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Unpacking the Fine Art of Packing

A good part of the stress associated with attending meetings from Coast to Coast (or Delta to Delta, or Crowne Plaza to Crowne Plaza) begins before we’ve even left the house. Yes, I speak of packing.bigstock_Charicature_Use_Of_Drill_2782805

For me, packing for a conference, as measured on the old fun meter, lies somewhere between having your wisdom teeth pulled out by an angry dental apprentice and having your wisdom teeth pulled out by an angry, but relatively established dentist.

I’m not saying I hate packing . . . well, okay, that’s exactly what I’m saying. But it’s more than just a simple hate thing. I’m really quite bad at it, as well.

Part of the problem, I’ve come to realize, is out of my hands. It’s genetic. You see, I’m a man.

Now, I don’t purport to speak for all the luggage-lugging, baggage-bundling, conference-convening males on the planet. I’m sure some men enjoy packing and are actually pretty good at it. I’ve just never met any. But, like the Okanagan Ogopogo, I’m certain there’s a possibility, albeit slim, that these men really do exist.

And I don’t mean to promulgate a gender-based stereotype, but most women do seem to know what they are doing when it comes to packing. Watching a woman pack a suitcase is like witnessing a surgeon perform brain surgery. You may not fully understand what’s going on, but you sense you are in the presence of something truly remarkable.

What I have learned from skilled packers is this: just as the art of diplomacy starts with knowing what not to say, the art of packing begins by knowing what not to bring along.

But here’s my challenge. As a former boy scout, I still have the “always-be-prepared-for- anything-that-might-happen-but-probably-won’t-but-you-ARE-a-boy-scout-and-so-like-anything-could-like-happen” motto firmly carved into my cerebral cortex. So, yes, I’m fairly certain that I might just need those 18 pairs of underwear for my two-day conference. Not to mention the backup lap top, flip chart, cheese grater, extra case of olives and accordion. (And I don’t even play the accordion!)

Being a Canadian meetings traveler compounds the problem considerably, given that you need to prepare for the possibility of at least four to six different seasons on any given day.

I mean, seriously, just try packing lightly with a down jacket, 20-pound pair of mukluks and toboggan in tow. And incidentally, just because you’re headed for the Canadian tropics (a.k.a. Victoria, B.C.), it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. It snowed in Victoria on February 12, 1893, and my boy scout intuition tells me it could easily happen again.

The finely honed technique of packing I employ (known in my household as “cramming,” and not just because I’ve left it until the night before) certainly doesn’t help matters. Sure, I’ve vaguely bigstock-Man-crouched-into-a-box-in-a-w-38591734heard of folding, but really, why waste all that time and energy when you know you’re just going to have to take the stuff out at the other end and then stuff the stuff back inside again?

There is, after all, a reason soft-sided luggage was invented, and that reason has to do with the complex mathematical formula (the details of which I won’t bore you with) which proves the total mass of all the things you want to bring along on your trip is substantially larger than the volume of the container you wish to carry it in. It’s a long rule, but a good one to remember. Especially the next time you and your family members are bouncing up and down atop your suitcase like a troop of hopped up mountain gorillas in a futile effort to hermetically seal the deal. (Incidentally, here’s a handy little packing tip I bet Martha Stewart will wish she thought of: if that pesky zipper won’t close, strapping a dozen bungee cords around the perimeter of your luggage lets you stuff in anywhere from 5 to 600% more stuff. And trust me, you might need more stuff.)

So my sincerest tip of the hat to those of you who have successfully mastered the art of packing (I’ve heard it may become an Olympic sport) and my heartfelt condolences to those who still haven’t unpacked it’s infernal mysteries.

And now that I’ve packed as much into this column as I can, I really must be off. I’m packing for an overnight trip and I can’t seem to find my bowling ball anywhere.

Michael Kerr is an international business speaker, very funny motivational speaker, business trainer and the author of six books including, The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the;


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