Are you packed yet?

November 13th, 2001

"Isn't this just a little twisted? We're celebrating because you're leaving. Shouldn't we wait till you get back?"
- A friend at the "Joe and Tony are going to Antarctica" party last Friday

"Are you packed yet?"
- The question you ask people going on a trip when you don't know what else to say.

When I was younger, I took two transoceanic trips per month, one to Asia and one to Europe. There's a two year period of my life where I was so perpetually jetlagged I had to look at the sky to figure out if it was midnight or midday. I was someone who was perpetually packed. Could be on a plane and ready to go in 15 minutes.

Now I am not "packed". It has been STRONGLY suggested to me that I start packing a week before my trip to Antarctica. Yesterday I put four pair of underwear into my bag. This morning I tossed in some socks. Tonight I think I'll put in some shirts. I hope to be finished by Friday, which is when the airport guy comes to take me to SFO. I can't imagine what I'll do if I'm not ready. Will I have to say--"Come back tomorrow, I haven't packed my toothbrush yet."

In between these individualized packing chores I've been watching TV and eating cake. I have to admit, it's a bit more civilized than being ready in 15 minutes. There, you just yank a bunch of things out of the closet and shove them into your garment bag and go.

Packing for Antarctica is more like painting the Sistine Chapel than drawing "Binky", I guess.

I admit I'm spending a little time being nervous about it. I've gone on long plane trips before. Fly 10 hours to Heathrow. Wait 5 hours. Catch the 3 hour flight to Stockholm. Fly home. Take the 12 hour flight to Taipei. Etc. At least at the end of each of those interminable flights there was a hotel room of sorts. Rental cars. Late meals in the hotel restaurant. Call wife and tell her I arrived. Retrieve voice messages from work VM. Pop a sleeping pill because even though it's midnight here it's only 1 in the afternoon at home. Pass out on a granite-firm king-sized bed for four hours, then wake up and watch CNN international for 4 hours because it's the only TV station in English. Raid mini-bar. Drink all the Orange Juice and canned sodas. Make the complimentary tea & coffee at 6AM. Shower, dress, meet people for breakfast. Go to meetings.

This, I suspect, will be different.

An hour to LAX. 12 Hours to Auckland. 2 Hours to Christchurch. 6 Hours to McMurdo ( unless there are "boomerangs") . Hour Helicopter to the Dry Valleys.

Pitch tent.

Hope the sleeping bag isn't too small and the wind doesn't blow the tent away.

I'm really not that good, I only use 9 fingers when I play the piano so if one gets frostbitten and I lose it I can probably still play, right?