What We Left in the Vilnius Airport

“Four hundred fifty dollars,” said the lady at the airport counter in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“You are entitled to one 15 kg bag each,” said the lady. “But this bag is 30 kg. The charge for the extra weight would be $450.”

Once upon a time, my husband Ben and I traveled light. Now we travel with a baby. On this trip, we were also traveling for seven weeks and through several very different climates.

“How much would it be to add a third 15 kg bag?” asked Ben.

“Three hundred dollars,” said the lady.

For $300, we could buy our bag a business class seat on an ordinary airline, where it would be given hot towels and champagne and probably foot rubs all the way to London.

Unfortunately, we weren’t flying an ordinary airline. Our only choice for this trip was the budget British Irish airline RyanAir — reviled by travelers worldwide. And our only choice now was to get to the other side of security, buy a new suitcase, return to the Departures terminal, repack our luggage, check three bags instead of two for an added fee of $300, plus the cost of the new suitcase, and fly to England, assuming we made the flight, stewing in our own impotent rage.

Or was that our only choice? A helpful Australian behind us in line suggested another option. Why not empty out our two suitcases? (For if bag #1 was Santa Claus, bag #2 was the barely-smaller Mrs. C, just as surely over the 15 kg limit.)

We dragged all of our material possessions to the area near the luggage scale. The baby watched with interest as we unzipped Santa and Mrs. Claus and got to work. By the time our bariatric surgery on them was complete, Santa and Mrs. Claus were each halved in size, and the pile by the luggage scale consisted of:

  • One Athalon wheeled travel bag. Although it is a standard American-size carry-on bag, it was too big to meet RyanAir’s stringent requirements, and too heavy to remain tucked within the bowels of Mrs. C.
  • One bottle of conditioner
  • Two bottles of moisturizer
  • One bottle of body wash
  • One full tube of toothpaste
  • One pair of Uniqlo jeans
  • One pair of Levi’s jeans
  • One pair khaki pants
  • Two pairs of shorts, one including belt
  • One pair of Birkenstock sandals
  • One bra
  • One maternity nightgown
  • One maternity dress
  • Socks and underwear (assorted)
  • One bottle Johnson & Johnson baby wash
  • One unopened 36-pack of Lithuanian diapers
  • One unopened package of Pampers baby wipes
  • Baby toys
    (one stuffed duck, one “book”, some plastic something or others)
  • Waterproof changing pads (“They don’t weigh anything!” “Everything weighs something.”)
  • One (emptied) leather wallet, plus pharmacy club cards
  • One jar local honey (intended as a gift)
  • One jar local gourmet salsa (intended as a gift)
  • One unused handmade wooden cutting board and spoons (intended as gifts)
  • Travel adapters
  • Lonely Planet Guidebook
  • Pages of intelligent comments from classmates on Ester’s writing by participants in the workshops she had come to Lithuania to attend

As hiking writers from Cheryl Strayed to Bill Bryson have learned, every ounce counts. We argued over certain items like umbrellas, which were heavy but would be needed in the U.K., a Spanish phrasebook, which hadn’t yet served its purpose, and the jeans (my only pair!). The scale, though, had the final word.

In twenty minutes, we divested ourselves of half of everything we had brought with us to, or amassed over two weeks in, Eastern Europe. We returned triumphant to the lady at the counter and paid her exactly fuckall, as the British say. Then we dashed to security to just barely make our flight, during which we had to pay $8.50 (£6) for water and endure non-stop pitches from the PA system and roving flight attendants for other items ranging from food to cigarettes.

So far, after several days in the British countryside, we’ve managed to replace many of the items, including the body wash, the baby wash, the conditioner, Ben’s khakis and shorts, and my sandals, and discovered that we didn’t need many of the others. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose, and all that.

We continue to mourn the loss of the gifts we bought in Lithuania that got chucked. Just assume, friends, if we return empty-handed from our nearly two months abroad, that we bought a gift for you, truly we did, and it’s probably still there by the luggage scale.

Ester Bloom normally lives in Brooklyn.

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