They say that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he packs his luggage. And when I say ‘They say’, I really mean ‘I say’.
People who are naturally messy in life – messy desk, unmade bed and even messier love life – will just throw their clothes into their Samsonite. They then find that the luggage won’t close naturally and will have to sit on the lid to lock it. These are usually also the same people who, at the airport check-in counter, are told that they are overweight and need to either unload some things or pay excess luggage. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy standing behind these people as they are forced to open their luggage in front of everyone and everything spills out: dirty underwear, tacky souvenir purchases, crushed boxes of chocolates, flattened soft toys, terrible fashion and dog-eared copies of porn magazines, I’ve seen them all. And when you’re stuck in a check-in queue, this kind of drama is hugely entertaining.
Then you have people like my friend Barney Chen who carefully sorts out all his clothes into neat vacuum sealed packs. I’ve never quite worked out what his system is. Sometimes, the packs are organized by days. Sometimes, it’s by outfit. Sometimes, it’s by occasion. Meanwhile, his toiletries – all neatly decanted into matching Muji bottles – are carefully slipped into ziplock bags.
Barney Chen is the god of packing, and he’s my idol. I’m convinced if everyone packed like him, the world would be a much nicer place.
“I really don’t think it’s normal to pack like that,” Saffy said firmly the other day after she came back from a visit to Barney’s flat. Out of a combination of sheer boredom and idle curiosity, she’d spent the afternoon watching him pack for a three day business trip to Hong Kong. “His suitcase was like when you open the box that your new TV arrives in. Everything fit together like a neat jig-saw puzzle. If you ask me, it’s the sign of an unhealthy mind,” she declared, her bosom trembling a little.
I replied that this was really rich coming from a woman who carefully arranges the magazines on our lounge table into a fan pattern.
“That’s so different!” Saffy puffed and disappeared into her room with a whiff of Chanel No. 5 and injured dignity.
A few days later, Amanda announced that she and her on-again, off-again insectile looking boyfriend – aka The Cockroach – were going off to Hong Kong for a week’s holiday.
“Why?” Saffy asked.
“Well, because we both have holidays to clear and there are cheap flights to Hong…”
“No, what I meant was, why are you still dating that loser?”
Amanda later complained to me that it was a pity she’d ever told Saffy all her deepest and darkest secrets, because she’d have kicked Saffy out of our flat in a New York second if she wasn’t so frightened that Saffy would turn right around and blackmail her.
As it was, Amanda nobly ignored Saffy’s question. “My point is,” she said icily, “it came up during our conversation that I would be bringing my Louis Vuitton trolley bag and Cockroach said that I should just bring a back-pack.”
This time, it was Saffy’s turn to sit up. “What, in addition to your trolley bag?”
“No. Instead of.”
“And check-in luggage?”
“What, a week in Hong Kong with just a back-pack?” Saffy asked.
“Yes. And he got a little upset when I said I needed to check in some luggage. He says he hates waiting for luggage to come off a plane.”
“And you’re still dating this man because…”
“Oh, shut up, Saffy!”
For days, it was all Amanda could talk about. “What is it with some guys? Does he seriously think that I wake up each morning looking like this?” she demanded, waving her hand over her perfectly made up face, expensively coiffed tresses and this season’s Prada and Jimmy Choo slingbacks. “I need a separate bag just for my make-up and toiletries. And what about my shopping? Does he think it can all fit into a back-pack?” Her face wrinkled into a frown. “And you know what, I don’t think I even know what a back-pack is!”
Saffy says this is one of the reasons why she’s sometimes actually glad that she’s single. It’s just too disheartening, she says, to have to discover that the man you might actually want to have children with has the EQ of a coffee bean. “If he’s like this on the subject of holiday bags, what will he be like when the topic of vasectomies comes up?” she wondered.