Packing to the limit

Dec 18, 2007
3 minutes

For the past month, my wife, my sister, my mom, and two of my cousins have all departed from Vancouver to Singapore, and all on separate flights! That’s not the remarkable part – the remarkable part is in the packing.

You see, we all originate from Singapore, a wee island at the southern tip of Malaysia. We have a LOT of relatives from there. So when someone flies over from Canada (a tiring 18 hour flight in total), we MUST bring gifts. It’s just the custom when returning back to the motherland, especially for relatives you will be staying with during your vacation. Not only is it the custom, but its just good manners – believe me, we would hear it from our parents if we neglected this duty!

So either the morning of, or the night before, there is a packing ritual with a box of box/duct tape, scissors, marker pen, and plastic rope at the ready. And a cardboard box. Before the packing ritual of course there is the shopping ritual. After phoning Singapore to ask relatives for any special requests, there is a shopping trip or two to acquire the appropriate supplies. 99% of items bought are food! I don’t remember what exactly usually, but it’s usually chocolates that they cannot get back there or they are cheaper here. And no, they are sick of maple syrup already.

It’s a regular game of Tetris, where you try to optimally pack in the different sized boxes and occassionally have to rip open a box to use the food to “fill in the gaps”. Firstly, your luggage bag is re-arranged. And by re-arranged, I mean “your clothes will be used to cushion the food or fill in the gaps”. Then another box is filled with more goodies and taped up (oh no – no wimpy one tape across the bottom and top here, we are talking multiple layers, and every side is taped).

The funniest part is the weighing. Or the “attempted weighing” as I call it. This is usually by “intuition”, as we have traveled there enough to know approximately how heavy the box/bag can be. Everybody takes turns carrying the bag to have a feel of how “heavy” it is, according to our experience packing from before and weighing it at the airport scale. My standard is: “if I can barely carry it with one hand, the weight is ok”. Each item has to be 32 kilograms or less. The Vancouver Airport/Airline check-in people are sticklers for this rule, and I don’t blame them because if they don’t, it will be potentially abused. If you don’t believe me, watch the baggage of any lineup of Asians going back to Asia at YVR :)

Well, our “intuition” is frequently incorrect, thus we have to weigh it at the airport scale BEFORE we check-in just to confirm, to spare us some embarrassment of having to take things out at the counter hurriedly. Of course we bring our trusty box of packing paraphernalia, and an extra bag just in case for the overflow to bring it back home. After confirming the box is within the weight limit, I re-tape it and wrap a plastic rope all around it like a parcel. I don’t see the point really, if the box is busted this rope won’t really hold things in. According to my mom, it’s for “identification”. Gee, I wonder if anyone can mistake this huge box as being ours, since it has OUR NAME WRITTEN IN BLOCK LETTERS ALL OVER IT.

I would think because we frequently travel there, we should get a scale. We used to use the bathroom scale, but it was not very accurate obviously – we might as well use our intuition (which we did!). Sigh, next time I’m getting a hand scale.