6 Apr 2013
The irritating scrape of plastic on cement
The problem became apparent on Round-the-World Trip #8. The thing wobbled and scraped as I dragged it across the car park at Ataturk International.
I’d blame British Airways, because it had been perfectly fine when I left home, and the last two legs had been Johannesburg to Heathrow and then to Istanbul, so the damage must have occurred along the way.
But realistically, it had been eight trips around the globe, and the same number of half-and-backs between Australia and Europe or America. Not to mention annual trips to New Zealand and within Australia. Usually overloaded, at the mercy of baggage handlers in twenty countries, my big yellow rolling duffle had done its duty and was mortally wounded.
Just the wheel, really. The fabric and structure were fine. A little scuffed and stained, but holding my belongings securely. The wheel, however, was hanging on by the cloth alone, and the tough plastic had given up entirely. No way I could glue or even rivet it back together.
We’d been together since 2004. A friend had had something similar, and I immediately grasped the utility of a piece of luggage that could expand to fit whatever I crammed into it, and was bright yellow. No missing this beauty on a baggage carousel!
And no chance any thief would be foolish enough to make off with it. The thing glowed.
Years of service
For nine years I dragged my “Sunflower Gold Extra-Large Rolling Duffle” around the world. It followed me faithfully, rarely got lost on a flight, held enormous amounts of stuff, and at a solid metre long and half that in height and width, was the bane of taxi drivers everywhere. I could load clothes and computers and cameras and boots and books into it, zip it closed and haul on the cinch straps to tighten it down to a less than gargantuan bulk. There was a stout grip at each end, and I could extend the handle to a comfortable length to roll it. Handles that velcroed together if I wanted to carry it as a whole. (Rarely, I might add!)
I loved it. Mostly.
It did well on the level but was an absolute pig on stairs. There was one morning, fresh off the flight from Osaka when I discovered that the Paris Metro had few (if any) elevators and escalators. I had my duffel and a tote bag crammed cubic with books, plus a backpack, a long flight behind me and a deadline to meet before my hostel closed for the day. I was tired, sweaty, bemused by the subway lines, and I had this horrid thing to drag up and down stairs crowded with rush hour commuters. I think there were three changes of line, and it was a low point of my travels. Disgruntled in Paris, imagine that!
But it was a delight on baggage carousels. I could spot it from the far side of the arrivals hall. While everyone else peered at their generic black bags or tried to pick their wisp of rainbow ribbon, I was sure and certain.
Except for one time in Sydney, when I spotted the bright yellow bag, lifted it off the carousel, and thought, “Oh boy, they have really kicked it around this time!” It looked dirty and dishevelled. And, when I examined it closely, somehow one size smaller. With different luggage tags. Ooops! I heaved it back onto the carousel and wondered if on the far side an equally puzzled traveller was doing the same with my bag.
Farewell, old friend!
In 2013, with one corner dragging, I nursed my bag through the rest of the trip. Gallipoli, Edinburgh in an upstairs flat, Gothenburg on cobblestones, Heathrow in a capsule hotel, Washington, California, Michigan, New York on the top floor of a brownstone and finally home, where I unloaded it, packed it away and considered my options.
The company has a lifetime guarantee and doubtless I could get my bag repaired or replaced, but I’d have to ship it to Maine, and that would cost me more than it was worth. Any repairs I could make would be rudimentary and unreliable.
And frankly, it looked worn.
I ordered up a replacement. The Large size, this time round. And a smaller, carry-on version. And another set exactly the same for my son, in forest green.
They have carried on the proud tradition of service, without being quite so awkward to manoeuvre around tight quarters as my big and beloved Extra-Large bag.
Today, I gave it up. Filled it with household rubbish, slid it into my wheelie bin, and watched as the garbage truck swallowed up my old companion. Farewell, old friend!