The Listâ„¢
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa  (Sep 2012)


       If you’ve ever gone on a trip and realized you’ve forgotten your X, Y, or Z, I feel your pain. Thanks to my tendency to put things off whenever possible, I don’t start packing until maybe 2am the night before I’m set to leave (and yes, technically, that is the day I’m set to leave). I’m pretty stressed and tired by then, leaving me in no state of mind to realize whether I’ve remembered every last thing I might need. Clarity would strike at the airport, or upon arrival at my destination, when the Xs, Ys and Zs I’d left behind swam before my eyes, laughing and sticking their tongues out at me. It’s like they were sending me little, mental post-cards. “Wish you were here! Love, Your Deodorant.” “Thinking of you! Smooches, The Shoes That Go With That Outfit You Packed.”

       One day, fed up with these missives of mockery, I knew I had to come up with some way to avoid this in the future. And that was how my magical List™ (twinkle) was born. Now, those days of forgetting to pack my X, Y, or Z are over, forevah! Mwa ha ha ha!

       Long before I leave for any trip – and I’m talking a week, a month, maybe more, depending on the trip and when I know I’m going – I start the List™. What are the essentials? How long will I be there? What will I be doing during the day, and at night? What will I wish I had? What have I forgotten in the past? All is considered, and everything I might want to have on my person or in my bags gets included with a check-box.

       The key: though I start it far in advance, the list is fluid. I create a first draft of sorts, then save it and come back to it later. When something else occurs to me, which it always does, I add it to the List™. Other items I replace or delete over time as I hone the List™ to perfection. By the night/morning I’m actually ready to pack, if it ain’t on the List™, it ain’t coming. When I’m feeling particularly on top of things, I’ll return from a recurring event with edits in mind for the following year, and will update the List™ accordingly.

       I realize how off-the-scale anal retentive this sounds. Yet, it’s precisely because I procrastinate that I do this in advance.

       Wait, what?

       To put it another way, rather than try to make an unlikely change (e.g. “fix” my tendency to pack at the last minute), I found a way to work within the confines of my limitations. Go me. I like that I get to feel all responsible and strategic whenever I have a trip coming up. And I’ve definitely saved money over the years by eliminating the need to buy forgotten items once I get wherever I’m going.

       This is to say nothing of reducing travel stress on a day when I have to think about getting to the airport on time, being at the airport at all, celebrating the joys of security, wondering if the TSA agent is going to ask for my number after an intimate pat down, waiting to board, waiting to take off, waiting for the parents of the kid behind me to convince him to stop kicking my chair, bleh, bleh, bleh. Travel can be great, but with so many possible sources of unpleasantness associated with it, I’m happy to eliminate some that are within my power. One of those is the need to reflect on my packing choices in the wee hours, when I’m already worried that I’ll sleep through my alarm and miss my flight.

       What a relief to know that, by this point, I can move forward with utter trust that the person who made the List™ for me had my best interests in mind, carefully considered my trip needs, and bade me sweet dreams. The “Oh, no, I still have to pack” Nicole merely has to defer to the “It’s all good – I’ve got this under control” Nicole who thought of everything a month ago, during calmer times. She gently reminds ONISHTP Nicole to just focus, find it, pack it, and cross it off. Easy. It’s like visiting myself from the future with some new technology to make my life easier. Except it’s me from the past. Using existing technology. But otherwise, it’s exactly like the future thing. In fact, since the me writing this column occurs prior to the me who will prepare the next List™, I will take this opportunity to send her a thank you note in advance, through time, with shared sentiments from the future late-night packing Nicole. Thanks, Nicole! From Nicole, care of Nicole. It should make her happy to remember that, thanks to her, I no longer receive those pesky mental postcards from forgotten items. Take that, deodorant.

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