On my way to work this morning, struggling with an errant satchel strap repeatedly slipping off my shoulder, I passed a man with so many possessions stuffed in his pants pockets it was as though he suffered from elephantiasis of the thighs. I may have looked like I had a nervous twitch, but at least my legs looked like the sculpted limbs of Mr Universe in comparison to his deformed appendages. Each to his own, I suppose.
I once owned a beautiful Filson book bag made from dark green canvas: small enough that a slim volume of Blanchot was not lost in its confines, yet large enough that it could simultaneously carry an extra sweater, thermos flask and an (admittedly concise) edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Suffice it to say, the strap never slipped from my shoulder and I could stroll down the street with twitchless insouciance.
Alas, this precious holdall finally fell victim to the ravages of time: years of inclement weather, the strain of toting weighty tomes, careless thermos leakage and the cumulative pungency of being used to convey a ripe banana to work every morning for two decades. It needed to be replaced and sent to Bag Valhalla (which is apparently in our basement if my wife's colossal collection of retired handbags and designer clutches is any indication)
For some reason, it seems I can no longer afford to buy anything made by Filson. Perhaps they have raised their prices considerably since the nineteen-nineties? Perhaps I have less disposable income to spend on quality products these days? No doubt a combination of these factors is responsible. At any rate, I was forced to buy a much cheaper satchel manufactured by a less celebrated brand.
Not only does this new, unsatisfactory bag slide off my shoulder every five seconds, the banana smell emanating from within is already quite offensive. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking I work in the shipping department at Chiquita whenever I open the top flap. And that's just three days' worth of bananas. God knows how awful the stink will be by next September.
But slipping strap and stench aside, the worst aspect of this bag must surely be the fake brass buckle closures over the two front pockets. Although they have the appearance of being working buckles, they are mere decoration and facade disguising a nasty, modern press-stud fastening system. Why?
I suppose the bag's makers believe snap fasteners are easier to use and more durable. But the bag is so horrible I frankly hope it doesn't last very long. The thing will go straight into the garbage and not the basement afterlife, that's for sure. Of course, I could donate it to the guy with the Elephant Man legs, but that would be like giving Canadian quarters to an American panhandler.
There was a moral to this story when I started writing although I've forgotten what it was. I should have made a note of it, I guess. But of all the things I carry in my bag -- iPhone, wallet, keys, Swiss army knife, aspirin, banana -- the one item I don't have with me anymore is my old-fashioned moleskine notebook. That too, alas, has gone the way of the quality Filson bag.