Sunday, January 8, 2012

Introducing Jack

In a couple of days, I'm flying to Ireland with a colleague, his wife and nineteen college students.  I love Ireland, and I'm quite looking forward to the trip.  Unfortunately, in order to go on the trip I have to pack.

I am not good at packing.  I'm sure that comes as a complete surprise.

Packing for Ireland so far:
1. Order new guidebooks for Ireland.
2. Buy new adapter/converter kit.
3. Begin laundry.
4. Open all three suitcases on the bed.
5. Decide that the little suitcase is too little, the middle suitcase is too damaged, and the large suitcase is too large.  Think nasty thoughts about that Goldilocks chick.
6. Browse ebags looking at new suitcases.
7. Do more laundry
8. Go to discount store and buy a suitcase that is almost, though not quite, as nice as the one on ebags.
9. Buy bright new luggage tags.
10.  Find bright old luggage tags.
11. Request everyone I know tell me which luggage tags they prefer.
12. Search for receipt for bright new luggage tags.  Fail to find receipt.  Decide to use bright new luggage tags.
13. Do more laundry.
14. Search all of the cabinets for the cool black toiletries case.  Find the beat up old red toiletries case.  Rage at the cats about missing case.  Be ignored by the cats.
15. Begin adding things to toiletries case.  Subtract things from toiletries case.  Add more things. 
16. Fold some laundry.
17. Put clothes in suitcase neatly, tops on one side, bottoms on the other.
18. Take all clothes out and repack, one complete outfit on top of the other.
19. Zip suitcase.
20. Remember underwear.  Do more laundry.  Add underwear to suitcase.
21. Change mind about two outfits; remove them and add three outfits plus sleepwear.
22. Add shoes.  Worry about the weight of the suitcase.
23. Borrow scale from neighbor to weigh suitcase.  Get five different weights.  Hope like hell one of them is right.
24. Add socks to suitcase.  Borrow scale from a different neighbor and weigh suitcase again.  Remove a pair of shoes.
25. Drink a glass of wine to calm down about spending three weeks with only three pairs of shoes.

It pretty much goes on like that until I absolutely have to put the suitcase into the car.  This is why I usually don't pack at all until the morning I leave on a trip.  But when you're spending three weeks with a group of students in a foreign country, you're expected not to have to go borrowing hairbrushes from them.

Which reminds me that I haven't packed a hairbrush.  Frak.  I wonder how much they weigh.

Anyway, this is all pretty normal for me and not even interesting enough for a blog post, and certainly not important enough for me to have to call upon Jack.

Jack, you see, is my husband.  Once in a while, he's my brother, but usually he's my husband.  And he's deeply incompetent.  He never tells me where he's going or what he's doing, and that gets me out of all kinds of trouble.

He's also entirely fictional.  In my head, I call him "Jack the Bodiless" a reference to a character from a wonderful science fiction series, except that instead of being the next step in the evolution of the species and a possible saint, he's my pretend friend who takes the blame when I'm publicly embarrassed.

Yes, I realize that's a technique used by three year olds.  Hush.

If you return to step 2 above, you'll see that one of the first things I did was buy one of those adapter/converter kits that has plug adapters for electrical plug shapes around the world plus a converter so that you don't blow your appliances up.  Now, I actually already have such a kit, having bought it for a trip to Argentina a few years ago.  But, being me, I knew that finding that kit was highly unlikely, and I didn't want to have to go searching for it on the eve of my departure.

A few weeks later, I met with my class, and I remembered that a former colleague had brought an adapter in to show the students what they looked like in plenty of time for them to find their own.  I decided to do the same, so I took my new kit to my office.

I haven't seen it since. 

I'm pretty sure it never even made it to the classroom for the show-and-tell, but if it did, it didn't make it back to my office.  Maybe it was never in my office.  Maybe it's under the front seat of my car, but if so it's staying there because under the front seat of my car is scary, and I'm not prepared to venture there.

Foolishly, I just kept hoping the kit would turn up.  When it inexplicably failed to do so, I got frustrated and started looking for the old one which, to my shock, I actually found!  And it had the plug for Ireland! was missing the converter part.  Frell.

After chastising the cats quite severely, I headed out in the darkness and the rain to buy a converter because I had to have it now or I wouldn't be able to sleep.  I went to an electronics store and bought one for about three times the price of the one that had gone missing.

At home, I looked it over.  It seemed like overkill somehow.  I couldn't remember using anything like this in Argentina or even during past trips to Ireland.  I turned to the internet for solace, typing in questions about what kind of converter/adapter one needs for the electronics I was planning to use.  Now I must point out that I'm not using hair dryers or straightening irons or flattening irons (for flattening clothes, not people).  It's Ireland in January.  Everything will be damp, if not wet, most of the time, so those are not useful appliances for this trip.  No, I have an ipad, an iphone and a camera.

Some of you are already laughing, aren't you? 

For you non-apple users out there, let me tell you what I found out, again, just as I had the last three times I've traveled overseas:  you don't need power converters for most apple products.  The ac adapters that they come with all accept up to 220 volts of power (the U.S. uses 110 and Europe 220).  All you need is the plug adapter.  Moreover, the camera I had also uses a charger that accepts both voltage levels.  Moremoreover, just as I was cursing to myself about forgetting this fact once again, I find the mini travel surge protector that also comes with a built-in converter.

Now, some people would throw up their hands and just be happy that they can now plug anything into almost anything anywhere and probably not blow anything up.  But not me.  I went out into the dark and the rain and paid money for something I did not need.

This would not stand.

Clearly, I had to take the expensive converter back.  But stores never let you just give something back and take your money or store credit.  They always want to know why.  Do they have any idea how much pressure this puts on the consumer?  I think they do.  They figure there are plenty of people out there who just can't say, "My mother thinks I'm three sizes smaller than I actually am," or "I was drunk when I bought this; can you really see me in this color?"  I think they're hoping that we'll just keep the damn product rather than admit that we've bought something useless or inappropriate.

Hence, Jack.

Jack never listens when I tell him I'm going to the store to pick up a product.  He always goes out at the same time and brings home the same thing.  Sometimes, he gets the size or color wrong, but not usually.  That would invite offers of an exchange.  No, Jack takes it upon himself to buy exactly the same product, so I, poor wife/sister, have to schlep back to the store to return the one that I bought.

Jack never returns things.  He always makes me do it.

Thanks to Jack, I have a credit on my account and a song in my heart.  I'm ready for Ireland.  Except for the laundry and cleaning the gutters and the on-going shoe crisis.  But I guess no imaginary spouse is perfect.

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