Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Successful travel packing may require leaving your husband at home

I know I’m not alone when I say that the most stressful part of traveling is the packing. And if I’m alone, please don’t tell me. Denial loves company.

I lose more sleep over whether or not I’ve packed the toothpaste than I do over (1) potential terrorist activity, (2) getting through TSA checks with my dignity intact, or (3) an accidental re-route to San Quentin when my desired destination was San Diego.

My husband simply does not get this. His philosophy is “Everything will be fine. And if you forget something you can just pick one up where at our destination.”

Our recent trip to Arizona was nothing new. As we woke up at 3 a.m. in order to catch our 5:20 a.m. flight out of Eugene, I had already been awake for an hour, wide-eyed with worry over whether or not I had actually packed my flat iron for my hair, contact solution, conditioner and dental floss.

Craig on the other hand had thrown a few things in his suitcase, zipped it up and called it good.


But once I had ticked off every last-minute item on my “Check these off before you leave” list, I was ready to go. And after a must-go-to-my-happy-place “scan” through the full-body scanner with the friendly TSA agent (don’t ask … entire article altogether) we were on our way to Phoenix.

But of course I can’t stop with one travel idiosyncrasy when there are so many more to choose from. No, the other lovely habit I have is to unpack everything once I reach the hotel before I can officially relax. By so doing, I can assure myself that all of the items I had checked off my list did indeed make it to the destination instead of being spirited away by a baggage handler. (It could happen … I have very fancy designer conditioner.)

But bully for me I had everything I started with, and nothing was missing. With that, I grabbed a book and parked myself poolside for the duration.

That night, I went to take my contact out and realized I had forgotten to bring the contact holder in which I keep my contact soaking in solution overnight. (Yes, I only wear one contact. Think of me as the Colonel Klink of the contact world.)

Before panic set in I breathed deeply and said, “Okay, Eileen. Improvise. Everything will be fine.” I grabbed a hotel cup, filled the bottom with solution and plopped the contact in there. I then took a ponytail holder and wrapped it around the cup as a way of setting it apart.

Next morning, Craig was already up and out the door before I woke up. As I started to get ready for the day I realized in horror that my contact cup was missing and there was a carton of orange juice suspiciously close to the missing cup. Which meant one of two things: Either (1) Craig had drank my contact with his O.J. (serves him right), or (2) he had seen the cup, tossed the contents down the drain, and poured himself a cup of O.J.

Never mind that there were three other perfectly clean and usable cups nearby. And I believe I already mentioned that my cup had a ponytail holder around it, which is the universal sign for “This is a special cup – stay out!”


So there I was, unable to see, and unable to “…just pick one up at our destination.” Somehow “Make sure Craig doesn’t drink my contact” never made it onto any of my checklists, but you can bet your sweet bippy it is now.

While I’m thankful for the opportunity to spend five glorious days in the sunshine after suffering through the deluge we call “spring” here in Roseburg, I am not quite clear on what happened on the trip past day 1.

I do know that we toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin House in Scottsdale on day 2. At least I think it was his house.

Then again it could have been a Waffle House.

Either way it was warm, and that was all that mattered to this blind bat.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and makes lists in Roseburg. She can be reached at

Just keep that nylon dress away from the candelabra

When I was a child, my mother used to utter a phrase that always left me speechless - “…in this damn age.”

She’d say it at the oddest times - instances where, in my opinion, swearing wasn’t called for at all. For example, she’d drop this bomb: “You’d think that in this damn age we could cook a turkey and rolls in the oven simultaneously.”

See what I mean? I was confused. Why all the cussing over a turkey and rolls? Shouldn’t you reserve cussing for truly enraging instances, like dropping the cooked turkey on the floor?

Years later, as a college English major, I was reading a book that included the phrase “in this day and age” and I got it. In the middle of class I started laughing out loud because of the relief of discovering that my mom didn’t have the mouth of a sailor after all.

There’s actually a term for these mishearings or misinterpretations of a phrase. That word is “mondegreen,” and it’s most commonly used in reference to a line in a poem or a lyric in a song.

Sadly for me, my mondegreens didn’t end that day on the college campus. They have followed me into adulthood, and sadly, I seemed to have passed that particular gene down to my children as well.

One Christmas Lily asked if we could go see the vegetable of light. It took me a few minutes to realize she was referring to the annual Festival of Lights holiday drive-through here in Roseburg. So, yeah, she had inherited the old mondegreen from yours truly.

When Nathaniel was in 5th grade, I was driving him to school and we were singing along to the radio. I listened as he sang the following lyrics to “Miss American Pie:"

So Bye, bye Miss American pie
Drove a machete through Neddy
But Neddy was dry.

I’m fairly certain that Don McLean never meant that song to be so violent.

Sadly, I have a history of getting lyrics wrong as well, going back to the late ‘80s when I thought Bruce Hornsby was singing “Listen to the metal in the rain” when it was actually “Listen to the mandolin rain.” My soon-to-be husband at the time ever-so-gently pointed out my error by pointing at me and laughing uncontrollably when he heard me singing “my” lyrics to the song. Yeah, he’s sweet that way.

In one second, a song that used to be about acid rain was suddenly a lilting melody about musical rain. So do I believe that one word wrong can make a difference? Yes. Yes I do.

But I’m not alone.

Take my friend Allison. She loved Billy Squier in the ‘80s and no song more than “My Kinda Lover,” but the accompanying lyrics made little sense to her, especially because she thought the song was called “My Candelabra.” Maybe a tribute to Liberace? It could have happened, right?

Allison’s husband Paul was no better. Madonna’s smash hit “Dress You Up in My Love” was playing on the radio waves and poor confused Paul was singing “Dress You Up in Nylon.” Big mistake.

And perhaps my favorite example is my friend Laura’s mom, who misunderstood Billy Joel, but sang along nonetheless:
You made the rice
I made the gravy

Of course, it was “You may be right, I may be crazy,” which makes a lot more sense when the following lyric is “and it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.” Somehow I don’t think of making rice and gravy as a madcap adventure, but who am I to judge?

After all, in this damn age you may be right … I may be crazy.

Mama Bear

Over the years, my kids have teased me when I’ve thrown my arm across their chest anytime I brake hard in the car. You know what I’m talking...