The Samsonite Diet
by Mark H. Bloom with Jason Scholder
I love to travel, and I encourage everyone to get out and explore the world, or even just the neighborhood. You will expand your horizons. You will enrich your mind. You will discover problems you never knew you had.
This article is for those who have to fly to their destination. I think you’ll agree that it’s become increasingly annoying, even without the poor food and strip searches. (“No, officer, that’s my prostate.”) But there’s one way to get in the last word: follow the Samsonite Diet. It works. I last used it when I traveled to China. Let me explain…
Getting There Is Half the Fun?
The joy of vacationing is often offset by the burden of coming home again. For every trip I take, there is the inevitable depression that comes from realizing I have to return. If I’m lucky or away for an extended trip, I can forget about it after a while, but otherwise, it follows me everywhere I go, like a swarm of precocious street urchins or the residual stench of the donkey poo I just stepped in.
In these instances, I like to blame the airlines.
Although every airline uses a different set of rules designed to confuse and perplex even the most seasoned traveler, I know I’ll pay a fee for each bag I take with me. Depending on my destination city, I might get to check one bag for free, or I may have to pay hundreds (plural) of dollars. The airline usually knows what it will charge me when I buy the ticket, but it won’t tell me until I check in. That may sound unethical, but wait, it gets worse.
The Problem with Returning
When I travel abroad, the outbound flight’s all happy meals and friendly skies. But on my return flight, nothing ever weighs the same. I likely gained a few pounds during my sojourns; what’s to say my luggage hasn’t as well?
When I arrive at the airport for my return flight, I remember those genuine Italian leather boots I bought. I think about the Czech table settings for twelve I just had to have. It crosses my mind that I shouldn’t have stuffed that Persian carpet into my overnight bag. I ask myself that age-old question: Why didn’t I ship everything?
Airlines Need Cash Too
But the real issue rests with the airlines. To be fair, fuel prices continue to rise, insurance premiums keep going up, and fleet replacement every 25 years is an absolute necessity for machines that never sleep. When some new start-up airline offers lower fares in exchange for eliminating luxury services like food, drinks, lavatories, and oxygen masks, what are the big guys supposed to do? Well, they’ve hired the brightest minds, who’ve come up with a doozy of an idea.
I consider myself a fairly astute traveler. Now. But the first time this happened to me, I didn’t know what lay ahead, waiting like an ambush, until I checked in for my trip home. Then … bam! The airline hatched its evil plan.
Weight restrictions for flights departing foreign countries are different from the ones in the USA. Different and invariably lower. It’s annoying as hell, but the airlines take things into account like environmental impact, personal comfort, and fuel efficiency.
Apparently, even though the average plane weighs in excess of fifty tons, seven extra pounds of luggage can keep a plane from taking off at high altitudes. It’s a complex algorithm that would take years and an engineering degree to explain. Or so they’ve told me.
Actually, the real reason may be that while we Americans measure things in pounds, the rest of the world (with the possible exception of Great Britain) uses kilos. Some bags get lost in translation. Ultimately, if my luggage weighs too much — per pound, kilo, or gold brick equivalent — the price the airlines want to charge me is astronomical. I can pay as much for thirteen extra pounds of luggage as I did for my seat on the plane.
Here’s my innovative solution. The next time you travel, bring things you don’t want anymore. I’m not recommending that you bring all your rags and worn-out shoes (although I did), but consider overhauling your sock collection, your underwear drawer, and your T-shirt relics. Travel long, travel hard, and travel rough.
When you reach the ticket counter for your return flight, and the smug, tightly wound airline clerk begins calculating your overage costs with an abacus and a smile, offer to lighten the load yourself.
Flop your bag on the floor, unzip it from end to end, and begin your search for dirty linens, soiled panties, and tattered stockings. Be absolutely certain to make a scene. Complain loudly about your situation as you toss ejected items as far as you can — onto the floor, the counter, and innocent bystanders. It’s absolutely imperative, though, that when you’re done, your luggage rests comfortably under the weight restrictions.
Lessons Learned: Don’t expect sympathy from the devil and don’t expect courtesy from the airlines. They lick their lips when you leave home because they can taste the spoils of your return. Turn the tables on them and have the last laugh. For once. Remember that traveling abroad isn’t about planning ahead, it’s about keeping an open mind, regardless of the obstacles you encounter. Be flexible and keep your sense of humor, and you’ll have a better overall experience — whether you fly, drive, or hitchhike.
Mark H. Bloom is a published writer and editor, originally from Salem, MA, which has a harbor but no airport. He currently lives in Asheville, NC, which does have an airport. Mark flies smarter now, so he pays less than you do for his seat. He entertains himself writing creatively and professionally while editing books and coaching writers. Get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his full bio below.