The man had forgotten to pack his shorts, so on the first morning of a two-week wilderness retreat in Northern California he hitched a ride to town.
He was an ample man, this New Yorker, and he favored full-cut shorts. The commune-like crossroads that he came to had a general store that catered to slim-hipped lads who liked bikini briefs. The ample man took his business to a bigger town with a larger selection.
I heard about this summertime predicament from his wife, a merry soul who thrives on misadventure. She followed his tale of hasty packing with one of her own: They had been invited to be house guests at a country estate and attend a gala round of costume balls and other festivities.
"What to wear?" asked my frustrated friend as she packed everything. Everything, that is, except underpants.
On the morning before the first party the hostess phoned to say, "Our driver is at your disposal if you wish to do any touring."
My friend was relieved.
"The chauffeur drove me in a stretch limo to the nearest K mart and I stocked up on Fruit of the Loom," she reported.
Such mentionables are left behind more often than one might suspect. Travelers get involved with climatic considerations and with the colors of suits and shoes and shirts and sweaters; they forget the bottom line.
Underwear is not the easiest item to replace, which is why I pack the way I dress--from the inside out.
You don't have to put lingerie into the suitcase first, but it helps if you start by mentally dressing and pulling out what you will need.
I know a fellow who left his drawers in a drawer in Delhi and ended up without a change in Sri Lanka. There are no boxer shorts in Sri Lanka, at least not at the weekend market in Kandy. He bought a skimpy cotton model that did not survive its first laundry.
This is the same traveler who decided, in the blur of an early departure, to save suitcase space by leaving behind the bottoms of his warm-up suit. He regretted this on his first morning run in Europe and wallowed in the wisdom of hindsight. Then he spent 18,000 lira (which on that day was $14 U.S.) for a pair of gray sweat pants at the splendid Florence flea market in the shadow of the church of San Lorenzo and the Medici tombs of Michelangelo.
I forgot to pack a swimsuit on a trip to Italy and was stymied as I started for the elegant indoor pool hidden in the gardens of the Villa d'Este on Lake Como. The high-fashion suits in the boutique seemed either too-too or not enough. Then I spied a discreet tank suit that had gone unclaimed in the locker room and had been through the laundry with the thick, fluffy towels.
I swam my laps and felt better about the hearty risotto and veal and dessert--all with sauce--that I'd enjoyed the night before.
I am still weighing the comment of a silver-haired American who turned as I climbed from the pool:
"Atta boy, girl," he drawled.