Here’s what I want you to do. Go outside and open your car doors. Now gather all your earthly possessions and shove them into your backseat. After that, strap the rest of your belongings to the roof, including your dishwasher, La-Z-Boy, lawn tractor, and all three of your children.
Now you know how my wife travels.
The only major difference is that we don’t have children, so our lawn tractor usually rides shotgun.
Packing the car is always a major challenge for us inasmuch as my wife does not travel lightly. My wife’s idea of travel is to bring everything but our window treatments.
Thus, whenever I prepare our vehicle for vacation mode, I painstakingly pack our car so that no space is wasted. When I’m finished packing, our automobile interior usually resembles the jigsaw puzzle from hell.
Even so, it never fails to amaze me, once our trip is finished we can never manage to fit everything back inside the car.
This often means that before we travel back home, my wife has to make the difficult decision of leaving certain things behind, such as, for example, me.
This morning we awoke early to leave Birmingham after vacation. We have been staying in Alabama for a few weeks in a small rental cottage. We had a long drive ahead of us. But before we could hit the highway we had to pack our car.
(Cue Hitchcock music.)
As it turned out, the biggest challenge wasn’t physically loading the car. The worst issue was The Hill.
Birmingham is a hilly city in north-cental Alabama, nestled beneath the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Most residents have to use rappelling equipment to check the mailbox.
Our rental house was located on the summit of a steep hill which the locals loosely refer to as Mount Concussion. There were approximately 43,118 concrete steps leading from the curb to our porch. You could actually feel your ears popping when you reached the front door.
When we first arrived at this house a few weeks ago, I unpacked our car until three in the morning, endlessly schlepping suitcases up the steps until my meniscus went to be with Jesus.
But that was a cakewalk compared to this morning. Because this morning, I had to schlep all that stuff back down the steps.
Also, it was raining today. And when I say “raining,” I mean that Jim Cantore was interviewing our neighbors.
So packing the car was not an easy task. In fact I wasn’t sure whether I would survive the process inasmuch as I had to contend with slippage on the steps from the rain.
Here’s a tip to anyone carrying luggage up and down slippery steps: Get the platinum burial package. Because when you’re climbing wet steps, you’re greatly endangering yourself. One wrong move and you’ll end up in an urn.
At one point I was carrying four suitcases, hobbling down the steps in a downpour, unable to see. Things got worse when my wife’s bottle of skin moisturizer fell from a bag and wedged itself under my foot.
I wasn’t aware of this happening, of course, I was too busy bear-hugging a Steinway-sized suitcase with my wife’s initials monogrammed on the front.
But when I took my next step I knew something was wrong. My foot landed on the moisturizer, the bottle burst, lotion squirted everywhere, and I slipped.
I lost my balance and fell face-forward as our suitcases tumbled down the remaining 11,028 steps like a Samsonite avalanche.
Amazingly, I caught myself and was mostly unharmed except for a bloody shin. I stood there in shock for several minutes, trying to get my heart to start beating again.
In a few moments, my wife came rushing to me, and I could see genuine worry all over her face. “Oh my God!” she said with tears in her eyes, “Was that my expensive moisturizer?”
So I spent the rest of the morning cramming stuff into a tiny car during a frog-choking rainstorm. Piece by piece. Bit by bit. Bag by bag. At times I had to use my feet to get a stubborn item of luggage to fit.
The suspension of our vehicle sank a good eight inches by the time I finally managed to squeeze everything inside, and there was barely enough room for my wife behind the steering wheel.
Still, all in all, we had a wonderful trip. The city of Birmingham is a magnificent place, and I will miss it dearly.
Once someone gives me a ride back home.