Tag Archives: packing

How to Talk to Strangers 101: Wear a College Shirt

Berkeley shirt

Berkeley shirt

I pack light. For this seven week trip, I brought four shirts, two pairs of pants, some underwear and miscellany. One shirt is for sleeping, one is for exercising, and two are for everyday wear. One of the everyday wear shirts is solid black, which was a great choice. The other is a grey Berkeley shirt, which was not as great of a choice, mainly because the pitstains in it are huge, permanent, and growing.

In spite of the pits, however, it has been an incredible conversation starter. The conversations usually go like this:

Random stranger who sees my shirt: “Did you go to Berkeley?”

Me: “No, I actually didn’t. I found this shirt. In my apartment. When someone left it there who was staying with me. She was Australian.”

Random stranger: “Oh. Where did you go to school?”

Me: “Boston University, but now I live in San Francisco. I don’t know what the red dots splattered on this shirt are. It could be blood.”

Random stranger: “Oh. ”

Me: “Yeah.”

Variations include people who went to school at Berkeley, know someone who did, or wanted to go there. The shirt has started convos with a professor who used to play golf with Christopher Hitchens who stopped me on the street, the bouncer at a bar, a man on the bus and nearly countless others.

I think the moral of the story is that people in D.C. are kind of friendly. Also, shirts are great conversation starters. You shouldn’t be afraid to do it yourself either. In my case, that’d look like this:

Me: “I know I’m wearing this Berkeley shirt, but I actually didn’t go there. I went to Boston University and found this shirt when an Australian who was staying with me accidentally left it. She was studying abroad at Berkeley for the semester or something. The crazy thing is that I actually live in San Francisco now, so I don’t look out of place at all when I wear it there.”

Random stranger: “Excuse me – this is my stop.”

Me: “Wait, come back! There’s more to my story! I’m going to be an improv comedian!”

(Bus door closes)

Works like a charm.

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Six Stages of Packing


It is finished. I have moved and am now in a magical place called Mohandiseen, where the honking in the distance almost sounds like crickets, the sky has 3 more stars, and cotton candy grows on trees.

I don’t care if I have to eat beans and toothpaste for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea time snack in order to live here. It will be worth it to have this haven where I can literally cocoon myself away from the craziness of Tahrir, in order to appreciate it more fully.

While packing, I gleaned some impressive information on the emotional phases of the moving process. Allow me to elaborate.

Time to Go

The day has come. It’s time to move out of your apartment, the apartment where you have lived. You saw this day coming because you signed the lease and chose this day yourself. Still, it strikes you like a thunderbolt. You squirm in your shoes, you pace up and down nervously as your palms sweat and your eyes swim, but you can’t avoid what’s coming. It’s time to pack. As you begin the laborious process, you start progressing through the six stages.

Stage 1: Despondency

As you survey the grotesque bulk of your possessions, your heart is stricken with an iced lightening rod. Hercules himself would have trembled at the sight of what must be squirreled away…unworn clothing, laughably ambitious shoes, three partially used deodorant sticks, two cans of tuna, etc. You experience earth shattering, heart breaking, soul sucking hopelessness. “Might as well give up now,” you think, as you check to see what’s on television.

Stage 2: Elbow Grease

After weeping briefly, you pull yourself together and realize that today is the first day of the rest of your life, and that if you don’t pack your landlord will confiscate you and your possessions. You start puttering around the room, rearranging and evaluating things, and all the while hope slowly wells within your chest. “Maybe this can be done,” you think, “and where did those cans of tuna go?”

Stage 3: Sweat

You’re really moving now. The hot Cairo sun is beating down upon all the Cairene earth. In the AC-less room, your temples and back grow damp as the pile of material possessions is slowly organized and moved into seal-able spaces. You are happy in your delusion that things are actually going to get done. “I’ll even be able to fit in my cans of tuna,” you contentedly state to yourself.

Stage 4: Despair

Your bags are filling fast and you there is no end in sight. Your forehead is sweaty and you feel like crap for some reason, even though you got three hours of sleep and have only eaten chocolate. Emotions run high as you recall past loves and wonder where they are now. Are they packing too? Do they know what this is like? As you look at the miserable pile of crap your life has become, a mere anchor to a place you are no longer attached to, you begin to wonder what the meaning of it all is.

Stage 5: Rejuvenation

After looking at a tree, you realize things aren’t so bad. You decide to throw away the yards of velvet you wanted to make into a magician’s cape for your niece, and that makes you feel better. Now there’s just the odd shaped things like packing tape left, most of which can be thrown into your backpack. “Wait a second, ” you think to yourself, “WHERE ARE MY CANS OF TUNA?” You lay your eye upon them and a chorus of heavenly angels sings as you nestle them into the perfect spot in your suitcase. The end is in sight and it looks like a celebration at Pizza Hut.

Stage 6: Jubilation

After cramming the last pair of socks through the crack of your suitcase and zipping it shut before it could escape, you glance around your room and realize you have done the impossible. You have packed your life into measurable square feet, and you have done so with only a mild breakdown. Come hell or high water, one thing is for certain. As soon as you get to your new apartment, you’re unpacking everything and cracking open a can of tuna in celebration. Champagne is for squares and people who don’t eat enough protein.

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