Material Compulsion

I’m a bag person, apparently. When you’re scrolling through Amazon, digital window shopping, and you suddenly stop and scroll up, it’s because something catches your eye. What’s that thing for you? For me, it’s bags. Sometimes it feels like single-purpose bags. Like single-purpose kitchen utensils sitting in the drawer underneath the oven. There a bunch of them tetrised on top of each other in my closet. I have a green 70 L Osprey for backpacking that has served me dutifully on several trips into the outdoors. A raggedy Jansport from high school (or college, or wherever) for gym clothes and climbing equipment. A beautiful leather weekender I bought while in Italy with my dad and sister. A black 46 L Osprey for travel or backpacking that doesn’t include the outdoors but fits as carry-on luggage. Another fabric weekender, in case it rains wherever I’m going, with a pocket on the outside for easy access to a tablet or a magazine (of which I am anachronistically subscribed to two — Jacobin and The New Yorker).

But you see, I had just bought a new Macbook Pro to replace my 7-year old laptop. It weighed 8 pounds and barely worked with the battery, so it was also barely a laptop by the definition of it. I need to something to to carry it since at 15", it was just a bit too heavy and without a case. The internet recommended a sleeve — part tan leather and part grey felt, carried underneath the arm with slim pocket on the side for a magazine or two. Perfect.

Traveling with it on the weekend offered unto me a vision of traveling with less, since I could check my main bag (my preferred airline, Southwest, allows free checked). But what if I didn’t want to worry about constantly having something in my hand. The thought of being bumped by some exasperated traveler and dropping a $2,000 investment in never buying another laptop consumed my mind while holding it. My hands got sweaty just holding it and my second thought was that the leather on the bottom would disfigure with the moisture.

I saw a wonderful solution to this. Leather. Square. Professional, with plethora of pockets and two main compartments where my new Macbook would sit snugly without too much give. A small felt-lined pocket on the top would perfectly fit keys. The top-most compartment contained all the small phone and knick-knick sized pockets as well as a large mesh one which ran around the inside perimeter of the entire comparment. The bottom sits tight and close to the padded back with beautiful black, leather straps.

I could already see myself walking with purpose through the various airports in my life, filled with the things I needed to create, gather attention and validation from others. A laptop. A book. A couple magazines. A sketchbook a small pen case for doodling and writing. Maybe I’d buy a camera I could use one day. Hmmm, not on Amazon. That’s alright. I’ll buy it somewhere else when I have some downtime.

By the time I got off the airplane, though, I had only managed to write two paragraphs on a new Medium story I’d been working on. Would I have read the book, polished off a magazine, another magazine, and started sketching in the cramped seats between two people who really should’ve bought two seats each? After $2k, I wasn’t rushing to go out and by an expensive DSLR camera either so there were more than a few empty pockets and compartments. Only the middle one had my laptop which ended up being easier to do with just a sleeve that doubled as a cushion and pad for the laptop itself. Maneuvering a bag in that situation didn’t seem practical. But it was a very beautiful bag. And let’s be real, it would be functional. It would hold all my stuff eventually.

But by the time I gathered my laptop, put it into the sleeve and let the magnets click it shut, a line of people stood before me and the exit. Maybe I didn’t need the sleeve to house the laptop in the first place. There was plenty of time to readjust myself, just holding onto my computer since I didn’t even read the magazines anyway. No one was gonna get in my way. This laptop wasn’t going to drop and it wasn’t going to crack. I didn’t even need to check my luggage. A weekender in the carry-on compartment and I could just put the laptop in the there. What was a $120 (beautiful) leather bag (with a lot of pockets) gonna do? Remove the anxiety of where to put the laptop in between using it and pulling my luggage from the top compartment?

Even my old laptop was 7 pounds. I know I said 8 pounds but really it was closer to 7. And really, it worked decently. You just had to make sure you only did one thing at a time. At least some of the time. And just avoid using Chrome altogether because that shit will shut it down. If you have to use Firefox, one tab should suffice. Microsoft Word also takes a while.

Well, maybe I could use the sleeve. 4 pounds is still a bit heavy for a computer. Someone is gonna push me, aren’t they? Not if my hands are free and everything I need sits snugly in a backpack.