Our dear friends, Sandy and Harold, aka: "The Pack Rats," make preparing for a trip more painful than a root canal.

That's because Sandy and Harold, who, under normal circumstances are a compatible couple, go a tad crazy when it comes to placing their duds inside their grips. Having never personally witnessed this creative phenomenon, I have on one of their more memorable packing expeditions, received frantic phones from each of them. Just last month before they were to embark on the high seas, Sandy phoned, announcing that after swallowing a few Valium with a white-wine chaser, she was considering doing Harold in.

"What's the problem," I ask.

"It's Harold again. He's doing his travel shtick," she said.

"Where to this time?"

"To a remote island in the Pacific with no signs of life except for a few snakes and a McDonald's."

"A piece of cake," I assured her. "All you need are two bikinis and a can of mace."

"My thought precisely, "Sandy said, "except that Harold has a different packing agenda. He's obsessing over his socks. He insists on bringing 21 for each day we're away. I told him we can do laundry on the island, but it makes him uncomfortable. Harold likes to practice safe socks.

"You can't be too careful these days," I said.

"That's not all," she advised. "Harold is a generic packer, while I prefer getting down to the nitty-gritty."

"Nitty-gritty is important," I said. "Nitty-gritty can make the difference between looking good or like you just stepped off the banana boat."

"Actually, we are traveling on a banana boat," she said. It's the new "in" thing."

"In that case, you'll need rubber-soled shoes so you won't slip on a peel," I advised. "Also include the alligator repellent and industrial strength Maalox."

"Harold insists on taking his smoking jacket and ascot. When we travel, he likes doing it up big, Sandy said. "First class all the way. On our last trip to Antarctica, he brought along his tuxedo. The reason being, he wanted to fit in with the penguins."

"Harold was always a real class act," I said.

Later that same afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was Harold wanting to know if he was over-reacting to Sandy's packing list.

"Sandy is behaving a little weirdly," he said. "She's packing seventeen pairs of panty hose, with tummy support no less. Sandy gets bloated when she eats coconuts. I told her that a little gas wouldn't upset the natives, but she's sensitive when it comes to her undergarments. The last time we traveled, someone stole her Days-of-the Week panties. She had to wear "Wednesday" on "Saturday." She became quite disoriented and had to be medicated for Post Traumatic Wilderness Syndrome. Now that we're visiting an exotic Island, she's planning to store her panties in a safe deposit box."

"A woman's got to do what a woman's got to do," I said. "You need to go with the flow."

"Speaking of which," Harold told me, "Sandy is so paranoid about her stolen undies she now prefers to wash her clothes in the tub while she bathes. She once took a bath with her nighties, a terry cloth robe and an assortment of her see-through brassieres. The water overflowed and nearly caused a tidal wave. I've begged her to travel lightly."

"Go take a nap, Harold," I suggested.

Sandy called later and was practically vibrating over the phone.

"Harold is upstairs packing a month's supply of his American Medical Association journals. He's writing an ophthalmic paper on "Astigmatism Among American Native Chimpanzees." I told him these journals would require a steamer trunk and to forget the whole idea. He got so hysterical that he spilled his contact lens solution all over his Bermuda shorts. As we speak, he's assuming the lotus position to get rid of his angst."

"The idea is to remain calm," I told her. "Traveling is supposed to enrich one's life, not add to the confusion."

"The last time we went to Greece," she confessed, "We needed to see a shrink on our return. "That's because Harold insisted on wearing a fig leaf over his private parts," I reminded her.

I called them back that evening to see how things were going and to wish them a bon voyage.

"Everything's going swimmingly," Sandy cooed. "Harold agreed not to take along his favorite pillow if I don't pack my six-ply rolls of toilet paper. He said I can use palm leaves instead of T.P."

"Sounds like you've reached a compromise," I said.

Three weeks later, Sandy called to say that she and Harold had the trip of a lifetime.

"What made it work so well was that our luggage got lost," she said. "We had to resort to wearing matching eucalyptus Mumu's sewn together by the native dancing girls."

"You now know you can survive on a minimalist wardrobe," I pointed out.

"Except for one problem," Sandy said. "Now that we're back, Harold refuses to get out of his Mumu. He wears it to the office every day. During a routine eye exam, a eucalyptus leaf accidentally nicked a patient's cornea. She's suing for Mumu damages."

"A small price for being world travelers," I replied.

Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views each Wednesday in the Westport News. She can be reach by e-mail at joodth@snet.net or at her web site, www.judithmarks-white.com.