Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Some people like to carry a touch of home with them when they travel.

Stories abound of seasoned businesspeople who never pack a suitcase - whether for a quick one- or two-day jaunt or for an extended overseas trip - without taking along some family memento. It could be a framed portrait of the spouse and children, or even a favorite pillowcase. The specifics do not matter overmuch: It is just a way for the Road Warrior to be able to adjust strange surroundings, even if ever so slightly, to bring a touch of comfort.

During my years of toil for the Great Corporate Salt Mine, I logged my share of time away from home, but schlepalong touchstones never filled the little void in my life that came along with being away. Maybe I didn’t want to make myself too comfortable in my random hotel rooms. My discomfort - the lack of the familiar - made me eager to get home at the end of my trips all the more.

What made me think of this was glimpsing the assortment of shampoos and soaps on a shelf in our hotel room’s tub a few days ago. There was a good-sized bar of yellow-orange Dial soap. There was an array of bottles containing Neutrogena T-Gel shampoo (extra strength!), Rainbath shower gel, and a few others I recognized from our own bathroom at home.

It’s not that the hotel provided these things. Sure, a well-equipped hostelry will set out a bar or two of soap - facial! bath! - and a few thumb-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and body lotion. And sometimes the stuff the hotel provides is of reasonably good quality. As a Traveling Man, I always looked forward to using the various hotel toiletries - it was a way of reminding myself that I was away from home in an exotic locale. Like Akron, Ohio. Or Tomah, Wisconsin.

Exotic. Right.

Hey, there were a few truly interesting locations I traveled to, back in the day. And I will even confess to amassing a collection of the sundry incidentals that decorated the bathroom counter. It’s a sickness, I know.

But when I saw that oh-so-recognizable chunk of Dial soap and its accompanying fluids and unguents, I immediately felt right at home. Here is was in a distant (albeit not too distant) part of the country, and yet I could luxuriate in the shower-bath as though I were in my very own Zone of Personal Comfort at Chez Elisson.

It is, of course, Dee who brings all of this crap along. It matters not whether we are a three-hour drive away or on the far side of the planet. There must be yellow-orange Dial soap and its various fellow-travelers. Not for her the game of Hotel Soap Russian Roulette. Oh, no.

Does she do it to create a familiar atmosphere in alien circumstances? Is it a reminder of home, much like a framed portrait of the family dog or a spouse’s T-shirt?

No, not at all. She brings this stuff because that’s what she likes to have in the shower... and it’s worth the minor inconvenience of  carrying around her favorite toiletries. It’s simply where the needle falls on her personal Comfort versus Convenience scale... and who would be foolish enough to argue with that?

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