Baggage, Labels and the Waste of a Small Personal Item

I realize as I exit the taxi that my large spinner bag has a flat.  I’m bummed that it’s come to the end of the road for the Samsonite but know that it’s been a tough friend to me as it travelled several times around the globe.  I drag it through Nassau International Airport and manage to get it to the check-in counter.  Now it’s someone else’s problem until I reach LA.

Sitting by the gate I peer out the window to see the conveyer belt take the bag up into the underbelly of the plane.  It gets on first, I assume because it needs some special assistance.  Poor baby…at least it’s being treated well and went on vacation before it is sent to the luggage dump.

This blue bag had seen Paris, Bali, New York, London and Hawaii along with many other destinations.  I named him Spin, because he was obviously a spinner.  Now, he is officially Curt, for his short bursts of stop and go, well, curtness.  He was purchased where I get all of my bags…Tuesday Morning, but it was actually a Wednesday afternoon on my lunch hour when I first spotted him.  He was just the right size and a nice shade of dark blue.  Not black like all of the other bags, yet not that obnoxious royal blue that you see wheeling around the airport craving attention.

I once bought a 5 piece Samsonite set at Macy’s.  Apparently it was a deal for $600.  I booked a flight and checked the large piece through to JFK.  Waiting at the gate, I was hoping for an upgrade so when my name was called I excitedly made my way up to the desk smiling. A stern agent greeted me with a statement “your checked bag was found with a bullet inside it.”  Dumfounded I asked if it had been shot.

“No, it had a bullet in one of the zippered compartments.”  Then she rattled on about how firearms and ammunition are not allowed on planes.  I know, I protested as I said it wasn’t mine and I don’t own any weapons or ammunition of any kind.  My face flushed.  She looked at me as though I was Annie Oakley and there was nothing more for me to refute.  There was no upgrade for me and I had to slink back to row 33 unable to comprehend how a bullet made it’s way into my bag.  Was there someone walking around Macy’s thinking, ‘oh let me fuck up someone’s trip by placing a bullet inside their luggage’?

I only have one piece left from that set and Mable is starting to show her age.  She’s a carry-on roller bag with a ton of space.  I get stopped periodically asking where I got it, but they don’t make Mable anymore.  She’s covered more ground than any of my bags and she plays defense really well.  Outside of the US, especially in Europe I find that people like to stand very close to one another to the point of breathing on me.  I hate it.  They invade my personal space and they seem unaware they’re even doing it.  I like my American wide open space so Mable helps me immeasurably.  As I stand in line (or is it On line? or the Queue?), I get about two feet from the person in front of me and stop, meanwhile Mable is stretched out at least three feet behind me.  She is protecting my personal space.  A few people have kicked her (accidentally of course) or almost tripped because they see me so FAR, FAR away from them.  Mable is my bodyguard and I hope she can roll along for a few more years.

After the $600 Samsonite bullet set I learned never to buy expensive baggage.  When you travel thousands of miles each year, pretty luggage is going to become ugly very quickly.  I have a cute carry-on set — Longchamps in powder blue with a brown leather trim.  It was a gift and it has a 21” carry-on with a small bag that slips around the handle on top.  It’s so super cute that flight attendants compliment me on the set!  Or at least it was super cute.  I once got on a small plane where the larger piece had to be checked at the gate.  I landed in Phoenix and waited in the jetway for the elegant Ava to be brought up from the bowls of the plane.  When she was placed in front of me I could hardly recognize her, I thought she’d gone on a bender.  She was scuffed and stained.  Her glamour had faded.  She was now Charlize Theron in Monster.

I learned a long time ago never to buy branded bags.  You know the ones — TUMI, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, etc…There was a saying I heard when I was a kid, “handsome is as handsome does.”  Well the named, pretty luggage rarely does much except cause trouble.  A woman I once knew had a large TUMI bag that she took on a 4 day trip to Cabo San Lucas.  This bag came up to my waist and could accommodate at least two large American sized children.  She was going away for FOUR DAYS, not FOURTEEN! So she emptied her closet inside Barbie, including jewelry (yes, jewelry…that’s another story, I just can’t) and checked it to Mexico.  Barbie was never seen or heard from again.  No ransom, nothing.  All the woman got was $400 from the airline and a few neon t-shirts from Cabo.

The label thing really irks me.  Companies pay millions of dollars each year advertising their brand on billboards, TV, radio, the web and in magazines and newspapers, yet someone will spend an exorbitant amount of money on an item emblazoned with LVLVLVLVLVLVLV all over it.  YOU ARE ADVERTISING FOR A BRAND, YET YOU ARE PAYING FOR IT!!!!  Shouldn’t they be paying you???  This drives me bonkers.  I sat on my connecting flight in Miami and watched as Calvin Klein, T-Mobile and Nike all walked past me.  Did the guy wearing the T-Mobile shirt really have nothing else to wear?  He couldn’t find a nice button down in his closet?  Or is he heading home and that’s what he actually packed for the trip?  I admit to having a promotional item or two, but I can’t wear a t-shirt or carry bags advertising in such a garish way.

My black backpack has a small Spider-Man head on it.  It’s understated, not overpowering and it’s a utilitarian piece I have come to rely on with its deep zippered compartments and a padded gut for my laptop.  When my friend and former colleague Ann-Elizabeth, who has impeccable taste, had chosen it for a promo item, I knew I had to have Spidey.  Periodically a true geek will come up to me grinning with white spit around the corners of his mouth to tell me he likes my bag.  At least he had the courage to speak to a girl I think to myself as I thank him.

I also noticed on this trip, where I was on four different planes and in three airports that there are an awful lot of people walking through the terminals with their pillows.  Not the travel neck pillow, but the actual pillow from their beds.  I won’t even get into the disgust factor of placing your pillow on a plane and the God awful germs that will goose step into the stuffing.  My skin crawls thinking about it as it is placed on the conveyor belt in the security check.  No, for me it’s the absolute WASTE of bringing something on board with you.  Remember, you get one small bag and one “personal” item to carry-on.  Why on earth would you choose a pillow?!  Especially one that you should never use again!!!

With Spidey on my back and Mable protecting me, I’ve got everything I need, including a neck pillow.  Computer, iPad, phone, Kindle, sweatshirt, make-up, pens, papers, passport, protein bar, magazines, glasses (reading and sun), you name it, I got it.  I can’ t imagine giving Spidey up for a germ ridden pillow!

The baggage we carry around says a lot about us.  Sometimes we hold onto it for too long, even when it doesn’t serve us well.  It’s label becomes meaningless when the wheels no longer work.  More or less, less is more.  Sturdy, strong and simple is all you need in this life.

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