Life Props: Gap Bag

Life Props

Gap Bag

I carry my bag everywhere. It's only on very rare occasions I'll go anywhere without it strapped to my back and frankly I can't understand how anyone manages to survive without something to keep their belonging close at all times. It's like a tiny caravan, a way of keeping with me all the comforts that I need to get me through. I'm not quite Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club, but on an average day it contains: a book, my portable cd player, couple of cds, an umbrella, a copy of The Guardian, a bottle of water, camera, film, pen, pad, travel comb, travel toothbrush and toothpaste and spare batteries. In the past I've also carried a jar of coffee, towel (no really), weather mac and jumper.

Of all the bags I've had over the years, this is the one I've loved the most (if it's possible to feel anything for an inanimate object). Over the years I've had everything from a typical sports bag to a cloth ethnicy thing by way of briefly a briefcase. For well over two years I was using one of those school backpacks which WH Smith sell hundreds of. That was mostly fine, but over time the stitches came undone and the light bits of foam which were holding the straps together began to show. I thought I wouldn't ever want anything differentwith its pouch on the front for my cds and adjustable strap. It was my companion in Paris and other places but over time I tested it's limits and eventually it began to feel too small.

So about six months ago I began to actively seek a replacement. I was looking for what I had, but better. I looked online and in place after place, trying new bags on for size to see which fitted. But none of them did. The strap would be too short, or there wouldn't be a pocket. Frequently I'd put those bags back on the shelf or hook and wonder who could find a use for some of them, with their garish colour schemes or pointless pockets.

I eventually met this one in a Gap store of all places. Ironically I was in the middle of reading Naomi Klein's No Logo and even as I swung it over my back for the first time I felt like I was cheating on her somehow, as though she was standing in the doorway of the shop, looking in at me and shouting, 'Am I wasting my breath?' But it was snug, it fitted the contours of my body perfectly and it was just big enough - but not so large everyone who saw me might think I was on my way to meet Sir Edmund for an adventure. As I paid for it Naomi's ghost disappeared in a rationalization - the bag had given a whole group of people at different places in the supply chain a job they might not otherwise have. So long as they were getting paid something that was sort of okay even if it was in a dictatorship. But what isn't made in China anymore?

But this wasn't my bag yet. It wasn't quite right. The cloth hook at the top, the only use for which seemed be to let it hang in the shop was flicking against my ear. So that was sewn down onto the strap. The large metal buckle on that strap was fairly loose and would move a bit as I took the bag on and off which meant the bag itself would fall away from my back. I adjusted it to the length I needed and that was sewn down too. There was also a pouch dangling there for holding a mobile - the phone I had at the time wouldn't fit so that was removed. Some things I couldn't change - it felt weird on my shoulder - but that was understandable because I was used to something else being there. The music pouch on the front with the hole for headphones was perfect for the iPod I don't have but my cd player wouldn't fit in.

I forgave all this because of the size and shape. The old fitted inside the new with bags of room to spare. I was suddenly able to carry magazines around without having to role or bend them. I could go shopping and fit everything on my back leaving my hands free. Whenever I've gone away anywhere it's been my only hand luggage because I can get a change of clothes and everything else in there. It has a weight itself which means it can carry weight. When I'm traveling and tired I rest my head on it and if I need support it'll stop the back pain. If I'm in a tight corner it has an ordinary handle on the side so I can take it off and carry it normally through narrow gaps in shops and on buses.

There will be a time when this bag stops looking so shiny and new when the fact I can't listen to music as I walk around very easily will start to annoy. But at the moment the scuff marks on the Gap logo make it looked lived in rather than old and I can carry my cd player in my hand. Until then, it's carrying my weight.

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