Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lessons Learned from TSA

My travel-ready stuff

The late comedian George Carlin is famous for his riff on "stuff," the items we tote around, hoard, or covet. I once spotted Carlin in an airport waiting area, and he was NOT guarding baggage. No, he was people-watching and seemed to be getting a kick out of it.

Because I resent fees for checked bags, I pack an eighteen-inch carry-on for trips of one week or less. This means I travel without my stuff. Cute clothes? I don't pack 'em. I wear black yoga pants and a black top on the plane and pack another pair of black slacks and two more dark tops. Sometimes I get wild and crazy and pack a black skirt and black tights. Did I tell you black makes me look like a member of the Addams Family? Luckily, a colorful scarf solves that problem, and if it's big enough, it doubles as an evening wrap and triples as a bed jacket.

Once upon a time, I'd gather up the mini-size toiletries supplied by hotels and toss 'em in my bag. No more. I leave them behind, even when they're Neutrogena or Crabtree & Evelyn, because my one-quart plastic bag already bulges with regular, everyday essentials--in containers of three ounces or less.

The less-is-better lesson of travel extends to home. I no longer store make-up and moisturizer in a pretty giveaway case from Clinique. Nope, everything remains in the quart bag except the toothpaste. My bathroom counter isn't pretty, but I'm TSA-ready at a moment's notice.

Speaking of TSA, I now travel lighter in another way. Two years ago, a pat-down turned humiliating when the female agent mistook my muffin top for contraband.  "It's a roll of fat," I told her. "I keep meaning to lose weight." The agent happened to be narrower than a dragonfly and wasn't moved. She patted me down again. Since that incident I've lost twenty pounds-- one small victory in the war on drugs.

Instead of toting books with me on trip, I take my Kindle. Instead of a laptop, I carry a netbook that fits in my purse.  Admittedly, the purse isn't teeny, but it fits under the seat. What's more, I've learned to tug the combined carry-on and purse behind me as I move down a plane's aisle. So far, none of my fellow passengers has been banged up in the process.

It turns out I like a pared-down life. More to the point, I enjoy the fantasy that my next adventure is around the corner--and I'm ready for it. 

Where are you headed on your next real or fantasy trip?


Coleen Patrick said...

"one small victory in the war on drugs." :)
My last plane ride, I had on a floral print bra under a white t-shirt. I figured no one would see it because I had no plans to take off my sweater. Well, TSA had other plans. My daughter is not easily embarrassed, but her jaw dropped when she saw me walking thru the xray machine advertising my bra choice.
Oh well.
We're going somewhere next year to celebrate 20th wedding anniversary--just haven't planned it all yet.

Emma Burcart said...

Ha! I loved what you said about your victory in the war on drugs! Really, I am such a lazy person that I can't plan ahead in packing and I don't like to drag a lot with me on the plane. I pretty much just throw half of what I own into a suitcase, check it, and figure it all out when I get there. To me, those two hours I saved on planning and packing are worth 35$! I have learned because of TSA, though. I also wear yoga pants on the plane and I always wear flip flops so I don't have to worry about the shoe thing. I put all my carry on items into a gigantic purse and keep it with me at my feet. And, I bring multiple paperback books. Yes, I'm lazy and old school. But I am a happy traveler. :)

Lark Howard said...

One 18" bag for a week? Good for you, Pat. I have a United credit card that gives me a free check-on bag and I use it. I hate carrying on a rolling bag and refuse to limit my toiletries to a quart plastic bag and 3 oz. bottles.

That said, I regularly fit 2-3 weeks worth of necessities into a 22" roller bag even in winter. And wear jeans, biker boots and all kinds of TSA unfriendly garb on the plane--stripping down at security has never bothered me. Like Emma, I pack at the last minute with more impulse than forethought and am sometimes surprised at what I've brought and what I left behind.

Our next trip? Costa Rica in the spring. Can't wait to scuba dive and zip-line!!

Marcy Kennedy said...

I turned expert on getting through security while my husband and I were a long distance dating couple.

I was aghast, though, the last time I traveled. My outfit was a tiny camisole under a more normal short sleeved shirt. They actually made me take off my shirt and go through with my cami. Honestly, the over-shirt was form-fitting enough I couldn't possibly have been hiding anything under it. It felt like they were just being malicious. I would have gone with the yoga pants and comfy shirt combo, but I knew I'd be walking off the plane and into a professional situation.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Coleen, I live to embarrass my kids. It's payback for the times they acted like creatures raised by wolves.

Have fun planning your anniversary trip. For me, trip-planning is the best stress reliever going.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Emma, what matters is that you're a happy traveler! The flip flops are genius.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Lark, at a Dalllas airport earlier this week, I couldn't believe the number of people wearing boots: Uggs, fur-lined boots, boots with lots of buckles, boots with sequins. The thing is, I'm too klutzy to take off boots from a standing position without falling on my backside.

Costa Rica sounds like heaven. Happy planning.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Marcy, I'm aghast too and wonder if you were punished for being female and good looking. A camisole?!

Louise Behiel said...

great post, Pat. I find when I travel regularly, my packing goes down and down to the bare necessities, even when travelling to business meetings and business conferences. But when I travel infrequently, the weight of my luggage goes up and up and up. LOL
I'm so envious at all the travels coming up.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

Ah, who can forget "A Place for my Stuff?" One of Carlin's best!

I'm like you - I pack a small bag and avoid the checked bag fees - and the wait at baggage claim! Same with the netbook, and my phone for reading. So far I've been lucky with the TSA, although I have no idea when or where I'll travel next. With a kid starting college next fall, it's going to be something cheap and within driving distance!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I hear you, Louise. When I travel a lot, I develop a system. When a year or more passes between flights, I forget the drill and turn into the person who has to be reminded to take off her shoes.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I have fond memories of visits to kids in college, Jennette. I think you'll like the new chapter in your life. Bonus: car trips can turn into great blog fodder.

Anonymous said...

Pat, there are many lessons I could learn from your travel light tips! I'm the worst hoarder / carrier of things that I might need 'just in case...'. Cheers to a simpler life :)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Alarna!
I know all about the "things I might need" trap and used to pack bandages, antiseptic, Tums, and cold remedies. Know what? It's an experience to visit a pharmacy at your destination and ask for advice. Sure, it takes time away from sightseeing, but that local stop may turn out to be (in retrospect) a memorable moment.