It’s a very revealing exercise when you are collected from a local restaurant by the staff of your hotel (in this case, Hotel Indigo in downtown Dallas, TX) and asked to wait in the lobby while they ascertain when you have to go to the basement to shelter from a tornado.
Given we had four or five minutes before instructions were expected, I elected to return to my room on the fifth floor and grab some essentials.
First, my glasses – because I had gone out to dinner without them and I simply cannot read without them. Then, passport, travel tickets, travel insurance details which were all in the travel pack and first into the notebook carry case, along with two small notebooks that have my itinerary and website passwords. Next, the notebook and power pack were dropped into their slots along with the camera charger and spare battery that had been recharged while I was out at dinner. That meant my communications system was intact and ready to go. I had no phone except Skype and Gphone.
My Buxton (very small) compartment bag that my friend Alona Allen-Lewis gave me, when I stayed with her back in Burlington NC, had not left my shoulder in days, so it carried my credit cards, cash, ID and camera. It was fully charged and there was heaps of space on the 16MB card.
With a couple of minutes to spare, I thought about what else I should take. Having showered and changed before going out to dinner, my shirt and trousers were clean – as was everything else. I grabbed a plastic bag and stuffed essentials into it: three pair of clean knickers, toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant, moisturiser, lipstick, hair brush, small hairspray and foundation. A couple of spare bras, my spare set of glasses and my MuscleEase, because getting overtired, dehydrated and cramped so that I shuffle along looking like “the hunchback of Notre Dame”, as Warren puts it, is not a good look for a cool Nana on walkabout! Imodium – in case I got scared (you know what I mean!) Painkillers, in case of accidents and Warfarin, because it is essential I take it every day. It works, too. Pinched my finger the day before and the damn thing had bled for about three minutes.
I grabbed my brand new Brooks Brothers coat and threw it on and headed for the stairs. Two reasons: it is very stylish indeed and it is waterproof. Whatever happened, they were two good reasons for taking it with me. In my pocket was the little mosaic lizard I had bought that day at the Dallas World Aquarium for my Mum back in Perth, along with two pocket packs of tissues.
The truth is I didn’t even quibble about not being able to take my fabulous, brand new New York shoes; my new Gap trousers; my collectible Britto cat or my Miche handbag that is the basis of a whole collection. My suits and dresses bought especially for up-market presentations on the trip; my favourite black boots; even my new stylish white hat from Miami – never got a backward glance. It was just grab and go.
I was away less than five minutes – by which time all the guests who were in the hotel were being shepherded down the stairs and into the basement. To my surprise, no one else had made even an effort to bring any essentials with them apart from their phones. But no one brought phone chargers. My mind was focussed around:
- Securing documents that are very difficult to replace when you are travelling
- Having access to money
- being able to communicate and keeping my existing records intact
- being nice to be near in confined quarters
- staying warm and dry (hopefully)
- looking good
The previous day we had been diverted from landing in Dallas to spend the night in Houston and that was a whole story in itself. It took 23 hours to get from Miami to Dallas and included only four hours sleep – so by the time we hit the basement in Dallas, I had had four hours sleep in the past day and a half and that was after spending four hours in the afternoon at the Dallas World Aquarium. My room looked like a tornado had hit it, when I got back, just after 10:00pm. My only thought by then was get some sleep and hope we didn’t have to return to the basement. I left my bags packed – just in case.