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.
Sharon Allemang - January 3, 2022 8:11 am
I loved this commentary of your trip to Birmingham !! I laughed all the way through it!! So nice to be able to laugh before going to bed!!
Peggy Proffitt - January 3, 2022 8:44 am
I cannot remember laughing so hard. I currently have tears (from laughter) covering my eyeballs so please excuse any misspelled wodrs!!😂
robert ross - January 3, 2022 10:01 am
You is de king of exageration sir! I sometimes forget what your point is, because I am laughing so hard. Enjoy your work, but quit making me cry when you talk about doggies, I cut the tv off when the animal charities show shivering doggies, can’t handle that. Your pal,
Nancy Grinstead - January 3, 2022 12:03 pm
Is that my expensive face cream!
I almost lost it…
Leigh Amiot - January 3, 2022 10:45 am
My husband and I are opposite of stereotypes when it comes to travel. I’m a minimalist on the road and he’s the one who wants to bring the dishwasher along. I’m glad y’all got to go somewhere for different scenery, a good and needed thing after two years of covid and the loss of a family member.
Suzi - January 3, 2022 12:12 pm
Laughter is good fir the soul, thanks!
Joy Jacobs - January 3, 2022 12:55 pm
We have a corvette convertible, it’s the easiest car to pack that we ever had…. 2 duffle bags… his and hers.
Nell Thomas - January 3, 2022 12:57 pm
Glad you were spared a 911 call.
Great memories of Birmingham. As a child- loved the trips to Birmingham- either by rail- The Southerner-or by road- the 1950 something white Plymouth -to visit our grandad, step-grandmother aunt- mom’s side. A great aunt and her family- Dad’ side. Traveling from West to East we stayed
occupied on the lookout for The Ironman – high up in the hills. The first one to see him was, of course, the winner.
Oh yes- the hills. There was a concrete stairway up to Grandad’s herb garden and the back alley.
Kiddyland Park- with the boat and pony rides was another highlight of trips to Birmingham.
Ruth+Ann - January 3, 2022 1:14 pm
Vulcan’s bronze buns. Which side of him did you view from your grandfathers house? I’d think the backside might be a wonderment for a kid.
MaryLu - January 4, 2022 1:27 am
Ahh, yes, the trip to Birmingham from Chicago by rail. Never stayed there though. Memories of blast furnaces lighting up the night as we kids rode in the back of grandpa’s pickup truck to Tuscaloosa. Yes, that was a long time ago. Love any of Sean’s stories set in the Great State of Alabama. And hey I understand Jamie’s concern over her pricey moisturizer. Once I was so mad at TSA when they confiscated a too large brand new tube of a wonderful smelling lotion.
Norman Turnipseed - January 3, 2022 12:59 pm
You are an amazing writer.
You make people laugh then you make them cry.
Sometimes you are very serious.
I love your stories and would very much like to meet you in person, and say a very much deserved THANKS!!!!!!!!
Nell Thomas - January 3, 2022 1:03 pm
The White Plymouth looked similar to the vehicle in your amazing illustrations.
Denice - January 3, 2022 1:46 pm
While this was a very funny column, and I’m still laughing, it’s partly because my husband had an aunt who traveled to her cottage like this minus the steps. We do, though have a driveway to our house that I plan to use some of your thoughts to describe. I usually just say it’s the driveway from Hell – and no one understands how we manage the winter in Michigan with the snow, ice, driveway and the car. And sometimes we don’t! Ironically, at the very base of the driveway is the town’s cemetery.
Shelton A. - January 3, 2022 2:00 pm
I do not pack lightly, so I understand your pain. I schlep my own bags from here to there. Don’t hitch hike and God bless you and Jamie (plus your shin…ouch, sorry, Sean!).
Paul McCutchen - January 3, 2022 2:15 pm
I know what you mean. My cousin lives in Hoover, Alabama, which is a suburb of Birmingham. Going to his house you sometimes loose site of the street at the top of a hill. This is the same cousin, when we were a lot younger, went with my family to California to see the sights and spend a few days at Disneyland. My cousin and I were in charge of packing the luggage bag on top of the land yacht known as a Chrysler station wagon. The movie Vacation with Chevy Chase brought back fond memories. Every morning, except when we were at Disneyland, we would pack the luggage bag. After a few mornings we figured a pattern, much like a tetras game, and everything was great. If a piece of luggage was in the wrong place or turned wrong we would have to do it all over again. I need to add that my mother and two pre teen girls (one was my sister) were also traveling.
Rhonda - January 3, 2022 2:19 pm
HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!! I appreciate the work and time that you obviously put into these WONDERFUL daily writings! Thanks for sharing your God-given gifts of writing, humor and insight with us!!!
Corliss Sinclair - January 3, 2022 2:21 pm
‘One wrong move and you’ll end up in an urn’. That’s awesomely amusing…. If you don’t mind–that’s MINE from now on…
Jan - January 3, 2022 2:23 pm
Love this! You paint the most perfect pictures with your words. I don’t just see and understand them, they form a picture in my mind. This morning the picture is so funny and so true to life. Thank you, Sean!
Debbie g - January 3, 2022 2:28 pm
😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂love you Sean and Jamie
And love to all of us smiling. Thanks to you!!!!
HT - January 3, 2022 2:32 pm
Good Husband Award: Sean!
