Because I flit around the globe fairly frequently, people tend to assume I’m one of those good-to-go, Eat-Pray-Love-To-Travel kind of girls. I am not. My favorite fantasy is that I can just beam myself places á la Star Trek, nestling into my own bed every single night and a large portion of every day.
But once I’m traveling, I try to bloom where I’m planted, despite jetlag and disorientation. By and large, I do all right. This is especially true in the African bush, where I feel deeply relaxed despite days that begin as early as 3:00 a.m. and continue as late as midnight.
This scheduling isn’t masochism, just a fascination with animals both diurnal and nocturnal. The last evening I was at Londolozi, my friends and I were prepping dinner when we heard that two male leopards were squaring off for a fight nearby. Everyone sprinted to an open Land Rover, leaving the food on the table. We spent the next hour gazing at the incredibly brilliant stars and drinking mini-bar liqueurs while the leopards thrashed around us in the tall grass, growling at each other.
Sleep? Who needs it?
As it turns out, I do.
During my two weeks in Africa I have slept, by my own calculation, for approximately seventeen minutes. That said, it must be noted that “my own calculation” is none too trustworthy. I can tell you this for certain, because I cannot find my pants.
They’re my favorite pants—you know, that one perfect pair of black pants that fits well, doesn’t need ironing, and can go from casual to formal with a few accessories? Such pants are like soulmate; you don’t find them more than once or twice in a lifetime. I wore my special pants all day yesterday while training some wonderful coaches and having dinner with friends. After that I was so tired I don’t remember getting back to my hotel. When I woke up, my shoes, blouse, and jacket were on the floor by my bed. But my pants are gone. I’ve pawed through my luggage a dozen times, searched every inch of my hotel room.
You know, it’s impossible to predict what’s going to break the camel’s back.
This month I’ve heard tales of anti-Apartheid heroism, I toured a hospital where a patient casually toted a jug that was stuck through his chest wall so his punctured lung wouldn’t collapse, and spent an hour teaching a 15-year-old orphan who’s holding her family together with nothing but hope and grit. I heard by “bush telegram” (word-of-mouth) that Iceland went postal on Europe. I’ve handled this all with deep breaths, optimism, and a smile.
But my favorite pants going AWOL—well, that’s just too much.
Worse than the wrenching loss and the terrible fear of never ever ever finding such a great pair of pants again, is my utter bewilderment. What the hell happened to them? My addled brain keeps going through the possibilities:
• In my sleep-deprived madness, I could have had some sort of wild fling in the hotel elevator. If so, it seems deeply unfair that I can’t remember it.
• Perhaps as I was undressing, I hallucinated a dragon coming in through the open window, and defended myself—as one does—by hurling my pants at it.
• Extremely tired people do weird things in their sleep (I have an insomniacal friend who awoke one morning to find approximately 500 “Thank you for your order!” emails from Amazon.com). For all I know, I gave my pants to the maid as a tip.
• Perhaps my subconscious self hates globe-trotting, and stuffed my favorite travel pants into the hotel ventilation system reasoning that without them, I’ll just stay home.
• Maybe I ate them.
At any rate, they’re gone, and this on top of the anti-Apartheid stories and the punctured-lung jug and the orphans and Iceland LITERALLY invading Europe…well, it just makes me want to lie down and suck my thumb forever.
I’m so grateful for my happy, itinerant life. I know you’re grateful for the good in your life as well. But sometimes we wake up and our pants are inexplicably gone, and at those times, it’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to slump to the floor in a hotel robe, pound the carpet, and, yes, use strong language. It’s okay to feel that of all the massive natural and man-made disasters in the world, the bizarre disappearance of our own personal favorite pants is for us, at that moment, by far the worst.
All right, enough whining. It’s time to pull myself together, regain perspective, and prepare for another really lovely event, which I will experience through the light haze of a waking REM doze. It’s time to be thankful that I have other pants—inferior ones, but pants—to wear in place of my bygone favorites.
And I am thankful. I truly am. Just please, God, let my underwear be where I left it.
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