I'm leaving on assignment in a couple of days. I fly to Texas and then on to Belize where I'll roam the Yucatan rain forest investigating what went wrong with the Mayan end of the world.
The archeological inspection may require some serious Indiana Jones stuff crawling through forgotten tombs, battling looters, and contending with ancient face-melting curses. I'll pack mules loaded with enough food, medicine, and ammunition to last …
OK, it's a cruise. And since my wife is coming along, it isn't one of those debauched bloat floats where everyone stays drunk for a week. If I come home with new scars or tattoos, I'll remember how they got there.
This is a geezer cruise socks and sandals, slathered sun block, and Bermudas pulled up to my armpits. Boring.
It was billed as a carefree vacation. All we're supposed to do is show up at the airport with our passports. Travel, food, accommodations, excursions-all arranged by experts.
But we might as well be going on an archeological exploration for all the preparation. If it's just the wife and me on this vacation, how is it that packing for a week takes a week?
Vacations were less problematic when I was a kid. The old man would sling me into the back of a station wagon where I would remain more or less until the trip was over.
It was like cruising in a ship's brig. Food and water were passed hand over hand to the deepest bowels of the car. I saw a lot of America driving away from it.
Vacations became even more carefree when I ostensibly left home. Either I road-tripped with friends less prepared than myself, or I stuck out my thumb on a highway.
Packing then consisted of whatever I had on me when the mood to travel struck. Anything else had to be something I was willing to hysterically abandon if the California Highway Patrol rolled up.
Things became slightly more complicated once I got married. Suddenly there was an overnight bag involved. Curlers, hair dryer, cosmetics, and other indispensable woman's stuff had to be collected, inventoried, and carefully packed.
Even with a wife along, traveling was still relatively carefree. I could get by with a change of clothes and a comb. It all fit into a single paper bag.
Then came children. Suddenly we needed a diaper bag in addition to the overnight bag, which by then had companion medication and food bags. The amount of creams, ointments, medicines, shoes, and grooming items skyrocketed into extra suitcases.
Note: This would still have been manageable had my wife permitted me to pack our kids the way the old man had done to me. Unfortunately she was of the opinion that I deserved this and our girls didn't.
Eventually, through no fault of mine, our girls left home. Then it was just the two of us vacationing again. It would be just like the old days if, well, we weren't old.
Packing for vacation now consists of gathering up the million odd things we need to function on a normal level. We have a bag just for our medications. There's also a shoe bag, a pillow bag, a laundry bag, a laptop bag, and…hell, I don't know. More bags.
Maybe I can buy a mule in Belize.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.