Disclaimer: The following rant highlights how trivial our first world problems are. Feel free to be disgusted and annoyed. In fact, it’s expected. Well, we’re five weeks into this little experiment and things are getting lost and broken at a record pace.
Gabby lost her favorite travel cup. The insulated one with the straw and the screw top. Since our house has no shortage of containers with which to hold ice water, she’s out of luck.
Jake lost his basketball, too. He loaned it to some kids at school who didn’t return it. He was devastated, thinking they had pitched it into the woods. He even searched there after school with no luck. It turns out a Good Samaritan had spotted it and taken it to the lost and found in another classroom. Thankfully, Jake and the ball were reunited, and I didn’t have to play the role of dream crusher by saying, “Sorry, we can’t get another basketball Jake, because your parents are psycho-idiots who don’t think they should buy any new stuff for a year.”
The old fridge in the garage is on the blink as well. As further proof of global warming, it is only cooling our food intermittently. Since I am a complete and utter failure when it comes to appliance repair, we’ll be knee-deep in leftover chili and half-frozen peas if it goes. A second refrigerator is definitely not a necessity.
Then, last week at breakfast, a blinding light erupted from our toaster oven. I thought it might be an angel of the Lord, coming to settle the spontaneous debate between Jake and Audrey as to the gender of her stuffed animal. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be a blown heating element. Not only will I never know whether Crushie the turtle is a boy or a girl, but now it takes four minutes per side to brown a slice of bread. I called Cuisinart for a replacement part, and they simply said,
“That’s not a fixable item. I think it’s time for you to buy a new unit.”
Apparently, they don’t follow the blog.
But the most troubling loss was my rolling suitcase. She’s like a family member. A rich brown color with four fully-articulating wheels and a pleasant disposition. She has a telescoping handle with extra length to accommodate taller folks like me. Always at my side - every week for business travel. Happy to carry my burdens without complaint.
But I pushed her too far.
Irritated after a long wait on the jetway, I yanked her handle a bit too hard. The handle cracked, and one of the telescoping arms ripped right out of its channel in the back of the suitcase. Shoving it back in was a bit like trying to shove a Twinkie back into its wrapper - requiring patience and lots of mumbled four-letter words. I was able to get the suitcase back into semi-working order, but I knew it wouldn’t hold up under duress.
I looked for other options. Gabby had purchased a beautiful new red rolling suitcase last year. It’s clean, and uncluttered. She caught me eyeballing it and said,
“No way, mister. That’s my suitcase!”
“But we’re family. Families share.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Because your version of sharing involves you using my stuff, breaking it, and then giving it back to me.”
She has a point.
So I dove into the bowels of the closet looking for an alternative. Ideally, I would find a very small suitcase that might fit in the overhead bin of the tiny jet I was flying this week, allowing me to avoid the long wait at baggage claim. After some rummaging, I found what I was looking for. The perfect-sized suitcase. A bag that could meet the simple requirement of holding my garments and keeping them safe and dry. But there was just one problem.
It was purple.
And no, we’re not talking royal purple. Not even violet. This suitcase is lavender. If this bag had a scent, it would smell like an infant Liberace wearing your grandmother’s perfume. No self-respecting businessperson would dare be seen with a bag like this.
But I have no self-respect.
And I’m not buying anything this year.
So I packed the bag and prepared for my trip to Denver. I stuffed it full of workout gear, business casual clothes, and socks. Yes, I remembered the socks.
I got to the airport and cleared security. Everyone seemed to glance at me, then glance at my bag. Their eyes would then scan the area for a thirteen-year-old girl. Finding none, they would avert their gaze to save us both the embarrassment. It didn’t help that I was humming a Justin Bieber tune that was playing in the airport shuttle van just minutes earlier. Damn that kid and his catchy lyrics!
As I was standing in line to board the plane, I heard a voice behind me.
“Excuse me, sir.”
I turned to see a businessman in his mid-forties.
His eyes were burning a hole in my suitcase. He continued,
“Please tell me I’m not the only one today to give you $#*! about your purple bag.”
“You’re the first to verbalize it.”
“Good. I was just checking.”
I didn’t know what else to say, so I boarded the plane and looked for my seat. I quickly shoved the bag in the overhead along with my coat and settled into 14B. I fell asleep not long after we took off.
I awoke as we were landing. The plane made its way to the gate, and, as usual, everyone jumped to their feet as soon as the doors opened. A blonde woman in the row in front of me gestured to the man standing behind me.
“Could you hand me my bag?” she asked, pointing toward the overhead bin. “It’s the rolling suitcase right next to you.”
Without missing a beat, the man reached up and grabbed the purple bag.
“Sorry. That’s mine.” I said.
“Really?” He stopped and stared at me in disbelief.
“Nice.” He said, before grabbing the appropriately-toned black bag next to it and handing it to the blonde in 12C.
It was another moment that affirmed for me how much our “stuff” can define us in our culture. I actually found myself wondering if I should let my client see my little purple suitcase. As if the quality of my work is somehow reflected in the color of my luggage.
I only have to look to myself for the answer.
How many times have I discredited someone’s worth based on the clothes they choose to wear, the car they drive, or the things they choose to buy? I’d like to think I see past all of those things, but I’d be lying if I said such judgments never crossed my mind.
So I hope that is a little side benefit of this challenge. That I will re-learn what I knew as an infant. Our worth is not wrapped up in what we own. Our worth is guaranteed. Our life is our currency. And it’s up to each one of us to choose how we spend it.