I’m not a hoarder by any means but today I had trouble throwing away something. My old rolling suitcase. The old battle-scared suitcase that accompanied me on so many flights it should have its own frequent-flyer number. My husband bought it for me for Christmas when I first began traveling for business back around 1999. I know it was around Christmas because I slapped a Christmas-tree address label on the back of it. That came in handy when it slid down conveyor belts at airports; I could see that big, happy Christmas tree on the generic rolling black bag, and I knew instantly it was mine. June, July, August; didn’t matter. There was that big goofy Christmas tree sticker, and it made my generic black business traveler’s bag stand out.
I could fit five days’ worth of business clothes into that bag. It was like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag; somehow it expanded to fit everything and anything. I’d have blazers, suits, shoes, hair dryer, cosmetics bags and business presentations all in that one bag. It fit into the overhead compartment. It fit under seats. It seemed, like Dr. Who’s TARDIS, to fit anywhere and everything.
I used to fly every 6 to 8 weeks around the country to my company’s regional offices. We had a lot of business meetings, too; customer meetings, which as the marketing director, I attended regularly. I was in charge of a major state contract’s marketing and communications deliverables too, which meat hopping aboard a plane every few months to visit that state, too.
One time, my black bag arrived at LaGuardia before I did. I checked in at LAX early for my flight home. I would often check my bag on the flight home, knowing that if it didn’t arrive, I was headed home anyway where clean clothes awaited, so if the bag was lost it was no big deal. So I checked my bag and read my book and waited for my flight to be called.
I arrived at LaGuardia and waited by the baggage carousel. And waited. And waited. There were all the bags for my flight, but where was mine? Finally, in desperation, I asked an airport worker for help. She pointed to a pile of baggage in the corner of the claim area. It had apparently been booked aboard an earlier flight. My bag flew ahead of me and sat in a heap in the corner of the LaGuardia baggage area for HOURS before I arrived. I still shake my head at that; isn’t it amazing that it was still there? And why the heck did my bag get put on a different flight? I’ll never know.
Another time, I was in Las Vegas and racing for my plane. My beloved black bag set off some kind of alarm at the security check point. “Come with me,” the guard said, so I shrugged and accompanied him to a table at the side. He took out what looked like a junior chemistry set and swabbed the bag; handle, back, zippers, everything. “Do I have permission to search your bag?” Sure, why not? Out came my pajamas, my dirty socks and my black high heels. Okay, fine. So what set off the alarm? “Ma’am, your bag is setting off the alarm for gun powder.” Gun powder? Is he kidding me? He asked me a million questions about where I had been while the clock ticked towards departure time. My black bag had been checked into the baggage area of the hotel before I left. I was attending a business conference, and the conference ended at noon but checkout time was at 10. So I had checked out at breakfast, checked my bag into the holding area, and went to the rest of the meetings until noon. Then it was time to leave for the airport. I had also taken a taxi from the hotel to the airport. Apparently, my bag had been in contact with gun powder residue, either in the hotel baggage area or, more likely, the trunk of the taxi! My novelist’s mind reeled at the plot possibilities while my business woman’s mind panicked at the thought of missing my flight. Finally, the guard, apparently deciding that my bag contained nothing more horrific than a week’s worth of dirty underwear and socks, let me repack and go on my merry way. But doesn’t it make you wonder what had bee in the trunk of the taxi before my bag?
My bag and I were never parted, but alas, even old friends must one day part company. During my last business trip, I realized something was amiss when I dragged the old black bag across the marble-floored lobby of a landmark hotel in San Francisco. CLACKETY CLACKETY CLACK CLACK CLACK. I made such a racket everyone turned to stare at me. It was then that I realized one of the wheels had broken in half, and I was dragging a lame duck across the lobby. A noisy lame duck. It was getting ridiculous, but I refused to get rid of the old black bag.
Until this week.
I’m traveling soon back to New York City to visit my family and friends. I’m tired of lugging a heavy suitcase around without wheels on it. I need a new wheeled bag, one that I can easily maneuver on Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak trains. So I went to Wal-Mart and found a new wheeled bag that will fit in overhead bins on trains and planes.
It’s red. It’s my favorite color. But it’s not as big.
My old bag stands forlornly in the garage. I’ve removed the Christmas tree sticker from the back. It’s a tired, dusty old thing, a veteran of countless airplane holds and luggage racks and miles.
I will miss it, but there are new horizons to explore. Good buy, old friend, and bon voyage on your final journey.
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.