Have uke, will travel

I am headed south to D.C. The last time I visited the big city was for the end of the year, all-student, super organized, and highly anticipated school trip when I was in eighth grade.

I can’t say that I have ever been one who enjoys organized group activities. They make me tired and cranky. I can’t eat whenever I get hungry or pee at the exact moment nature calls. I experience moments where I can channel my inner social butterfly, but in general I prefer to go it alone.

Preparations for this venture were likely different than when I was in eighth grade but still more or less a variation on a theme. While there is undoubtedly much about me that has changed with time and experience, I imagine there are elements of self that have endured.

I like things to be tidy.

Before I travel, I clean. It is an odd pastime, especially considering that I will not be there to enjoy the dust-free corners and absence of fur on the rugs. And I am fairly certain that my cats could not care less whether all the tiny litter crumbs they seem scatter to ever farther reaches the floor have been removed. I imagine they are pleased with the cleanly state of their litter box, though they never leave me a thank you note or tip.

I always begin packing well in advance of travel yet still seem to be packing up until it is time to leave.

I still do not really know what “business casual” means, though I doubt this was a requirement for travel when I was twelve.

I try to be prepared for anything.

My mom taught me to travel with any and all remedies that may be necessary during the journey—snacks, water, various toiletries, layers of clothing, and so on.

When I was little, my mom would put a surprise in my sister and my bags. We had to wait until the seat belt sign went off before we could open our bags to find the surprise. As a child, I imagined this was simply because presents were wonderful, and the more presents were in my life the better.

As an adult, I now realize the true genius of this tradition. Place present in child’s bag. Child sits quietly through taxing, takeoff, and the beginning portion of the flight. Seat belt sign is turned off. Passengers are free to move about the cabin and explore the contents of the bags they safely stowed beneath the seat in front of them. Child opens present and is occupied for the remainder of the flight with new and magical gift. Brilliant. Go, mom!

Of course, I was disappointed on a family trip when I did not find a surprise in my bag.

“You’re sixteen,” my mom said when I asked her, clearly failing at masking the disappointment in my voice (if that were even my intention. I mean I was sixteen). “I figured you were too old.”

Too old for presents!! That’ll be the day.

So ever after, my mom has found ways to sneak in surprises whenever she can. She has even asked friends to hide something in my bag for her. This time, she gave me the surprise with explicit instructions to not look inside the bag. She must really trust me. Then silly me, I put it in my checked bag because it didn’t fit in my messenger bag with other necessities of travel (see above).

Of course, these days the seat belt sign seems to stay illuminated for longer and longer durations anyway.

Thank goodness, I am now a patient adult and can wait.

(Previous line to be read with sarcastic intonation and followed by the word “ha!”)

So here I sit, trying to avoid making eye contact with the many tiny television screens that beckon to my inner technology zombie.

At least I can take comfort in knowing my ukulele is stowed in the overhead compartment, and there is a surprise waiting to reveal itself in all its glory to me upon my arrival—to be followed soon thereafter by pajamas and bed.

I have a big day of training tomorrow. It is the fifth in a series of sessions recommended for new permanent employees in the National Park Service and the same session my former supervisor attended during my first and last winter in Alaska.

Fundamentals V: Building trust, teams, and leaders.

I am looking forward to this training. I hope I am better able to put its teachings into practice.

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