes and the things we needed for the ministry event. Maybe, just maybe, he’d take a few snacks and a bottle of water—although probably not. He’d say something silly like we could buy anything we wanted at our destination. (He’s so logical and practical)
On the other hand, I like to be prepared for every possible scenario. I’d hate to be at our destination and find that we left something we needed at home. That’s why I start planning and packing at least a week before our trip—so we’ll be ready for anything that life (or the next 24 hours) throws at us.
I usually start by making a list. After all, what is more fun, I mean practical, than making a list? I write down everything we could possible need for our survival and comfort in the course of 24 hours. The average list would include tooth brushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, soap, toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, bed sheets, bath towels…..
Yes, I can just hear you now as you think, “Wait a minute! Are you camping out? Don’t you know that the average hotel (okay, even the slightly below average hotel) provides things like bed sheets, soap, and bath towels?”
Alright, now you sound like my brother.
No, we’re not going camping. (Been there, done that, this crazy lady doesn’t sleep on the freezing cold ground.) And yes, I realize that hotels provide these items. I just don’t like using their things—I like using MY things. This is where my packing disorder begins.
At this point I wish I could give you a big explanation of why I don’t like using other people’s things. I wish I could tell you of a traumatic event that created a phobia and sent me to the therapist’s office to explore why I don’t like hotel rooms. But the truth is nothing like that happened. The truth is that I have a very logical explanation for each item I bring. (Okay, logical in my own world—but still logical)
Let’s start with the most basic item—the bed sheets. Yes, I realize that hotels thoroughly wash and sterilize their bed sheets to make sure they are ready for the next guest. However, whatever detergent they use to wash the sheets stinks! I literally cannot stand the smell of it. Honestly, where do they get their laundry detergent? My grocery store sells laundry detergents that smell like lavender or a spring breeze. Why do hotels choose laundry detergents that smell like harsh chemicals? Why do they thing that scent makes me want to sleep? All it does is keep me awake while I think, “I can’t stand the smell of these sheets!” So to solve the problem, I take my own sheets and throw them over their sheets. That way, my bed smells like home—not Clorox.
This is the same reason that I take my own pillows. Okay, there’s also the fact that many people drool when they sleep and I just think it’s disgusting to put your face on the same pillow that a stranger drooled on. I’m not even nuts about lending my pillow to a family member. Why would I want to use the same pillow as some guy named Herman from Ohio that I’ve never met? Better add pillows to the list.
Okay, so I have a few minor phobias. But they aren’t all my fault. Some of my issues are the direct result of hyperactive news coverage. (I tend to hear things on the news and become instantly obsessed about avoiding whatever disaster they are reporting on. For instance, a few weeks ago someone on Facebook posted that by 2017 we'd all be implanted with microchips and I obsessed about it pretty much for the next 24 hours.) If you think that was bad, you can imagine my reaction to the heavily reported story of the bed bug outbreak at hotels!
It was actually kind of funny. Just before we were supposed to start travelling to men's and women's conferences this fall, a story about bed bugs came on the radio. As soon as he heard the topic, my brother reached over and changed the station saying, "You don't need to hear this, you have to go to hotels in a few weeks." He knows me so well.
And he was right. He was also right there when I ordered an Aero Bed to take with me on our trip so I could avoid the possibility of bed bugs or an uncomfortable mattress. Yeah, travelling with me is fun!!!
In addition to my own bed and my own personal products, I also carry my own food and water with my when we travel. For this I actually do have a very logical explanation. You see I have food allergies, and I don’t want to spend the entire ministry event, not to mention the trip back home, looking for a restroom. After all, we didn’t drive all this way just for me to sit in the ladies room with a hot water bottle on my stomach calming the cramps. We came to meet people and spread the word about our ministries. Personally, I find it less embarrassing to bring my own cooler full of food than spend the better part of the trip running to the bathroom and controlling my bodily functions. And the truth is that if I stop to eat at a restaurant on the way to the event, I will be stopping at every restaurant on the way home from the event to—well, you know.
Allergies are also the reason that I take my own soap and shampoo. For some reason, my skin doesn’t respond well to all beauty products. For instance, a few weeks ago I tried a new hair product to help me deal with a rather bad haircut. Within minutes, I felt itchy and my face started turning red. Fortunately, I was at home and I could was the product out of my hair quickly.
But could you imagine if this happened while we were at convention? Let’s say, I decided to live on the wild side and leave my soap at home and use the soap the hotel provided. It wouldn’t be long before I’d be standing behind a table talking about our ministry, and I’d start itching. Then my face would start turning red and blotchy. It might even start to swell.
Soon I wouldn’t be able to think about anything but the insane itching. People would start to point and laugh. Then I’d fall asleep right there at the convention from the anti-histamine I took to calm the allergic reaction. Suddenly, we’d be the display with the itchy, blotchy sleeping woman---not the reputation we’re trying to achieve.
Anyway, that’s enough of that. The truth is that by the time I pack everything I think I need to go on a trip we have quite a lot of stuff. I mean by the time I pack my Aerobed, all the bedding and bath towels, blankets (because is it just me or are all hotel rooms freezing?), paper products, food, drinks, paper plates and utensils, there’s barely room for our clothes.
Of course, I can’t just bring an extra outfit. What if I fall and rip my slacks and I need another pair in a hurry? Better take 2-3 extra pair.
What if I spill something on my blouse? Better safe than sorry, better take a couple extra blouses.
If it’s cold I’ll need a sweater. If it’s really cold, I’ll need a coat. Better take more than one pair of shoes—just in case I step in a puddle and one pair gets wet.
Oh, and I have to remember my Crocs—after all, if I don’t bring them I will actually have to put my bare feet on the shower floor or the hotel carpeting. That’s not going to happen!
So I pack, and pack, and pack, and pack, until I have everything I think I could possibly need to survive the next 24 hours. And I try to get my brother to take everything he could ever need. Of course he just looks at me like, “Don’t even drag me into this. I’m taking an extra shirt, my pajamas and an extra pair of underwear. I’m sleeping in the bed the hotel provides and using their sheets. And don’t get too freaked out, ‘Dess, but I’m going to use their towels!”
Then we load the car to capacity, and take off on our trip. As he’s listening to the radio, I’m wondering if I brought everything.
When we finally get to the hotel, we usually need a cart to help us get all of my stuff to our room. After I’ve filled the entire cart to overflowing will pillows, suitcases, the cooler and various other things, I wait while he goes and checks into the hotel.
On our last trip I noticed something while I was standing there waiting for him to check in and guarding most of my worldly possessions. While I was people watching I noticed that most of the guys attending the convention didn’t have carts to take their things to their rooms. In fact, most only had a duffle bag which I supposed carried the same basic necessities Jamie would take with him if I weren’t there.
At that moment, I felt genuinely embarrassed for Jamie. The feeling only increased as we entered the elevator and all the one-bag guys had to make room for the guy with the cart full of bags. As we rode the elevator, you know they were thinking, “Who’s the Chump that brought his wife to the event and got stuck lugging all her stuff?”
Little did they know that I’m not even his wife—he got stuck lugging all of his sister’s stuff around!!!
The next morning (because all of this preparation is for a very quick trip) as we carried everything back out to the car, I wondered if maybe I hadn’t packed just a little too much. Maybe there were some things I could have done without. Of course, I haven’t figured out what those things are yet and I’ll probably take most of the same things along this year when we make the trip again. And again, people will stare and wonder, “Who’s the crazy lady that brought everything but the kitchen sink to this perfectly nice hotel?”
It's crazy, but it's true. Well, I'd better go pack--we're leaving in less than a week!