Sunday, March 14, 2010

Packing light

When I pack, I tend to follow a combination of two strategies. I gather the things I need as I come across them, and I make little ad hoc lists. Unfortunately, sometimes things fall through the cracks.

For instance, I was at work on Thursday printing out copies of all the handouts and documents I needed for my various activities and putting them in a folder. But I was also doing a bunch of other things at the same time. At one point, I got ready to print the financial spreadsheet for the treasurer's report, but noticed that my preview had grid lines on it. I canceled the print command and went back to see if I could get rid of the grid lines. Something intervened, and I never got back to the spreadsheet. So Sunday morning at the business meeting, I unclip all my papers and realize that I didn't bring that one.

One of my colleagues asked later if I'd ever gone to a conference and forgotten to bring a copy of the paper I was presenting. That's never happened to me, but only because in the past I used to be absolutely paranoid about it. I used to pack two copies of my paper, one in my carry-on and one in my luggage, along with extra copies of my itinerary, the front and back of my credit cards and identity documents, et cetera, et cetera.

These days, though, I've gotten too confident in my travel skills. Just one manila folder stuffed into the front pocket of my tote bag, the minimum number of outfits I need to get through the weekend, no backups. I wouldn't have been helped by redundancy on this trip; the financial report was a sheaf of copies, and it would never have occurred to me to bring an extra printout for safekeeping. But I realized that my growing complacency about packing might come back to bite me in some more important way down the line. Maybe next time I'll be back to my measure twice, cut once ways.

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