I’m a good packer. I make no bones about bragging about that. I have sought ways over the years to whittle down my travel necessities to a tidy minimum. Advances in technology have helped enormously. Sixteen years ago, if I was going abroad for any length of time, I would pack in my suitcase a small Canon printer and a fax machine. It seems extraordinary now, but back then email was in its infancy. We had no home computer. Who did? Who had a mobile phone? Barely anyone I knew. Who had a laptop before 1995? Back then, they were the preserve of the very rich or high-flying businessmen.
I did have a Psion organiser though, packed with 128kbs of memory. It was a nifty gizmo that could fit in a jacket pocket. I could type documents on its clamshell keyboard, which I then printed and faxed. The Psion could do basic spreadsheets too and if you held it up to the mouthpiece of a telephone it could tone-dial phone numbers in its address book. That seemed just so cool at the time. The more I think about it, the more I realise it was a truly advanced gadget. Palm Pilots came along, touch screens became all the rage and Psion stopped production, but if someone produced a similar-sized device with everything that such a gadget is capable of now, it would probably sell like hotcakes.
Why all the faxing? Phone bills were always a massive part of the expense of being abroad. I used to spend many hundreds of pounds on phone calls during every opera job I did. It was just something you had to do. There were no cheap phone cards, there was no Skype. There was rarely any competition between phone companies too, so prices were high and there was nothing you could do about it. International phone calls were simply very, very costly.
So when faxes came along it wasn’t hard to see how you could save a lot of money by replacing a fifteen-minute conversation with a one-minute fax. A printer and fax machine (which cost about £100 each) could easily pay for themselves in the course of one job. When I moved into new digs, the very first thing I would do was unplug the phone and replace it with my fax machine. Then I’d find somewhere to set up my printer. The mileage of cables I needed for all this staggers my mind today.
I always dreamed though that a time would come when I wouldn’t have to fill half my suitcase with office equipment and now… Well it’s easy, isn’t it? Except that luggage allowances have also tumbled so the pressure to miniaturise and cut weight has stayed the same. Gone are the days when I could bring a folding bike as well as my suitcase. After years of carrying around a laptop (as well as, in the early years, an external modem and all kinds of adapters) I’m not even doing that anymore. An iPad can do everything I need.
No, there’s no doubt, I’m a good packer. I like to steer well inside the weight limit. The missus, not so much. It’s the toiletries I reckon. I’m packed in 20 minutes. The missus, half a day. Toiletries again. And then, when we get to the airport hotel, she repacks all over again. Or so it seems. It’s possibly a Mars vs Venus thing.
And so it was today. Unfortunately she felt the weight of her bags compared to the weight of mine (damn!) and on the quiet I have become encumbered with a vast 2 kilo score of “The Marriage of Figaro”, a raincoat and a large bag of electrical stuff. All hers.
I addressed the Figaro issue. Didn’t go down well. I was rewarded with a look. So now I’m a luggage mule who’s in the doghouse.
She is en route to St Louis via Washington DC whereas I, going most of the way on Virgin airmiles, am travelling via Chicago. I’ve just got to remember to slip the bottle of cologne she had me buy for her at Terminal 3 into my checked luggage when I get to Chicago or I’ll have to negotiate it through security before my connection. I have no liquids in my hand luggage at the moment. See? Good packing that is.
Now the only issue left is: if I post this will she ever speak to me again?

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