The P-factor

My sister Susan has never slept out under the stars, never gazed upon the full moon from a nook in the forest, never philosophized in a sleeping bag. So I was stoked and surprised when she called to tell me that Steve, her husband, bought her a backpack for Valentine’s Day. More surprising still, she seemed genuinely thrilled about it. Whoddathunk it, my indoorsy sis, swooning over a bit of kit. 

  “That’s so cool. What kind? Are you finally going backpacking with him?” I queried, plying her for details.

 She chuckled. A second later, my phone pinged. It was a photo of the pack, a fucking Chanel calfskin satchel you wear on your back. There was a link directing me to the Chanel app.

 “The only outdoors this pack will see is the parcel of space between the lobby of your Upper Eastside apartment and a taxi cab,” I proclaimed.

 I followed the link to get the specs. The pack’s dimensions translate into a capacity of roughly 10 cubic liters, slightly smaller than my bike hydration pack. 

  “What do you carry in this pack?” I asked.

  “Credit card, keys, overpriced sunglasses, phone.”

  “No emergency kit?”

  “Oh yes! Lip gloss, tampon, Advil.”

 I’ll give my sis points for the tampon. Fluffed up, a tampon makes excellent tinder, and combined with a fire steel, it constitutes a fire system, at the heart of any backcountry survival kit. She loses points for the lip gloss, unless it’s petroleum or paraffin-based, in which case it can be considered fuel. For the record, I do not carry lip gloss, as I do not consider lack of lip sheen an emergency.

 I needed more data to evaluate the utility of the specific vanity product she totes, her EDC (everyday carry) gloss if you will. Buxom is the brand. I swear on my grandmother’s grave (though I never met her). I assume she uses the “Full-On Lip Polish” which creates a gentle plumping effect, according to the web site. Its primary ingredient is hydrogenated polyisobutene, a synthetic oil used as a mineral oil substitute, used for pigment dispersion. The oil’s flash point is 120 degrees C, pretty lame if combustion is the goal. I texted Susan that she should carry Vaseline instead.

 With all that space in Susan’s new pack, it’s shocking there was no tool among the contents. No Leatherman Wave. No Knipex mini pliers? I guess when Susan gets into a bind, one that might require some mechanical aptitude and l’outil juste, she calls help. Me? I am the help.


  “Have you ever used or carried a tool?” I asked.

  “Do tweezers count?” she replied.

 Obviously, Susan is not prepared for a disaster scenario like nuclear holocaust or the zombie apocalypse. Granted, she could probably haul ass, even in heels, and outrun the undead. All that indoor exercise–pedaling to nowhere in a dark room–has made her quite fit, fit enough to carry a proper pack loaded with the proper gear to explore the natural skyscrapers of this world. Whether Susan will ever join Steve on a backpacking trip hinges less on aerobic capacity and more on the P-factor, the princess factor. Can she survive in a world without uber and Netflix and Blue Apron? Can she bear the malaise of wearing the same outfit everyday? Will her feet blister, paradoxically, in sensible shoes? We might all guess a trip without a spa is unlikely to appear on Susan’s bucket list. But I’ve stopped prognosticating since November 8th.

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4 responses to “The P-factor

  1. Who wrote this? It’s hilarious!

    • scribblernancy

      Yours truly, Nancy Kim….anything posted by scribblernancy (which is pretty much the entire site save for one post I think) is

  2. In the immortal words of Annie Leibowitz, “If it doesn’t have a lobby, it’s camping.”

  3. Another hilarious piece – presumably Susan is not complaining about the ribbing – nice work, Nancy!

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