So I found myself looking at the luggage rack in the local odd lots and more than odd store. They had all manner of luggage from every maker and a few I didn’t realize made luggage. Nautica. Lucas. Samsonite. London Fog. I was impressed and intimidated by the options. Expandable. Static. Flowery sides. Plasticy looking but thin. Roller type. Sets with carry on. Sets without. Sets with cute little see through bathroom bags. The list went on and on.
What I didn’t see was something that I heard someone talking about the other day in a completely unrelated situation.
Mr. No Neck was discussing the old school way of traveling. How the airlines used to be this and how the trains used to be that. How the service was the other. In the midst of this rhetorical rambling Mr. No Neck commented about that old commercial that had a giant gorilla. I believe it was at the time, long before PETA, that real gorillas were ok to be exploited. The gorilla leapt around and pounced upon the suitcase in an effort to satisfy his handlers. But for the consumer society looking at him, it was a display showing the sheer strength of the suitcase against the abuses that are sure to come in travel. It was amusing. It was disconcerting. It was informative.
It also was a warning about how you should be ready to travel in the months and years to come. Remember this was years, decades even, before 9-11. So even then there was a nod towards security in flight if only for your skivvies and toothbrush.
What strikes me now, and the reason for this particular train of thought, is the significant differences in that set of luggage and what I see at the local market today.
Back in the day, when Clarke Griswald was dragging his family to Wally World, he bundled up his 4″ wide neck ties and compression socks in a suitcase. The one the gorilla was pouncing on? It was hard. Thick. Dependable. Secure with an integrated combination lock. A fortress of comfort wrapping around his unmentionables. When his stuff flew off the station wagon all over the highway as I’m sure mine did at one point or another, it didn’t break open and it didn’t get my stuff any dirtier than it was in my closet.
It was great.
But today I cannot find such a hard shell suitcase. Today I see softy sided bags. These bags are amazing. They have a body the size of a chihuahua when first touched. Then you unzip the seventy five compartments and the thing is now able to transport a small bungalow, kitchen included. No kidding. The inner caverns hold slots and pouches that would make Hermione Granger positively green with envy. And they’ve wheels. But not just wheels. WHEELS! These things are spherical and the whole party spins in circles.
Ok. So I don’t travel much. Suitcases have clearly left me behind. But when I got my expandable cargo plane off the luggage return, I suddenly realized why my wonder bag set was only $29.95. I’m gonna have to replace it to fly home. It was mangled. Ripped. More than one scuff and some paint in a color I would sooner die that purchase. Then I opened it and found a chit advising me that I had better smile, because my bag had been on candid camera and as a prize, it had been searched by some government agency with a bunch of letters as it’s acronym. I’m still unsure why my underwear was of interest to them, but if they had the temerity to touch them, then God bless them for handling them.
So this molesting of my soft shell crab made me wistful. I was suddenly longing for a hard shell bag. Little better than a 1965 circa briefcase, a case with severe limitations on how much of my crud will go in it. Overstuff it if I wanna. It’ll never fit. Not even if I sit on it. The struggle is real. And frankly, I like it.
That struggle forces me to decide what MUST come along and what gets to experience the ride of a lifetime. It has clearly defined limitations on what’s going to fit my week. If I have a toiletries bag, it better be leather or the suitcase will not appreciate it. And in some weird way, I respect that.
I’m not saying I’m gonna race to an estate sale with my sights set on a hard travel case. But if I see one, I’m pretty sure I won’t turn it down.