We writers have a saying, “If I’d had more time, I could have made it shorter.”

Same goes for packing. The longer that suitcase is open on the living room floor, the fewer things are going in it. It’s those last minute ‘throw some things in a bag’ trips where you discover you’ve packed three tubes of toothpaste but no toothbrush.

… three tubes of toothpaste but no toothbrush.

Packing is a discipline. It ought to, however, also make allowances for caprice. The purpose of travel is to broaden your horizons, to explore chance encounters.  It would be a shame to decline an impromptu invitation to a clambake or an investiture simply because you didn’t pack the right shoes.  

The word luggage dates from the late 16th century and, not surprisingly,  means that which is dragged around. Until not too recently, steamer trunks and heavy valises were pretty much all that was on offer.  There are reports that the Knights Templar added wheels to the travelling cases that ferried their armour off to the Crusades, but it wasn’t till the mid-70s that this innovation was introduced to the commercial luggage market.

… the Knights Templar added wheels to the travelling cases that ferried their armour off to the Crusades. 

A beleaguered dad, Bernard Sadow, was returning from a tropical holiday with his family. Two weeks of relaxation on a beach was all being undone in the epic effort of shuttling the family’s luggage from the hotel to the airport, within terminals, and into cabs. Sadow noticed an airport employee pushing a wheeled cart of luggage when it occurred to him that suitcases might also benefit from wheels. Ka-ching!  Sadow was granted a patent for ‘Rolling Luggage” in 1972.  Macy’s department store was the first to stock Sadow’s wheeled suitcases but they weren’t the hit Sadow anticipated. Men, apparently, didn’t like pulling their bags behind them on a flexible strap like a Fisher Price pull-along toy.   

Photo by Elizeu Dias

The patent only held for about two years when competitors banded together to challenge it. In short order various innovations were introduced to suitcase mobility.  A Northwestern pilot designed a suitcase that featured the telescoping handle we still use today. Wheels, being a vulnerable design feature, are constantly being redesigned.

… robotic luggage is about to change the way you lug your luggage.

Almost every bag made today features some sort of wheel.  Materials have changed enormously from the time when tree sap was used to waterproof canvas trunks but the biggest news in luggage these days is robotics. Just as the Roomba revolutionized vacuuming, robotic luggage is about to change the way you lug your luggage. Robotic suitcases work with an app and enable your suitcase to shadow you as you move through an airport. They’re not cheap; expect to pay about four times the price of a regular carry-on for a robotic carry-on. 

… tea bags, bullions sachets and a small heating pad …

The luggage industry keeps searching for the ideal intersection of mobility, durability and light-weight materials but the genius of packing is still in the ‘what to leave in, what to leave out’ department.  I canvassed a number of people with stratospheric frequent flyer points to see what they didn’t leave home without. Some of the inclusions were obvious – a sewing kit – but some of them evidenced hard-won scholarship.  A number of people keep an immersible heating coil in their bags. That, along with tea bags or bouillon sachets, have provided a quick pick-me-up upon arrival. Neo Citran packages are popular inclusions for obvious reasons, as is a baseball cap.  A small heating pad can ease an aching muscle.  It seems a number of us sleep better if we wedge a small security device under a hotel room door at night. There are some great waterproof shoes on the market and they can save the day.  Myself? I always tuck a few Thank You notes into my luggage. You know, for when I want to acknowledge what a swell time I had at the investiture.

This week’s question for readers:


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Submissions to last week’s question:

Do you have a scene from a movie or a book that is a touchstone in your life?

As I get older, the books I read today are forgotten tomorrow.  Likewise with movies.  One movie, Alfie, holds a touchstone moment that I do not forget: “What’s it all about Alfie?  Is it just for the moment we live or are we meant to be kind and good?” I was a teenager, struggling with the powerlessness of moving foster homes and all the losses that entailed.  I remember sitting alone, in the dark, absorbing the above lyrics.  Tears spent, I rejoined my life, stronger in the knowledge that others also search for meaning in a complex world.

Mary Miller

My touchstone movie moment depicting human dignity is from the movie The Elephant Man. In that movie, John Merrick, who is severely deformed due to a rare disease, is cornered in a public lavatory by an angry mob of Londoners and cries out, “I am not an animal! I am a human being. I am a man.” The mob goes quiet, and turns away.

Glen Taylor

The line “Hey dad, do you want to have a catch?” by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams devolves this 70 year old into a blubbering mess.  On days when my frustration and anger at world events simmer under the surface, I think of this movie scene to remind me of what is really important in life. Miss you Dad.   

Glenn Elliott

Without a doubt, the movie scene that resonates with me more than any other is the last few minutes of ‘To Sir with love’ starring Sydney Poitier. His students unexpectedly give him a gift on the last day of school and he finds himself both speechless and emotional as he quickly leaves the room. While sitting quietly in his classroom, realizing what a difference he has made in these young people’s lives, in walk a couple of unruly teenagers who proclaim that they will be in his class next year, not realizing that he has accepted an engineering job elsewhere. The movie ends with him tearing up the job acceptance, he knew that he had already found his true calling. I’ve watched this movie at least 20 times and I still get misty eyed!

David Lindsay

The movie is called “The Road” with Virgo Mortensen as the father, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as his son. They try to survive in a post-apocalyptic world walking under grey skies in search of food and shelter. On one occasion the father leaves his son for a few minutes and upon his return realizes their belongings have been stolen.  They run and catch up with a black man and retrieve their things, the father so angry he even makes the man give him the clothes off of his back. They leave the man naked and crying at the side of the road. They walk a few metres when the son decides to run back to give the man a tin of food, however, he is nowhere to be seen.  In another part the camera pans the ground and they are walking on hundred dollar bills, diamond rings, gold jewellery, not batting an eye. The movie makes you wonder about the future of humanity. It is thought provoking and enforces the fact that material things have no value in true life.  All that really matters is love for one another, sharing, and compassion. 

Patricia Tochkin

Not from a book or movie, but a real life moment with my dad about dignified behavior.

When I was about 13 years old, after a day of horseback riding with my father, we stopped in Park Royal in West Vancouver so dad could buy a 25th wedding anniversary gift for my mom. We went into a high end jewellery store, as he had decided on an expensive watch (which I still have by the way). The clerk basically told us, we were in the wrong place, and looked down her nose in a very dismissive manner, directing us to Woolworths (or whatever the bargain store was in the mall). Her attitude was there was no way a man wearing jeans and cowboy boots, and who looked a bit scruffy could afford anything in the store. She was really very rude. So we went to another store where Dad bought a $300.00 watch. This was in 1966 so that was some pricey watch. I wanted him to go back to the first store and rub it in face of the clerk that she had missed out on such a large sale. But dad, in his dignified manner explained that only petty minded people did things like that, and maybe that clerk had been having a bad day, so why make her feel worse. I never forgot this lesson.

Susanne de Pencier 

I’m likely not the only reader who’d mention the scene where Jack Nicholson said “You can’t handle the truth!” in a courtroom drama. That’s so true. Think of the insurrection, scandals, and litigation in which Donald Trump is involved, and yet he is still supported fervently by most in the GOP in the U.S.  Not being able to handle the truth is going to be part of human nature as long as there is humanity. 

I’d like to think I have since tried to handle the truth and deal with it, but likely not always successful. 

Edward K.W. Chan

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