Conspicuous Consumption, Evolution, Hand Luggage, Identity, Kevlar, Kings Cross Station, Lighter Living, technology, Wall-e, Wheelie Bags
There I was. Kings Cross station. Coming up from the fusty depths of the Northern Line. The station is a little, lets say, mobbed. I see a young woman. A tourist. Spanish I believe. A scientific wonder wheels along at her side.
Its a wheelie bag Jim, but not as we know it!
This bag she wheels is staggering. Its shiny pearled finish is a disingenuous mirage to belie its capacious interior. You could murder people and transport them in this bag.
These are the luggage children of the ergonomic performance fetish. This is the world of the Snugpack Roller Kit Monster 120L. And Kipling’s Youri Spin Suitcase. This is the world of the behemoth ‘hand luggage’ wheelie case.
The super strength outer casing owes more to the military industrial complex than a bag-maker: the box mounted swivel wheels ergonomically balanced in 4 corners bring the soft polymer whoosh of a hi-end Venice beach skateboard to the airport and railway terminus. I half expect there to be some form of skype wall and an MP3 player tucked in the seams somewhere.
I can see the advert now:
Hand luggage has evolved. The New kevlar frame Darwin Wheelie Bag with smart pocketing, GPS, X-ray friendly tech lining and Panic Room. Hand luggage will never be the same again.
Correct.I am uncertain as to whose ‘hands’ this luggage was scaled for? Chewbacca? The Yeti? Bruce Banner’s slightly grumpy alter ego travelling companion? Jack The Giant slayer will be not too far behind this piece of conveyance.
Hand Luggage was originally designed for those that needed to travel lightly through the world. Uncluttered by cumbersome and barely needed debris and the pillars and stones of faux domesticity. Hand Luggage was going places. The athlete of luggage. Striding past the suitcase and the trunk and the ‘Oversize’ Luggage Conveyor. Svelte and lean, packed for speed and efficiency. Slipping effortlessly and seamlessly from plane train to automobile. Not any more.
For some reason I found the girl’s case a wonderful metaphor for the over-sized, over cranked life we lead. The was no shadow of smarter lighter living going on here. The light effortless art of living we once may have known seemed, in her case (pardon the pun) to have been obscured by an enormous weighty bag.
We live lives enabled by all kinds of ingenious brilliant stuff. Feats of engineering abound. Technology haring along at light fibre speed. Apps that wipe our backside for us; and remind us to tell people we love that we love them. Networks that create friends for us. Platforms that plan our virtually parallel lives for us. Algorithms that predict when we might think something all by ourselves. We use the technology to deny the weight we carry. The burdensome, leaden heaviness of it all – made light and effortless by technology – the standing stones of our consumption rendered feather like by an ingenious system of credit weights, tech levers and identity pulleys.
And while the technology works: everything’s great; everything’s cool. Until it doesn’t.
Then watch our little worlds collapse.
Evidence of the increasing stress of our speed of life?
Or is the big bag theory simply proof that we are being rendered about as resilient as an odour eater by our own evolutionary progress?
We seem increasingly to have moments of utter cluelessness about what constitutes a real life lived within a human existence and context.
We are slowly becoming the human race in Wall-e. Spiritually and digitally obese, rendered inert by the kit we surround and submerge our lives in.
The systemic failure that greeted the young woman at the bottom of the escalator was a beautiful demonstration of this truth.
Yes, the genius of the escalator, on any given day, is in its ability to move millions of tonnes of human cargo up and down very steep inclines.
The problem with this one was that it wasn’t working.
Chaos. The expression on her face was one of absolute incomprehension.
While every escalator and lift and travelator works – genius.
And I am certain that the life she carried in one bag like some retro-chic refugee had until now moved effortlessly through the world on its small punk skate polymer wheelie wheels. But suddenly this massive pile of pointless and unnecessary chattels – the debris of a consumer look at me look at my stuff world – stuffed into a bag more commonly used to breezing through the planes trains and automobiles of life, was brutally bought up short.
