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We're Packing for a Thwacking

The missus and I are on our annual Christmas trek to visit the familials, and we were reminded along the way of one of the sad and inconvenient realities of the times we live in these days:

If you fly to see loved ones during the holidays, the presents you give are going to suck.

"We misinterpret a rule, and Grandma's new grooming kit gets tagged as a 'weapon of mass toenail clipping'."

Every year, we forget this. And every year, we find ourselves packing for the trip and scanning down the latest TSA checklist of prohibited items. I won't ask you to read the whole thing; here's a brief summary:

No liquids.
No aerosols.
No plasmas. (Blood plasma is presumably permitted, assuming you keep it in your veins at all times.)

Nothing sharp.
Nothing pointy.
Nothing that used to be sharp or pointy.
Nothing that's ever touched anything sharp or pointy.
No passengers named Sharpe or Pointe. (Sorry, Shannon, Sterling and Grosse.)

No hammers.
No metal wrenches.
No spot welders.
No airplane components of any kind.
(And pray to the gods that the plane holds up, because nobody on board will have the tools to fix the damned thing if it breaks.)

So there we sit in our house, three hours from takeoff, with our wine bottles and Craftsman tool sets and industrial turbines that we'd planned to give as gifts, and we bonk ourselves on the foreheads for forgetting -- again -- that none of these things is currently allowable in our carry-on luggage. And precious few will fit into our checked bags, so we're in one hell of a Christmas pickle with tinsel wrapped 'round and a big fat bow on top.

And then we improvise. The ratchet set will fit in my wife's bag, so long as she leaves her makeup supplies at home. I can cram three jars of salsa in my suitcase, provided I wear all of my underpants at once rather than packing them. And we can probably manage to get that new Swiss Army knife to my Uncle Ted, just so long as I don't have a cavity search before I see the inside of the plane's bathroom. Or stop for a burrito on the way to the airport.

Invariably, though, we suffer a casualty or several. We misinterpret a rule, and Grandma's new grooming kit gets tagged as a 'weapon of mass toenail clipping'. Or the baggage handlers play a game of dodgeball with our checked bags, and a few delicates get broken. Or we carry on really nice presents, and the checkpoint cheeseballs detain us for having a quarter-ounce too much toothpaste in our tube and confiscate all the goodies.

Luckily, we ship a few items to their eventual destinations, so we never show up completely empty-handed. Or empty-cavitied, as the case may be. Still, I'm making a firm resolution when the time comes next week to be done with this hassle once and for all.

That's right. Next year, everybody in the family gets corrugated cardboard. Or a bag of balloons. If they've been really, extra-special good, I might spring for a rubber eraser. But not the kind attached to a pencil, because those are pointy, and if I put it in the wrong bag then suddenly there's a guy in a uniform and one latex glove standing behind me telling me to bend over and 'spread my Christmas cheer'.

No, thanks. That's not exactly the sort of 'jingle bell rock' I had in mind, I'm afraid.

This year, our lone mishap was a bottle of gourmet mango salsa buried deep in my checked suitcase. But not deep enough it turns out. I unpacked to find our impromptu pinata shattered, and shards of glass and delicious tortilla complement everywhere among my things.

You might think that having the contents of a pint of salsa thoroughly permeate your holidaywear would be a bad thing. Me, I choose to look on the bright side -- now I'm always hungry, the family dogs love me, and I won't need to shop for cologne for at least a month. Probably two. And hopefully not until after Cinco de Mayo.

Sometimes, it's the gifts you plan to give to other people that 'keep on giving'. Just not in the way you might think. Ay, carumba!

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