I try to imagine the looks on the faces of Transportation Security Administration Inspectors when they x-ray my bag full of liquids, perishables, drugs (pharmaceutical), and potentially hazardous materials. At the point when my check-in bag is going through the machine, I am already safely through security and waiting in the terminal for my plane, perhaps enjoying some iced tea and a granola bar I packed. By the time I open my luggage upon arriving at destination X the contents of my bag are an afterthought to me until I find that TSA “Notice of Baggage Inspection” form inside and giggle to myself. I imagine the security personnel giving one another nervous glances, strapping on their rubber gloves, carefully taking my luggage off of the conveyor belt and unzipping it while muttering that they do not get paid enough for this job. Of course, they never find anything that would land me in jail, ignite, or the like. Instead, they find things like tubes of toothpaste, denture cream, 500+ pills of Advil and Tylenol, and…Windex. After attempting a cursory explanation of who on earth would pack this kind of stuff, they probably shrug their shoulders and throw my bag onto the heap.
They obviously have not met my family. When my family came to visit me for the day when I lived in Chestertown, MD, I was greeted with a five-pound plastic bag of raw chicken my mother happily slapped against my back as she hugged me. My grandmother rolled down the car window and pushed a Tide stain remover pen into my hand before giving me a kiss on the cheek. My sister had made cucumber and onion salad and asked that I return her container when I next came to PA. On my two-day trek from PA down to Florida with a 13-passenger-amish van turned moving truck and my car schlepping all of my belongings down to my new home, my sister gave me clippings from her plants at the farm wrapped in soaked-paper towels so that I could begin some of my own plants (check the regulations of moving plants across state lines for the state you will be moving to).
In the five-mile radius that includes everyone’s homes in PA (except mine of course, which happens to be hundreds of miles away), there is a constant moving and juggling of resources and goods. Every year when I go home for Christmas I am like a FedEx or UPS Woman going from household to household and moving things around. I start off at my mother’s, who needs a pan returned to my grandmother’s. She includes a plastic bag of leftover stuffed cabbage from a big batch of our family’s Hungarian recipe. When I reach mom-mom’s house, she has several coupon inserts and a plant to give to my sister. Then I get to my sister’s home, who has free samples and a DVD for my mother. The cycle is never-ending, and even though I live so far away, I carry on my end of the bargain.
Since I play the drugstore game, I always have plenty of leftover goodies that I purchase very cheaply. I have taken it upon myself to personally stock up my grandparents with a lot of their toiletry needs once a year because they live on a fixed income. I either tote all of these things up in my suitcase around Christmastime (which explains the denture cream found by the TSA officials), or I mail them using a flat rate box at the USPS. Since my grandmother and mother have come down to visit in the fall every year for the last two years (and will be doing so again in three months from now!), I have eve saved on shipping and stashed the goods in their suitcase (they fly Southwest, so no baggage fees). It’s such a great feeling knowing that I am saving others money!
I have expanded my circle to include Paul’s family, who unsuspectingly receive random coupons from me, the occasional free can of dog food, foot cream, and other extras hanging around our home. What can I say? I have no doubt that they think I’m a little strange (I know my husband does!)…but it’s always good to stretch your supplies and help others. I even do this at work; my purse is a free tote bag from two and a half years ago when we registered at Macy’s for our wedding, and thank goodness it’s so large because every week I use it to carry magazines for the break room, the occasional donation for the food bank box, DVDs and books for cubicle buddies to borrow, coupons for products I know other people use, and so much more.
Do you have a similar circle of family, friends, and goods? Do you find that it helps to save each of you money?