Jonathan
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Pacnick

August 06, 2015


This piece was written for a prompt about travel portmanteaus. I began writing this on July 20th and finished it about 4 days later.

pacnick /pak’-nik/ noun.

  1. Sudden, often transient, onset of fear while preparing to take things along for a journey. Typically occurs as one realizes that gathering supplies for travel ideally should not occur immediately before one is set to drive or fly or sail or run away to a distant land.
  2. Feeling of dread as one realizes that he or she has failed to bring along on a trip, a highly relevant item. Typically a hygiene or toiletry product such as toothpaste or shampoo. Occasionally something much more crucial, e.g. one’s passport, useful currency, or sunscreen.
  3. Can occur when one realizes that he or she has brought an entirely useless item, e.g. a 93-inch plush teddy bear.

Pacnick set in at approximately 4 AM the day I was supposed to fly to Toulouse. About two hours prior, I had made the questionable decision of watching a pulpy action movie with my roommates which also entailed consuming a full bag of microwave kettle corn and a 28 ounce, Sour Patch watermelon-flavored 7-Eleven Slurpee. While I do not regret doing that, I’ve come to realize that pacnicking is my modus operandi.

I glanced at the pile of toothpaste, shampoo, moisturizing lotions, aloe vera ointment, hand sanitizer, and sunscreens still sitting on my desk and the pile of underwear, t-shirts, pants, and long-sleeved shirts still sitting on my mattress. You know you have an uncanny ability to make your life harder than it needs to be, right? But following several hours of frantic rearranging, I successfully bundled everything in time to leave for the airport at 10:30 am.

The cruel thing about pacnick, however, is that it can strike long after the initial packing phase. While waiting in the airport, I suddenly remembered that I forgot to withdraw euros. Pacnick was subsequently followed by the surrender of all my remaining cash to an exchange kiosk manned by a surly woman for a rate that can only be described as predatory.

Boarder-line Personality Disorder (BPD) /bor’-der-line/ noun.

  1. A mental condition marked by irrational behavior prior to the call for aircraft boarding. Characterized by standing and hovering around the boarding gate, even with complete knowledge that Boarding Group 5 condemns everyone, no exceptions, to boarding dead last.

My flight to Madrid was set to board at 5:40 PM. Half an hour before boarding, I began to observe erratic behavior among certain passengers who obsessively checked boarding passes and perked up at the sound of any intercom crackle and alert chime. About 20 minutes prior to the call for priority boarding, a small colony of passengers with severe boarder-line personality disorder emigrated toward the gate. More and more passengers slowly trickled over, not wanting to be left behind. I made the very conscious effort to avoid this herd-like behavior, and stay seated. I waited patiently until 5:15, when boarding class 2 was called. I strolled down the red carpet. Passing by, I nodded and gave a smile of sympathy to those poor, BPD-afflicted souls.

overheadonist /oh-ver-head’-n-ist/ noun

  1. A person whose life is devoted to the pursuit of self-gratification and the placing of both his/her personal item and carry-on into the overhead compartment.

Thanks to overheadonist pricks, I didn’t even get to put one bag in the overhead compartments. I wedged my backpack under the seat in front of me and crooked my legs to the side. I was about to be bitter, but I reflected solemnly on my yet to be atoned for overheadonist past and let this one slide.

snafqueue noun.

  1. Poor line selection due to limited empirical evidence and/or bad luck. Results in being overtaken by people who were many spots behind you in line, hypertension, and staleness.

I entered Spain en route to Toulouse and floated down the main non-EU customs line. Before it split off into 9 separate lanes, I performed a rough mental calculation of which line to join. I had noticed that the left-most line had only 12 people while the other lines averaged 13 or 14. An alert Spanish woman manned the booth. And it was demographically young and healthy. I sprung.

10 minutes later, it looked like my decision was a snafqueue. Youth is so overrated. Two teenagers were stuck at the booth and kept on asking questions, which the customs officer patiently answered, though she looked increasingly exasperated. People 10 or 15 places behind me had passed through long ago. Precious minutes ticked by as I tapped my foot impatiently and felt my heart rate and blood pressure rising. Next time, I’ll bet on the experienced and ancient.

arrival /uh-rahyv’-vuhl/ noun

  1. The reaching of one’s destination.

After my arrival in Auvillar, I dropped my duffel bag on my bed and began to unpack. After 24 hours of flying, shuttling, sitting, and waiting, I just wanted to settle in and rest. I had all my clothing and toiletries and felt exceedingly pleased. I reached into the bottom of the duffel to extract the remaining items. And pulled out a pair of dark-grey, wool dress pants. Shit. My heart stopped. I clutched the pants, wide-eyed in disbelief. Pacnick.