Sunday, November 7, 2010

Separation Anxiety

Apparently I am more of a homebody that I care to think. Back in my days (ha! decades) of living in Massachusetts, I directed a lot of energy to getting out of town. It was easy to blast out for a weekend to visit friends and family who lived in great places like southern Maine, Cape Cod and Long Island. I could pack an overnight bag and be out of the house in about 30 minutes and within 1.5 to 3 hours had arrived at a fresh destination that was ripe with possibilities.

Friends and family still live in great places, but I am now 1,200 miles away from most of them. I rarely travel, except for the annual week-long trip home during either Christmas or Thanksgiving. Overnight trips for me were driven to near-extinction when I left New England for Tennessee in 2001, which makes them that much trickier to deal with now. I stay home a lot, because for one thing, I don't really have any place else to go for just a night or two.

My job requires rare overnight travel. Because I am so out of practice, it now takes me about as long to pack for an overnight trip as it does to get to the destination. A three hour car trip to southeastern Tennessee is easily worth four hours of planning and packing. At least with a car trip, there is more latitude in taking extra stuff. There are more places to put stuff, like the trunk, the backseat hanging hooks, by your feet, the entire back seat.

Recently, I was handed the ultimate nightmare assignment – an overnight trip by plane. With two of my bosses. We leave today.

The first issue to deal with in this most distressing scenarios is baggage. It turns out I don’t even own the right bag for a one night plane trip (where I care what the baggage looks like). I have a dance bag, several gym bags, a carryon bag with a shoulder strap that broke last June when I went home, a duffel with a shoulder strap that broke on the last overnight business car trip, and a wheeled camera case. My smallest wheeled suitcase is more like a weekend bag and slightly too large. My other suitcase is large enough to have accommodated me in Korea for three weeks. An intact overnight bag that is not embarrassing in front of the superiors is not currently part of my reality. And even though I thought about shopping for a bag during a five minute window of opportunity back on Thursday, it was the five minutes right before TJ Maxx was closing, and I was a good ten minutes from the place.

I am not much of a wardrobe planner, either, so choosing clothing in advance is like the ultimate punishment. What will the weather be? What activities do I need to dress for? What mood will I be in? I am not a freeking psychic. In daily life, I usually wake up, check the thermometer outside the dining room window and boldly wing it in the clothing department. An incorrect guess can usually be rectified during a trip home for lunch in about four hours (three if it was a really big miscalculation).

Being away from the wardrobe department for an extended duration (like 24 hours) is tailspin territory. Almost always, some critical item is not packed – like pajamas. Or the jacket to the suit I thought I would wear. Or shoes with the correct heel height to prevent my pants from either dragging on the ground or looking like I did after that mortifying 7th grade early-fall growth spurt that resulted in having to wear floods the rest of a school year when capris and cropped pants were not in style.

So off I go, on a business trip, seemingly to the middle of nowhere. No time in the schedule for a side trip to WalMart for corrections (if there even is one). No time for shopping at the airport, as the menfolk are running the day on a much tighter schedule than I would have if on my own.

I already miss my Sunday routine of home cooking, laundry, relaxation and shows on AMC. Hey, it may sound boring, but it helps me gear down for the coming workweek. There is aggravation from missing the Sunday open skate and a team practice just one week before the next derby skills test. Completely stressed out from packing, and not sure I have the right clothing, my bag is now half stuffed with the paperwork one of the bosses sent me into the office on Saturday to retrieve.

Staying home is so much easier. No wonder I do it so much. And I have finally chilled out enough to be good at it.

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