Ahab had his whale. Heathcliff had his Catherine.
I have my luggage.
More precisely, I have my elusive quest to travel more easily. And towards that end, I am obsessed with luggage, or more precisely, with the size of my luggage.
The Familiar Travel Nightmare: I am trying to hoist my airline-compliant luggage into the overhead bin on a crowded plane with an impatient queue of travelers stalled behind me.
As I wrestle with the ubiquitous black wheelie bag, it’s not uncommon for an earnest young man to leap to his feet to help me and cram the item into the crowded bin because I remind him of his great-grandmother. I know I can’t plan my travels relying on my resemblance to strangers' great-grandmothers, so I have devoted my shreds of free time to the quest for The Optimal Traveling Experience or “TOTE.”
Mind you, it’s not just about the luggage, it’s a system. TOTE is a combination of the availability of laundry facilities and working clothes irons at my destination, capsule dressing, compression cubes, and being careful not to spill on my single pair of slacks. I’ve considered shipping my clothes back and forth from my destination, but the last package I shipped has been stuck in Nashville for eight days so that could prove challenging. Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind that if I lost weight my clothes would be smaller and take up less space. And yes, I have considered wearing all my clothes onto the plane, but then we have to figure the complex calculus of being able to fit into my seat.
If you’re wondering “Why don’t you just check your bag?” then you’re forgetting the pleasure of additional fees and the thrill of discovering the airline has lost your luggage. I’ll stick with my TOTE, thank you very much.
Oh, I’ve seen the mountaintop on a few mythic occasions: London for 10 days with only a carry on and a laptop bag; one heady five-day business trip where I thought I’d hit the apex with a sweet little case that fit under the seat; that amazing day when I strolled unfettered to my gate, congratulating myself on how lightly I was traveling, until I realized that I had forgotten my bag at TSA.
And now the Internet’s various algorithms are feeding my obsession by sending me ad after ad of the latest, smallest, lightest duffle bags and compression cubes, with enchanting videos of women packing clothes and incidentals roughly the size of a small pony into a backpack. This is addicting and tormenting: imagine if every time he opened a book, Ahab had been greeted with the image of Moby Dick bouncing carefree among the waves. Every time I watch a tempting video, I am twitching to harpoon that pony-packing backpack into my cart, certain that this is The One, The One that will complete my quest and liberate me, until I read the horrible reviews and see the broken zippers and shattered spinny wheels and realize that once again, the great white whale has eluded my grasp.
Irony Alert: All the luggage I’ve bought on this quest is a you-know-what to store. More Irony: it takes up about the same space as a great white whale.
I know that, like all good obsessions, this might not end well. Like the ancient Spartans, I may very well wind up carrying my luggage, or in it.
But I’ll be damned if I won’t fit into the overhead bin.
Elizabeth Evans is a local mother, wife, daughter, sister, former stay-at-home mom, former work-outside-the-home mom, former work-at-home mom and a human resources consultant.