Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Finally after all those false starts, I have my marching orders: pick up an airplane in Calgary and take it to the job site. Ironically, despite being certain I was going to work any day now for almost three weeks, I still haven't packed. I don't like packing. It's probably part acknowledging the fact that I have to leave my cocoon and go out in the cold hard world for a work rotation, and part just the irritating process of finding everything I need and putting it in a suitcase so that it fits and won't get damaged. And it always seems to take me hours to pack. This time it will be different.

I print off my packing checklist and start my timer; I think it was designed as a kitchen timer; it has big giant numbers and buttons, and is easily programmed to count up or down. I use it as an IFR timer. The clock is running.

I take the suitcase out of the closet. It already contains some items that I only use at work, but I have to make sure what is there. I take them all out and put them on the bed, then start putting things that are on the list back in, as fast as I can find them, check them off and put them in. I find and pack everything in 99 minutes. That seems really slow, but it's way better than normal. I used to marshall everything on the bed first and then pack it all in prescribed places in the suitcase, so everything got checked off twice (with different sorts of checkmarks), once for being on the bed and once for being packed in the appropriate suitcase. And remember I am packing for up to six weeks, for a number of unknown (at the time of packing) locations which could be anywhere from thirty below to forty above.

Before you tell me I should repack everything, or repack everything but the things I will need while I'm home, as soon as I get home, I already tried that and it doesn't work. I used to get home, do laundry and repack everything. But over the month it was irritating to have things I needed be in the suitcase, and I kept needing to use things I thought I wouldn't, and taking them out, so by the time it was time to leave for work, I had to take everything left in the suitcase out again in order to find out what wasn't there anymore, and then we're back to the original packing problem.

And then you will tell me that I need to have duplicates of items so I don't need them during the month. I do have two pairs of running shoes, duplicate toiletries, and some clothes that I use just for work, but I don't have two iPods or computers or heart rate monitors and some of the things I take with me I take because I LIKE them so I'm not going to deprive myself of my favourite sweater just because I also use it for work.

I've gained four pounds since my last rotation--the only time I weigh myself is to tare the scale before picking up my suitcase to make sure it will be allowed on the airplane. I'd say "who cares, people fluctuate that much over a day," except that I can figure out where the extra weight is, and it isn't hiding very stealthily. My suitcase is six pounds overweight, but it's easier to trim down to size. Actually it's not very easy to choose things to leave behind. Instead I pack some heavy things into a leather bag that is already packed inside the suitcase. I'll have two carryons. I think I did that last time, too. I often do it on the way home, if I have souvenirs.

Ready to go. And just as I have this ready to post, xkcd has the perfect comic for me.


kbq said...

Ummm... you went retro and used a bunch of hairspray? (this, in green: http://momgrind.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/beehive-hairstyle.JPG)


Aviatrix said...

That does look remarkably like me, but no, I'd look too much like Marge Simpson in such an updo, and the cockpit isn't that big.

Cirrocumulus said...

I love the cartoon. If only!

Kevin said...

"it isn't hiding very stealthily"...

Are congratulations in order? :-)

And an upcoming sabbatical from work?

If so - congratulations!

Kevin K

Aviatrix said...

I was going to just ignore that Kevin, but this blog can be educational. To suggest to a woman you don't even know that a tiny weight gain means that she is pregnant and ought to be happy about the situation is the nadir of taste. I can't think of a situation where it wouldn't be insulting, distressing or overly personal.

Never do it again.

zb said...

Wow. I never seem to be able to pack fast enough. Never as in: To the point where I think I wouldn't enjoy a job that has me living out of the suitcase a lot.

Sarah said...

I usually pack for trips while the airport taxi is on the way. This has caused some problems... on one trip, I found I'd forgotten to pack any underwear. Fortunately, I now have a checklist.

* Money
* ID, passport
* clothes

and I can sort the rest out. Luckily, I don't have to plan on 6 week trips to the hinterlands.

A Squared said...

I've had trips where I've been in both Suriname and Thule, neither of which were on the schedule when I left home. Tough to pack for that.

* Money
* ID, passport

I figure if I have money, my passport and my pilot certificate, I can buy anything else I forgot or didn't anticipate. Not that I just buy everything new, every trip, just that as long as I have those things, everything else can be improvised.

Aviatrix said...

You're assuming you get sent places that have stores.

A Squared said...

Generally, I am

Michael5000 said...

Now, I wouldn't suggest you change your packing strategy because its systematic quality seems consistent with your M.O. I will be so bold as to suggest that, even if you don't like packing, you sneakily like disliking packing in this particular fashion.

I'm only guessing of course.... : )

Aviatrix said...

I like disliking packing haphazardly or I like disliking packing slowly?

Michael5000 said...

thinks carefully

You like... disliking... packing... systematically!!! ...is my theory.

Aviatrix said...

I like being packed systematically. And I like accomplishing the packing job, so I suppose I like putting the last item in, and I may like putting the second to last item in because I'm almost at the last item, but that doesn't allow one to deduce that by induction I like putting the twenty-seventh item in.

Michael5000 said...

aha! Like, I've always been a long-distance jogger. Does that mean I enjoy jogging long distances? No, it means I enjoy having jogged a long distance.

Anoynmous said...

Were I to find myself needing to pack a relatively stable set of things on a regular basis, I would probably have a dedicated dresser drawer or two for them. That would provide an automatic staging area, and it would give me a specific place to keep the things that I want to use when they're not packed. I would almost certainly have an electronic checklist. Maybe a future iPad or Android device will have a built-in bar code scanner so I could label everything and go full geek on the task.

There are many things that I am glad I have experienced, but which I was not all that happy to actually experience at the time.

Anonymous said...

Herman the German

Many thanks for a great website! May I make a suggestion to further increase interest by us non-aviation types? Is it possible to print a list of all the aviation abbreviations you use,down one side of your blog,with their meanings?
Bles you

Aviatrix said...

I explain them fairly regularly, probably enough to annoy the aviation readers, but a single post that would serve as an abbreviation guide might not be a bad idea. Usually when I don't explain them at all they don't matter and you can kind of gloss over them, thinking "airplane thing" without loss of context. See, I bet you could find commercial pilots who weren't quite sure what VOR or ATIS stood for. Hmm, I wouldn't bet a lot on my expansion of ATIS.