Ruth Mitchell - January 3, 2022 2:44 pm
What a great way for me to start my day! You are an artist! I used every one of my senses reading your story this morning. I tasted the rain running down my face, smelled the scent of the moisturizer squirting out, heard the tumbling luggage on the steps, saw the overpacked car waiting T the bottom of the numerous steps, felt the burn of the skinned shin, but, most of all, laughed at what developed in my mind when my combined senses recreated the scene. Yet I have to say my sense of humor responded strongest as I sat here laughing out loud!
Donna Moore - January 3, 2022 2:45 pm
My mantra: “I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it”. Your wife will understand.
Duke Hudson - January 3, 2022 2:48 pm
i am 64 years old and do the same thing you just did on every trip we take. who wrote the rules for packing a car. why does the husband have to do it all?? as a tip for your next vacation, play Tetra for 3 days. you’ll be amazed at the loading skills that game has. thanks for the laugh.
Beth Wannamaker - January 3, 2022 3:10 pm
I’m so glad I had finished my cup of coffee before reading this as coffee squirted out of the nose is NO FUN! I have not laughed so hard in a long time! Thank you.
Karen - January 3, 2022 3:10 pm
You are hilarious.
Jenny+Young - January 3, 2022 3:21 pm
Ok…so when you travel, rent a little trailer for the return trip….problem solved!
Actually, maybe you guys should just buy an RV or motor home? Jamie could set up her kitchen inside with all the comforts of home. Keep it stocked with what you need & go when you want to. I have a friend who says it’s the only way to travel. No more carrying a million bags in & out of hotels.
Stacey Wallace - January 3, 2022 3:33 pm
Thanks, Sean. I’m glad that my husband and I aren’t the only ones who take too much stuff on vacation. As he says, we plan for every contingency.
Helen De Prima - January 3, 2022 4:13 pm
Thanks for this morning’s laugh, Sean! You insert key knee-slappers at just the right intervals.
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - January 3, 2022 4:39 pm
Sean, only you would leave your house near the beach to vacation in Birmingham, Alabama!!!!
Sean of the South: Traveling with Your Wife | The Trussville Tribune - January 3, 2022 5:13 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Linda Moon - January 3, 2022 6:30 pm
You didn’t need to explain a wife’s travelling to me. I am one. I bet your wife’s jigsaw is perfectly arranged….just Heavenly. (I can imagine it now). I’m a little anxious, though, in anticipation of your wife’s moisturizer condition after your fall. If you had stopped by my place on a hill with approximately 43,000 steps from basement to attic, you could’ve stayed for free! Y’all come back, now, ya’ hear?
Naomi - January 3, 2022 6:34 pm
I know what you mean, Sean; I’m from Birmingham. I was living in Illinois when my parents sold their house and bought another one. The first time I saw it, I was pretty upset with them buying a house at the bottom of a steep hill. You had to go up a couple dozen steps just to get to their front yard and then go up another half a dozen steps to get to their front porch. In 1984, my mother fell down the steps and broke her arm and got a concussion. My grandparents had a house that had a lot of steps just to get to their front yard and another half dozen steps to get to their porch. I don’t remember how many times my grandmother fell down the stairs and broke her arm. Old people have no business buying a house with a lot of stairs. We had a trilevel before we built the house that we live in now. It has only one step to get to the garage, and both of us have to hold on to something to keep from falling down.
Tink - January 3, 2022 8:17 pm
You described my wife! On trip from Alabama to Virginia, in Miata, she had to take out bunch of hang up clothes. Trips to condo in OBA are worse, involves groceries. Thanks
Edna Isdell - January 3, 2022 8:40 pm
This is hilarious–you are such a good writer.
Sandi. - January 3, 2022 8:45 pm
OMG, this story is an absolute riot of laughs! What a hoot! I LOL as I read each and every sentence, and the sketch of the overloaded car you used is so apropos. Thanks, Sean, for starting my week off with a triple dose of the silly giggles!
Kathi Harper Hill - January 3, 2022 9:37 pm
That right there was funny.
MAM - January 3, 2022 11:46 pm
My husband long since said: “If you bring it, you carry it!” He’s the light traveler. I’m not. Our older daughter is the past master of getting everything to fit into the trunk. If we tried packing it, she would show up, take everything out and every bit of luggage would fit in there, with no air space! I laughed out loud at this one. Thanks, Sean!
Patricia Gibson - January 3, 2022 11:49 pm
Too funny😂 I totally get it!
Susan H Poole - January 4, 2022 12:34 am
Honestly, Sean, you are the king of making situations comical. I laughed out loud — can I say ‘guffawed’ at your descriptions! I’m still grinning as I type this. Thank you for letting your sense of humor rub off on your readers. kinda like that expensive moistering lotion of Jamie’s would rub on your poor shin.
Jan - January 4, 2022 5:39 am
Maybe invest in one of those tow-behind trailers like you see following along behind Class A RVs. Of course then there has to be a rule that all stuff must ride in the trailer & not the car, or else…well you know…
Robin - January 4, 2022 5:43 am
Sean, you are a hoot!
Nancy M - January 4, 2022 4:16 pm
We lived near a road called “Thrill Hill” in Vestavia. There are many Thrill Hills in and around Birmingham!
Dan Loftin - January 8, 2022 7:25 pm
You should travel with my wife! Please!!!