On my flight out here, I was allowed two pieces of luggage, both up to 50lbs each. To most people, that means one suitcase for the big things, and one for anything extra. To me and my never-been-to-Australia-therefore-I-have-NO-idea-what-I’m-going-to-need thought process, that meant cramming as much into my two suitcases as the weight limit would allow.
All I had to do was not purchase anything in the next year, and I would be golden.
Two things ruined that plan; first, I did make many purchases this past year. Second, my flights home are not quite as lenient and only allow one piece of luggage.
Plan B: mail a suitcase home.
Not as extreme as it sounds…if you ship it through sea mail and are willing to wait three months to receive it, it’s fairly reasonable.
As long as it’s under 20 kilos and less than a meter long, they can send it anywhere in the world.
So last night I threw in armloads of winter clothes and postcards and books, all the while weighing and re-weighing (and Googling pounds to kilograms conversion), and praying that it would all fit in and stay under the weight limit. When I finished, I was delighted to find that I had managed to keep it under 20 kilos (or 44.09 lbs).
This morning I strolled through the neighborhood to the bus stop. Sidenote: outside of an airport, it’s really embarrassing to be seen with a suitcase. Especially a large red rolling one.
I made it to the bus stop (stares), onto the bus (more stares), and to the shopping center (don’t you guys have anything better to look at?)
I felt like I was in the middle of a Where’s Waldo? page. Find: the boy eating an ice cream cone, the man in a convertible, the American rolling a suitcase down the street.
I wheeled into the post office, and stood in the line. When my turn came, I walked up to the front, and put my suitcase on the counter. “This is less than 20 kilos, going to America, here are my forms, let’s put them on, tell me what I owe and we can continue with our day.”
But Brenda, the postal worker, didn’t want me to come out of this so cleanly.
Apparently, the postage forms wouldn’t stick to the fabric on the outside of the suitcase. She told me I had to find some way to make them stick and then come back later in the week.
Come back later in the week? But I need this done as soon as possible! Well, the day is young, Brenda. You haven’t seen the last of me.
So there I was, back in the streets, bitterly rolling my suitcase around the Saturday shoppers.
My mind was scraping for possibilities; could I tie the tags on? Could I staple them? Could I wrap the entire suitcase in plastic? Could I claw off the outer cloth?
All of a sudden, it was like a dazzling light shone from the sky, and I knew where to go. My feet abruptly started walking towards Bunnings (American translation: Lowes); I didn’t know what they would do or say, but I somehow knew that they would have a solution.
When I got there, my first priority was to find a shopping cart to wheel my suitcase around in. The stares instantly ceased. Girl with a suitcase: outlandish. Girl with a suitcase loaded onto a shopping cart: acceptable.
I walked around a bit, hoping to maybe stumble into the “Things to Put on Your Fabric-Coated Suitcase to Ensure Adhesiveness of Important Postage Forms” aisle, but to no avail.
I then found the closest Bunnings employee, Phil, and explained my dilemma. Out of sheer luck, he was in the middle of selling a lawn mower, and informed me that the box was just the right size for my suitcase.
Bunnings employee of the month goes to: Phil.
After the box was emptied, I laid my suitcase down to realize that it fit almost perfectly. With a few inches of space on either side, Phil told me he could get some stuffing to put in so that it wouldn’t slide around.
I was escorted into the “Employees Only” section of the store, where the employee of the month pulled out handfuls of plastic to line my box with. As he was filling it up, I managed to slice my finger on the edge of the cardboard. Comparing it to a paper cut would be like comparing a shark bite to a scratch from a declawed kitten.
But I wasn’t in the mood to be deterred.
The blood spattered along the length of the box is a reminder to everyone of the tribulation I underwent in order to get this suitcase out of the country.
Don’t let my body’s rapid healing abilities fool you. It was a ferocious gash.
Spurting hand aside, I taped up my box, bid Phil farewell and went to pay another visit to Brenda.
Back to the post office. Back in the line. I handed the box over to Brenda. She put it on the scale.
“Sorry ma’am, but it’s about two kilos overweight.”
Oh Brenda! Did Phil call you? Did he put you up to this? That Phil! He knows exactly how to push my buttons. I mean come on, there’s no way a cardboard box could possibly weigh that much. Good one guys! So can we ship it out now?
But Brenda showed me the scale…21.87 kilos.
Once she convinced me that the scale wasn’t broken, I was escorted to the corner of the post office where I could rip open the box that I had so carefully taped together and pull out two kilos worth of my belongings. Two kilos worth of stuff that I was certain I would NEED when I got home, that I was sure I could live three months but not a day longer without. Button-down that I hadn’t worn all year but still mostly fit and never needs ironing? Out. Sky blue dress that expertly hides love handles? Out. Vegetarian Festival 2011 t-shirt? As if I would ever discard that.
I finally weeded out enough weight, taped it all back together, kissed my belongings goodbye, and shipped it back to America.
My suitcase was out of my hands, but I had to walk around the rest of the day with two kilos of my possessions. Two kilos that should have been en route to America, but were strapped to me, walking the streets of Australia instead. It was like a haunting reminder that this is the last time I would ever see them again. It felt like I was taking a puppy for her last outing before dropping her off at the pound.
They had no idea they wouldn’t be accompanying me back to America. They had no idea their fate was to spend the rest of their lives in Australia, being passed around from second-hand store to second-hand store, eventually ending up in a landfill and never making it out of the country again.
“Don’t worry guys, I’ll take you to all your favorite places one last time. You love the washing machine! And the dryer? I’ll put it on extra fluffy like you like it.”
So, the good news is, my 19.92 kilo suitcase is currently on a ship to America.
The bad news is, it doesn’t really have seemed to make a dent in my wardrobe.