It was not the wealth of Gloria Vanderbilt that wracked me with envy in the tale "Little Gloria, Happy at Last." It was the blithe moment when she turned to a household servant and called: "I'm off for Europe tomorrow. See that I'm packed."
Can you imagine such luxury? Can you imagine not mixing or matching or weighing a wardrobe? Can you imagine having all your buttons sewed on all your sleeves on short notice? Can you imagine having your favorite suit--your travel uniform--hanging ready in the closet and not locked in a dry cleaner's in the midst of a three-day weekend?
Choosing Your Items
Can you imagine having a trusted servant or friend or spouse who would know you so well as to choose what you would need or want or fit into?
I can't. I believe you can marry someone for better or for worse, but not for packing. Few things are more personal. Do you really want to lug that quart-size bottle of your favorite mouthwash, instead of, just this once, trying a small vial of Binaca. Must you have a clean shirt every day and night or will you wing it, if weather permits and laundry time does not?
There are a few mentionables that I won't leave at home, such as Lubriderm lotion. I buy the large economy size, but keep refilling an eight-ounce plastic bottle, so that I can keep it at my side in the world's arid places, such as deserts or jets.
I carry dental floss because, when you need it, nothing else will do. It also can serve as a slim cord for tying things together in an emergency.
I toss in a package of disposable razors because I don't want to halt a day's ramble to search for a place that sells razors--after leaving mine behind in a hotel shower.
I have a friend who travels with dozens of Ziploc storage bags. When opened, her suitcase shines like a briefcase of new ransom bills. These plastic, self-seal holders separate cosmetics, medicine, underwear, sweaters, scarfs, wet swimsuits, muddy tennis shoes, stationery, stamps, shells collected from a South Pacific beach or shards of cold lava from Mt. Etna.
She carries extra bags for carting off mints or an apple or a tin of juice to get her through an afternoon; she uses them for stashing a leaf or fallen berry for later identification.
I have another friend, a foreign correspondent and yachtsman, who starts each trip with a small suitcase and an empty canvas duffel. On a fast-moving assignment or slow-sailing cruise, he moves clothes into the drawstring tote as they become laundry. At journey's end, it's all sorted out: He has a light valise of clean clothes and gifts, and an over-the-shoulder duffel of stuff to be washed.
So there, Gloria Vanderbilt. I'm off for Europe tomorrow. See that I'm packed. But make sure that it all goes with black shoes or camel.