Be Prepared
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa  (Oct 2011)
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            I realize that the whole Scouts “Be Prepared” thing has always been a part of my life philosophy, even though I’ve never actually been involved in the organization. Unless, that is, my unusual affection for the cookies counts as involvement. I’m always “Prepared” to enjoy a few Caramel deLites (the artist formerly known as Samoas) or a roll of Do-Si-Dos. And man, oh, man, have you tried those new Lemonades? Good googly moogly. But I digress.

            My point is MacGyver could have saved the world three times over with the contents of my purse. It is clear that I live by the three words, “just in case.” I think that sufficiently approximates “Be Prepared” such that I should get free cookies. Just sayin’.

            As far back as middle school, when I began carrying a purse, I figured, you never know what you might need, right? Pen and paper? Check. Hair accessories? Check. Emergency pre-packaged snacks from the cafeteria? Mini-stapler? Scissors? Check, check, check.

            I can’t be the only one who carried these, can I? Any real-life former Girl Scouts wanna back me up?

            (Crickets.)

            Don’t care. I stand by my purse and its contents. Then I pick it up and crouch under its weight.

            Kidding. I’m so strong on that side of my body by now that I no longer crouch.

            Yes, I have been mocked. I care not. For, when one is in need of something, there is usually another nearby to say, “You know who might have that? Nicole.” Then some sort of music plays – let’s say it’s the scene changing horns from The Super Friends – and the person comes to find me. My superhero name in this case would have to be The Bag Lady. I suppose my costume should be lots of little zipper pouches everywhere, filled with all manner of possibly useful items. Hmm. I like how this would evenly distribute the weight of my purse contents over my entire body instead of just over one shoulder. I may be on to something.

            When I’m not imagining a life in costume, I choose for myself purses with lots of compartments. I like to organize items by category so I can find what I want right away. My current system requires sections and subsections for areas I’ll call Health, Pleasantness, and Utility.

            Utility includes things like a small notebook and pen, my phone, phone charger (don’t leave home without it), safety pins for wardrobe malfunctions [Anyone have a safety pin? Yup], and the usual essentials: wallet, keys, umbrella.

            Yes, umbrella. I once got caught in a sudden, wicked, cell-phone-murdering rainstorm (RIP, waterlogged phone at the bottom of my bag). I would later vow never again to leave the house sans umbrella, and soon found a purse-sized option that is only six inches long when collapsed, but opens to a size large enough to protect one adult and one adult’s cell phone from any freak rainstorm. Sold!

            The Pleasantness section includes anything beauty-related, as well as gum (fruity or minty? Your choice! I’ve got both!). I carry tweezers, which I once used to remove a friend’s splinter. I wash my hands frequently, so lotion is a must. I don’t go anywhere without ChapStick. Clippers are effective in a pinch as scissors, and a nail file is a given [Anyone have a nail file? Yup]. I round out the section with bobby pins, elastic bands, lip gloss, deodorant (more people should carry this, I think – let’s leave it at that) and a small mirror. If you are lost or stranded in the wilderness and you spot a plane, did you know that you can use a mirror to signal for help? You can also use it to locate lettuce in your teeth before a meeting which is, let’s face it, just as important.

            My health section includes Band-Aids, of course, and there is always an extra to share [Anyone have a Band-Aid? Yup]. Rubbing alcohol wipes are a recent addition to the section. Love these! They are great for cleaning tweezers post-splinter removal, or wiping down your cell phone from time to time, as all of us should. My sports tape is handy for dealing with injuries (I once taped a coworker’s ankle – good thing I was once a high jumper) as well as anytime you might wish you had duct tape. And we both know how often you’ve said to yourself, “Boy, if only I had some duct tape.”

            There’s a travel bottle of anti-inflammatory pain killer in there, which is practical given my way of life. I’ve also got skin allergy cream and hand sanitizer. Ah, hand sanitizer. My baby. I used it on minor wounds in the past when necessary, but now I have those fabulous alcohol wipes… yet my dear Han San remains endlessly useful post-subway or bus pole-holding, post-questionable handshakes, post-unsavory doorknob use, and more. By the way, no, I will not be seeing Contagion.

            You’d think I’d carry my Swiss Army Knife in my purse, wouldn’t you? But I’m bound to forget it’s in there and, sure enough, I’ll find myself at the airport holding up the security line. They’d say, “Excuse me, Ma’am, would you please remove the knife from your bag?” And I’d be like, “What knife? Do you think I’m crazy? Who brings a knife on a plane?” And they’d be like, “Ma’am, please remove the knife from your bag.” And I’d open the bag to prove there was no knife, then I’d find it, and I’d have to pull it out and say, “Oh, THIS knife.”

            Then they’d ask me to throw it away, which I’d hate to do because those things aren’t cheap, so I’d hesitate for just that one second, and then I will have drawn suspicion for hesitating. Now they’re encircling me to contain the threat, and I’m holding the knife up, saying, “No, no! It’s fine! I’ll throw it away!” and I try to toss it in the designated “sharps and weaponry” trash can. But now I’m throwing knives in an airport, so they tackle me to the ground and take me away. And then I miss my flight, which really puts me in a bad mood. So you know what? I think my current system is working just fine [Anyone have a Swiss Army Knife? Nope].

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