Thursday, December 20, 2007

Manliness and Luggage

At times I rebuke myself that I am so grumpy.

For example, when I nearly trip over someone's wheeled luggage as I maneuver through the crowds at New York's Penn Station. These one-car luggage trains roll through the concourse with their dark loads discreetly trailing down at ankle level, unobserved until you nearly fall over them. "David," I say, "his bag is heavy. He's entitled to his luggage, isn't he?"

But my conscience is clear and I'm back to grumpy on this. Seth Stevenson in today's New York Times has written an essay that brings the consideration of this issue out from under people's breath into public discussion, and zeros in on the central moral issues ("Hell on Wheels"). And it's also funny.

I consider it especially unmanly for a healthy gent to be dragging what is clearly hand luggage behind him on wheels. I want to say, "Don't be a girl. Carry that thing!" Luggage manufacturers first started putting wheels on their bags for little old ladies who were travelling without their little old men. They tend to outlive their husbands and travel to see grandchildren. Wheels help. Then, as women began travelling alone as result of the more public lives they were leading, they began using these wheeled suitcases as well, and even rolling hand luggage. Then the men said, "Why not me?" On goes the creeping effeminization of the modern man.

But then I had to lug a carry on sized bag to a conference. I have a ten minute walk from my house to the commuter train station. I hadn't gone but two blocks before I extended that handle and started rolling it. I felt like an old woman and the proper object of all virile contempt. But what was I to do?

Stevenson answers the question. Because these bags are made to be pulled on wheels, even "load-bearing wheels," they are also made to be overstuffed and thus unportable--by weight as well as proportion--except by a larger than average stevedore.

Whether you are a man or a woman or simply not sure, and whatever your age, we all need wiser luggage and a thoughtful eye to the people stumbling behind us.

1 comment:

Zachary said...

Professor Innes,

A funny article which spawned your humorous and thoughtful response. I enjoyed it. Thanks for suggesting that I read it.