July 22, 2011

Packing is, I find, a very idiosyncratic process. I think each of us has a different way of packing! My way is to try and get some space where I can leave my suitcases, and keep throwing things into it; and then, at a suitable time (which I keep postponing, alas) I sit down and pack it all in properly.

I was not, earlier, a very good packer; my suitcases would rather easily become “full”….but the plus was that the said suitcases were not very heavy. KM and were (are) excellent packers, but it would need a crane to lift a suitcase once they are done!

Over the years, I’ve learnt how to pack fragile things, to keep shoes at the base (spine) of the suitcase, to fill up hollow things with items of clothes, and so on…not to mention packing and repacking certain food items to prevent them from leaking all over the contents of the luggage (thankfully, a lesson I’ve not had to learn the hard way.)

I’ve learnt to keep a list by me (half my time is occupied by searching for the list!) and over the years, the list has also increased…things like laptop, power cord for laptop, camera, battery charger for camera, card reader for camera, and so on, were not there earlier! Electronic items seem to figure quite largely in hand luggage.I’ve learnt to use my computer bag as my personal handbag, on long-haul flights, along with one carry-on strolley.

The throwing away, at security, of several small scissors and, on one memorable occasion, my beloved tiny Swiss Army knife, have taught me to pack all nail clippers and scissors and safety pins in my check-in baggage. Safety pins, you ask? Yes. I was once upbraided on keeping these terrorist weapons in my carry-on baggage, and they were thrown out. Alas, I was, at the time, wearing a shawl around my head, pinned in place with two safety pins…they made it through that weird security check! Apparently I could terrorize the plane only with unused safety pins.

I’ve learnt to buy only suitcases with number locks, so that at international airport, after the security screening is done, I twirl the locks and secure my baggage against light-fingered handlers (oh yes, there are many, still!) When I am entering the US, or exiting it, I often still find a billet-doux from the TSA inside my luggage, their equivalent of “Kilroy was here”.

I’ve learnt to carry an empty water bottle along, and fill it up after the security checks, as on long flights, very often it takes the stewardesses a long time to fetch water, in cattle class. I’ve learnt to carry little snacks with me, as it’s not always possible to go to a snack bar and order something to eat in the interval between one connecting flight and another. (I remember an occasion when my daughter carried curd rice in her carry-on baggage from Portland, Maine…and when it was not allowed, she sat there in the security area, and ate it up, saying she was not going to waste such a precious thing!)

I’ve learnt that the size of luggage, and weight allowances, often depend not on strict rules, but on the discretion of the staff at the check-in counter. Sometimes harassment occurs, most often there isn’t any.

I am still extremely annoyed at some airlines charging for the second piece of luggage, and then charging by weight. Why should my 250-lb fellow-passenger be allowed the same weight of luggage as I am (110 lbs)? I am scared to write this as some airline official might be delighted to read this and spot and opportunity for even more charges!

I’ve learnt to use cabin baggage that just fits under the seat in front. On long flights, it’s often very comfortable to put my feet on the strolley, and stretch as much as I can, on the instrument of torture that an economy class passenger seat is.

here’s my take on aircraft seats in econonmy class

I’ve learnt to always buy wheeled luggage (yes, I belong to an era before it became de rigeur!) with strong handles. I’ve learnt to make friends with my luggage repair guy in Jayanagar 4th Block, and get non-wheeled strolleys “well-wheeled”! Yes, indeed I’ve become a “wheeler-dealer”…at least in terms of my luggage!

I’ve learnt to pack one change of clothes in my carry-on baggage, and a toothbrush, in case my case doesn’t arrive along with me (it’s happened several times, and thankfully, is happening less often.)

So…excuse me while I go and get stuffed…get my luggage stuffed, that is! A weekend in New York will be followed by a marathon journey to Chennai, and then back home…..hopefully, with my luggage.