Last night at the keynote speech for the conference I'm currently attending, I was sitting behind a guy whose pen started to leak ink all over his hand. I was so impressed with his calm reaction as he put down the leaking pen, reached into his book bag, and pulled out a moist towlette packet and cleaned his fingers. Then he got another pen and continued taking notes.

Talk about being prepared. Moist towlettes are one of those things I sometimes think it would be nice to have in my bag, or in my car. Occasionally I've purchased some, like before a long road trip. Usually I use a couple, and the rest sit in the glove box for months, until they are so dried out even inside their sealed packaging that when I get grunge all over my hand from airing up my tires, the towlette is useless. Or, I stick a towlette packet in my book bag's zippered pocket and it slowly gets frayed and dusty, until again, by the time I actually need it, it's no good. (The same thing happens with cough drops, except that they have a tendency to go soft and gooey and stick to things-- again a situation in which one would like a towlette, if it weren't caught up in the dust ball of cough drop ooze.)

Basically, I've resigned myself to being somewhat less prepared than I sometimes think I should be. Although it would sometimes be nice to have easy access to a needle and thread, scotch tape, stapler, hole punch, scissors, pliers, flashlight, shoelaces, and of course moist towlettes -- I do not, in fact, carry those items around with me on a regular basis. Some of them can be found in my desk at home or work, and some in my car. But I rarely have all of them at hand at the same time -- or at such a time when they would actually come in handy. If I have my bookbag, I do have nail clippers, ibuprofen, kleenex and probably a paper clip or two, which you can do a lot with. I've also resigned myself to the fact that I don't completely empty all the pockets in my bookbag on a regular basis so as to clean out the no-longer useful or fresh things. My inner safety officer personality is disappointed, but I just can't make that sort of thing a priority.

This prepared guy did have an awfully large bookbag/briefcase with him -- as I sat there I started really wondering what else he had in there, just in case any of the other academic emergencies occurred: paper cut, loose eyeglass screw, coughing fit, malfunctioning projector...