Why I live out of my wife’s suitcase

When I pack for trips, my suits come out rumpled like a flag football. So I leave the packing to her.

My wife, the aptly monickered Lady Janet, mentioned the other day that I hadn’t written about her recently. Since she was trimming my moustache at the time with extremely sharp scissors, I decided it was appropriate to bring her back into print.

There is certainly plenty to write about in our relationship. For example, our everyday “wipe-ups.” As in, I spill. She wipes up. I splatter. She wipes up. I wipe up. She wipes up after me.

But even more pressing is the subject of packing. Surprisingly, unlike spilling, packing is a task I am not good at. And since we travel regularly, it is one I should be much more familiar with.

For instance, recently we went for eight days to South Carolina. We brought along four bags. Thus, we were prepared for any eventuality (although the rally in support of chiseling out a George Bush face on Mt. Rushmore left us somewhat befuddled as to what to wear; I suggested a smile).

For instance, unlike her Ladyness, I would not have packed sweaters for South Carolina in November. Therefore I would have worn goose bumps for seven of the eight days.

Yet packing lederhosen for the Alps in December is the least of my problems. Neatness is the real issue. I’m just not able to estimate how much I can get into the suitcase’s allotted space, which surprisingly doesn’t change from trip to trip. The result is that I can barely squeeze one pair of pants into the same Tumi she fits three into.

And yet when I take my one pair out, it resembles a dish rag that has been used as a flag football for three weeks. Her “aristocratic” three pairs, on the other hand, come out looking as if the butler at the family estate in Kent had spent the morning pressing them between two very stiff footmen.

Nor are pants the only items that emerge from my valise rumpled. Formerly stiff collars on shirts spring up. Elastic-less socks droop down. I am shocked to find a sweater wrapped messily around a sharp shoetree. Even my toothpaste seems to have twice as many indentations as when it left the bathroom drawer.

Repacking for the trip home is equally distressful. Although I am now permitted to mash my worn clothing into the suitcase, there always seems to be enough garments left over for a second piece of luggage. Yet my wife manages to repack everything with room left over for the candelabra she bought.

All this is why it is far easier to have the Lady do my packing, unpacking, and repacking. On those occasions when I do have to load my own suitcase, however, I have come up with a way to have perfectly folded clothing on the other end. I just check my bag.

Odds are that when I arrive in Denver my luggage will be riding around a baggage carousel in Nairobi. Thus, I am forced to find the nearest department store where they fold everything almost as perfectly as my wife.

• Chuck Cohen writes from Mill Valley, Calif.

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