The absence of movement in the escalator raised a tricky question.
Was she actually capable of carrying (revolutionary thought I know) her own ‘shit’ (to coin a Midwest phrase) up the stairs?
Simple answer. Not a flying chance in hell.
Not in God’s own wildest will could she lift the enormo-bag and carry it up a rather long and currently fixed staircase.
And this to me was a perfect summary of the lives we lead.
The bag and its contents the perfect metaphor for the ridiculously over burdened delusional load we carry either in some blind attempt to ‘show off’ in the gene pool imperative department: or because we’ve actually allowed ourselves to believe that we need all of that stuff to ‘survive’ on the road.
We’re kidding ourselves. Our lives, every square inch of them, from our purses, to our shopping trolleys to our homes, to our wardrobes to our workplaces are over packed to bursting: our every waking hour in fact is over stuffed with a tsunami of stuff we just don’t need.
But its fine while the ‘escalator’ works. Of course we can carry it. We’ve nailed it – sorted. Look at me. Look at me ‘operate’. Look at me ‘work it’. Look at me carry my bounteous life.
Until the ‘escalator’ breaks down.
And suddenly there we are. At the bottom. With a spiritual, financial and material ‘credit’ bag that suddenly feels like it’s the size of a small third world economy.
And those little spinny wheels are no good to anyone any more.
And suddenly we’re looking for help from a stranger who might ‘get’ us up the stairs.
And what should that stranger think?
“There, there; we’ve all been there: its tough: let me help.”
“Screw you; grow up; live within your means and learn to carry your own ‘shit’.”
But we seem incapable of ‘letting go’ of all out stuff. Mores the point, we wield it everywhere we go. We bully and tyrannise those around us with the receptacles of our ‘stuff’.
Not enough to blindly turn around and let some of those train and bus passengers ‘eat my velcro kevlar glory
Our funny wheelie bags that we stuff into overhead lockers, poking other travellers left and right. The wheelie bag assertion of ‘I’m here – eat my Me’.
Like the uber baby buggies we’ve all been convinced to buy – the panzer regiments of primary creation: going ‘look at my buggy: look at my progeny: hear me roar” as we cut a swathe through bus restaurant and airport with their ankle snapping, thigh bruising uber-carriage.
These wagons and trucks and freight liners are a like a blunt weapon of our consumptive selves. The shinier the finish. The larger the capacity. The more ergonomic the wheel technology: Christ we’re amazing. And we’ll wheel the bastard at your ankles until you get out of the way.
And lets not forget the underlying logic that validates any size of bag to carry with.
‘I bought a big one ‘cos I’m going shopping when I get wherever I’m going: and I’m going to buy more Me stuff to put in my ‘wheelie’ bag. ‘cos I can.
(Stick it on a card that’ll help!)
Retail therapy is one of those things that represents the gift that stops giving the minute its on credit. The feeling never gets better. It’s simple. You are using someone else’s capital to buy stuff. And when you do, you give them permission to control you. Make you feel bad.
“I just bought some smart knickers, and a bottle of Prosecco: So shoot me”.
Problem is, you did it on a credit card that has 4 grand stacked up in the corner and you’re barely making the payments you’ve got.
Like that super home cinema set up he just HAD to have. Mmnnn. So the sensibility is? You couldn’t pay for the plug with real money: what are you doing buying the set on a card?
But we all need some rewards don’t we??? Its really tough out there working hard for the money to pay the credit card bills. Life is stressful!!! Bleat Bleat.
So we’re going to buy some stuff and make ourselves feel better. And we’re going to put it in a wheelie bag. A great big lumbering barely moveable wheelie bag
And there it all is – in a wheelie bag of joy trundling along side us: shiny. Pearlescent. Spacious. International. Wind-swept and interesting. Until we get to the escalator of life that is – and there’s an engineering fault.