Today is the day I pack for a trip—teaching watercolor on a ship cruising up the Inland Passage into Alaska– but I have reached a point where I would rather stay home than cope with the mounting number of things to do before I leave. A few weeks ago when I hauled out the suitcase and put a few things in, that was fun. I started a list, that was fun. The anticipation was mild and dreamy and nothing was crucial because there was plenty of time. I took a whole hour to plan the paints I would take and to squeeze them into my travel palette.
But as the departure day got closer, the list of things to remember to do got more complicated: re-new prescriptions, hold the mail, pay bills before I go, anticipate bills that expect to be paid while I am gone, instructions for the house/cat-sitter and oh my god, I got rid of cable TV months ago and though I have been quite happy without it, what if the cat sitter requires the ability to watch Animal Planet while she’s here? Sheets. She needs clean sheets and I leave at 5 in the morning, must remember to make the bed. What if I forget my passport? Did I put it back where I always keep it or did I put it someplace new so as not to forget it? What if that book comes in at the library and I miss picking it up? Then I am back to number 458 on three copies.
Mid-week, a puddle of water collected outside the water meter hole on my parking strip. I pried open the lid of the hole to discover eight inches of standing water.
“Oh god,” I thought. “I have to get the entire house re-plumbed. My house-sitter won’t have any water. I can’t go. ”
The city’s emergency techs came at 1:00 in the morning, woke me up and got the cats all excited, but fixed the leak.
Then my friend Nancy who can tell every time I have de-constructed a thought, and who is going with me on this trip, called to say that after reading all the material from the booking agent, she isn’t sure she has any clothes appropriate for the trip.
“What are you talking about?”
“Haven’t you read the material?” Nancy is an English teacher. I wonder how many times a quarter she asks that question.
“Not yet, why?”
“They are very particular about how you, as an ambassadress for the ship, and your guest, me, present ourselves.
“Nancy,” I said. “I don’t think you have anything in your closet that isn’t appropriate for this trip. I think they are concerned about someone coming to dinner in a thong and a tank top with no bra.”
My painting partner, Susan, told me a great story from when she was running a nursing agency in central California. A male aide came in one day wearing see-through pants and no underwear.
“You’ll have to go home and change,” Susan told him.
“There’s nothing in the regulations,” he challenged her.
“I realize there is nothing in our regulations that say you are not allowed to come to work naked, nevertheless, you are not.”
“I can report you.”
“Go right ahead. But for today you need to put some underpants on.”
I looked through the massive amount of info from the booking agent and by the time I got done reading it, I seriously wondered if I had anything in my closet appropriate to their dress code. And there were an inordinate number of references to reasons a staff member might be “put off the boat.”
Nancy and I had a long discussion about what clothes we would take. The new on-going joke looks to be what we might do that would get us put off the boat. I am supposed to wear business attire when I teach, specifically slacks and a blouse. I don’t own any blouses, as such. Could I get “put off the boat” for teaching in what are essentially leggings and a T-shirt? I mean they are very nice leggings, new in fact, and very nice T-shirts. They aren’t even T-shirts, they are “tops.”
As of this writing, Nancy is already on her way to our port so she is theoretically out of my worry range. I leave tomorrow morning. I can just get the suitcase closed. That was another thing: the challenge —and the commitment —was to get everything into a carry-on bag. And use up all the perishables in the fridge but still have what I need tomorrow morning. I wonder if they put people off the boat for obsessing.
In any case, you might not hear from me for a week. If I have the appropriate attire, I will post a blog from the ship. Or wherever I am when they put me off the boat.