And I made them at least a week before I left for Iceland. Two lists to be exact: Packing List and Things to do Before I Left. Nearly every day before my travel date, I added something to each list. But lists and line items to check off are only as infallible as the person making them and executing them. Here’s an example:
The Thursday before I left, I dropped of my RX for my crazy pills at a CVS near my office. When would I like to pick them up? Tomorrow will be fine. Friday comes around and I pick them up and put them on the edge of my desk so I will KNOW to take them home with me. But come Friday quitting time, when I was shutting down computers and getting ready my office for a week long absence, guess what I forgot? In fact, it wasn’t until I was home and started packing and looking at my lists did I realize I left my damn pills on my office desk. Fuck. So the example I am trying to convey is that there is a pattern for my seemingly two extremes of OCD and absentmindedness.
This is how my travel day started: I drove back into work at the butt-crack of dawn to pick up my pills and then drive back home to continuing the process of packing. I had time and I used it to check and double check everything I needed to bring. Being completely open and honest, I spent more brain power on camera and electronic gear than clothes, but I was nevertheless confident in what I packed: one checked bag with clothes and other gear that wouldn’t fit in my carry-on. My carry-on held my camera, a couple lenses, and my computer. I was ready!
Even the Paragon parka jacket that I bought from an a ridiculous online sale arrived before I needed to leave. I was set. A friendly neighbor offered to drive me to the airport and before I left the checked and checked and checked I had everything I thought I needed.
At the airport, there was one small issue. While I used my passport (important!) to checkin, I needed to have my boarding passes adjusted to include my new TSA Pre number so I could go through the TSA checkpoints without taking off my shoes and not take my laptop out. My virgin Pre was about to be popped.
Once I made it through the checkpoint without incident, I had a good deal of time to relax, eat, read, and study for my flight. My Iceland travel booked had been marked, tagged, and highlighted with all the places that interested me. Yet, the OCD I have kicked in and to accompany this I had purchased a 3.5”x5.5” journal to take notes in. In my little book, I took notes from the travel book about places I wanted to go, how far they were away from where I was staying, the drive times, the hiking times, and want to look for. My plan, once there, was to note everything in this journal so I could write about it later and accompany photos with it. All stuff I would blog about here.
The problem, which I never really thought about till now, was that I was balancing three or four important objects in this travel odyssey at the same time. and in the open without any actual focused concentration. So when the travel gods aligned against me, I had no recourse.
And thus, when sitting at the gate in JFK and hearing the pre-boarding announcement, i began my ritual of checking what I had and needed. Boarding pass? Check. Phone? Check. Backpack with camera gear? Check. Headphones? Check. Wallet? Check. Oh but this was an international flight… passport? Nope. Couldn’t find it.
So the next few moments can be the same for anyone, I suppose. A frantic search. Checking every pocket. Tearing apart my carry-on. And re-checking and re-checking. Looking on the ground. Trying to mentally retrace my steps. I was panicked. The plane was boarding and I wasn’t going on it!
Then a strange sense of calm came over me. It was like I had been injected with some kind of drug or like when the patient on House is seizing and gets some kind of drug to calm them down. (I’ve been binge watching House.) During this period, two thoughts were instantly injected my head. Did the thoughts make me calm or did the calm bring on the thoughts? Dunno. Chicken vs Egg.
Thought #1: This reminded me of a time decades past when, while I was in the Navy and working at the White House, I was nearly stranded at the Nairobi airport in Kenya. There were four of us traveling from Kampala to Gaborone. The first leg of our trip was from Kampala to Nairobi. I had left my OFFICIAL passport on the plane – in the seat pocket. Not good.
Running through the airport, worried I had royally fucked up my first international trip, and being trapped in the airport in Kenya. Long story short? The cleaning guys found my passport and handed it back to me.
This would not be the same.
The second thought was as equally disturbing. What if I had sabotaged my own trip sub-consciously . What if my hesitation combined with my reluctance to travel alone had somehow made me lose my passport intentionally? Whether it was carelessness or my own brain fighting against me, I don’t know. It is actually kinda scary.
Feeling defeated and disgusted with myself, I took a cab to Penn station and took a 0300 train back home. I slept most of the way and not a good sleep. Every time the train slowed or stopped, I woke up and half expected to miss my stop.
Eventually, I made it home. I realized I fucked up and was disgusted with myself. If I didn’t have this upcoming trip to Hawaii, I’d be lost.
I want to talk about all this with a friend… but she doesn’t want to talk to me.