June 2nd, 2013

The Bag

When I was quite a lot younger, I loved _Swiss Family Robinson_. Not the Disney movie, various iterations of the book. (Yes, I really do understand that this is problematic. Let's start with: literally colonizing and move on from there.) There was an abridged version with gorgeous realistic full color illustrations. I eventually moved up to an unabridged version with line drawings that someone had painstakingly hand colored. When I bought a newer copy of that edition, I was surprised they weren't colored, and then realized what someone had done.

Anyway. The thing I loved best about the book was The Stuff, and the best Stuff in the book was Mother's Bag. I loved Mother's Bag, because it always had exactly what the family needed, when the family needed it. Did it have a house? No. But it had what they needed right then in the process of building the house. Etc. It was the book's McGuffin -- in many ways, _Swiss Family Robinson_ is more science fiction than anything else, and the purse was its Technology so Advanced it Seems like Magic.

I have always thought of my purse as a pale imitation of Mother's Bag (not _my_ mother's bag, which was largely useless other than if you needed a tissue, at least from my perspective for the first 25 years of my life. I cannot speak to after that. The bag in the book.). Thus, my bag contains things like a compact tape measure (usually, women carry around a sewing tape measure, but mine is a metal tape). I've developed a pocket every-day-carry that includes a very small locking knife (Gerber), an LED light and a space pen (it writes upside down! But mostly, it is Small) (which has the added benefit of being so clearly awesome that people are reluctant to borrow it and hastily return it -- even tho it isn't even that expensive).

I was a late adopter of PDAs -- I don't recall if I ever owned the Palm Pilot, or started out with a Treo, but I was chronically obsessed with shrinking my cell phone, until the Treo phone came out, with a net weight savings despite thee added bulk. Alas, it had a variety of reliability problems. I quit carrying a PDA around 2004 or so and had a fairly small feature phone (a flip Samsung, IIRC) that was incredibly reliable (you could drop it in the toilet and recover. That was probably something you didn't need to know.). I did eventually get sucked into the SmartPhone era with a fragile I-forget, then a Blackberry Curve and, after it was clear they were going to allow the kindle app to work reasonably on it, an iPhone. I'm on my second iPhone now, but sometimes I also carry an e-reader, more often an iPad. I own kindle fires but don't typically carry them for me.

My Ideal Bag carries: my wallet (altho I'll use organizer features, I prefer a separate wallet and currently carry a Big Skinny), my phone, my keys and, year round, my prescription sunglasses in their case. In summer, it is nice if it will carry a brimmed cap and a scrunchy; in winter, a soft cap and gloves. It must be cross body wearable, altho I'll take a wristlet on a walk around the block or to the beach. I'll take a fancy bag out to eat (with the wallet, phone and keys), because it is night time and I don't need the sunglasses and can do without the hat/gloves/etc. or am wearing them and will pocket them if necessary.

Obviously, having children changed things, because I don't like carrying multiple bags unless one goes on my bag and while I was nursing I didn't like backpacks (chronic blocked duct problems). While I'm no longer hauling diapers and changes of clothes for the kids (except when going to the beach), I am having to haul electronics and some additional entertainment for them. I'm trying to encourage them to bring their own crap in their own bags, but sometimes I wind up carrying those, too, and it's more trouble than just bringing the backpack and sticking their stuff in it. They're young yet.

Knowing what one needs when leaving the house -- and what can be left behind -- requires a stable routine and/or planning skills. A core feature of being ADHD (I'm not) is difficulty in identifying correct daily luggage, packing it, keeping it organized and not losing it or its contents in the course of the day. However complex my life might be now, or has been in the past, it has absolutely NOTHING on the complexity of a woman serving in Congress. So I was very pleased to read this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/fashion/purse-politics-tote-and-vote.html

I may have issues with Susan Collins, especially on the subject of national security, but I cannot argue with her when she says this:

"“It has to go over my shoulder, so my hands are free,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine".

It says a lot, at least to me, that Tammy Duckworth doesn't include electronics in her bag, but:

"“Frankly, my purse selection is more about utilitarian than how it looks,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, explaining that her bags are always “big enough to carry one or two iPads, an Air book, a Hotspot, and a little bit of extra reading for irritating times I have to turn off my devices when we take off and land.”"

That tells me that while I might approve of both women's voting records, I'm likely to have more in common day-to-day with McCaskill than with Duckworth. In particular, that she's hauling backup reading for air travel.

The opening of the article was strong as well:

"Ms. Klobuchar had just returned from a national security trip and was in the middle of what she jokingly said was a “post-recess-organize-the-purse-mode,” transferring the contents of a brown leather backpack that she had carried on her Middle East tour into her everyday carryall."

Good for her for having the sense to carry a backpack in environments which require it. Altho I will note that you can almost always find earplugs in my handbag. While I initially sighed at the lack of them at McDonald's the other day, once I remembered there was a pocket I hadn't checked yet, I was good to go.

While this article was in the Fashion section (and belongs there), I loved it, start to finish. Especially the observation that whenever you see a high-powered person walking around and doing their job with absolutely nothing strapped to them or in their hands, it's because someone else is carrying their Stuff for them. It's so nice that more women are included in this group.