Packing a suitcase has never caused me panic until my latest trip when I realized that my bag would be scrutinized by airport security.

No way could the guard guide that broken zipper back on its track on my $3 rummage-sale bag.

As I packed, I looked with a stranger's eye upon the contents of my bag, which immediately raised questions. I didn't have time or desire to buy a new wardrobe, makeup, hair and face-maintenance appliances. Finally, I reached for the Post-it notes and provided some explanation for the suitcase checker.

"Yes, I agree that this white blouse is incredibly wrinkled. That's because it's been bench-pressed under 200 pounds of laundry for the last year. Took me 20 minutes to excavate it. No time to iron it now. I fully intend to iron it in the motel room, though."

On the drab brown swirly skirt: "I know. I'm not wild about it, either, but it's the only thing my sister had to borrow. I'm not about to buy a skirt to wear once every six years."

On the gray sweat pants and $3.99 Florida souvenir T-shirt imprinted with a cluster of smiling shells from four vacations ago: "Stop digging for my lingerie; you've found it. Some day maybe I can afford a Paris T-shirt."

I thought I better post a comment on the cracked plastic lid of my hot curlers: "I realize that two curlers and three metal pickies are missing and there's a pound of hair choking the appliance. So what. It still heats up."

I also plastered a note on the March 2002 issue of Ladies' Home Journal, which was sure to raise suspicion: "Of course, it's February 2003, but I'm reading as fast as I can. Check in the outside zipper pocket and you'll find a yellowing Reader's Digest."

On the splayed toothbrush that appears to have been used to scrub the grout around the bathtub: "Don't worry. A new toothbrush is on my grocery list. Now, if I can only remember to take my grocery list."

Hogging a third of the suitcase was a 4-cup coffee pot and bag of coffee, which begged for an explanation: "While I realize that there's a 50-50 chance of having a dinky coffee pot in my motel room, I can't chance those odds. I don't function in the morning without coffee, period."

One roll of duct tape: "No. This isn't to seal off the window in my motel room. It's to bind this suitcase back together after you're finishing checking it. Hope you have scissors. I was afraid to pack those. Thanks for your cooperation."

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