The Last Thing I Loved: My Rolling Bag

Katie Gezi shares how using a rolling bag has improved her overall health.

You’re strutting down 34th Street, blasting your holiday music in the cheap headphones you reluctantly use. It’s cold, crowded, and the whole block smells of roasted peanuts. You hear a sound approaching from behind, despite your feeble attempts to drown out the chaos around you. This is the sound of a suitcase — rolling on two wheels, picking up leaves and nearly dry spit. You’re already on-edge, just trying to get to your location as fast as possible, and now there’s a suitcase in the mix! Before you know it, the woman rolling a bag is passing you on the left, narrowly colliding with your toes. She’s wearing tennis shoes and headphones, and like you, she’s a New Yorker.

My rolling bag and I go everywhere together. I am 24 and use a rolling bag as my purse. No, it’s not a suitcase; no, I’m not traveling. I have a chronic nerve condition near my right shoulder. I can’t lift anything above my head, and I certainly should not be carrying an oversized, Mary Poppins purse to work every day. I was diagnosed with this injury the same month I graduated from college, and soon I was altering the way I lived — from getting out of bed, to sitting at work, to the way I exercised.

A few months into physical therapy, my doctor suggested I purchase a rolling bag. I thought he was joking. He was, unfortunately, not joking. My dad gifted me a professional rolling bag for Christmas, and I resigned to my body’s advanced age.

The first few weeks were tough. Living in San Francisco at the time, I couldn’t ignore the stares of strangers on Market Street, and I attempted to forget the sound of the wheels on cobblestone. After weeks of awkward maneuvering, I could finally close the bag in one motion, pick it up by the handles while descending the stairs to my BART train, and dart between tourists with ease.

Sometime during the probation period, I became attached to my rolling bag. Now, two years later in New York, whenever someone even looks at the bag wrong, I contemplate rolling over their toes. What started out as a medical need soon became a crowd favorite among my friends. They encourage me to bring it to the movie theater, as well as on weekend trips. To them, it’s “Katie’s bag,” which evidently comes with the territory. If you’re my friend, you must also accept my bag. Let’s not forget: it’s ridiculously fashionable.

Despite my love for the bag, it is not made for public transportation or crowded bars. While a backpack or purse fits easily under the subway seats or on your lap, my beautiful square of immovable design pokes out from the bench or chair, commandeering more space than the length of my feet. In New York, I’m discovering how problematic this is. When it’s 8 a.m., and there are too many people squished into a subway car, my bag is a foe. Each new city brings new obstacles — different things I never had to think about. I get a lot of looks strutting down 34th Street and 125th Street in New York City. Construction is a constant adversary, attempting to roll the bag across the uneven gravel and eventually resigning to pick up the bag, collapse the handle, and switch hands every two minutes. I thought living in San Francisco was tough. New York is a new beast, and it’s nearly impossible to live as an injured person in this city.

Despite the everyday challenges, the bottom line is that my health has improved from the bag. Acquainting myself with the bag may have taken some time, but the simple act of changing the way I commute to work has had a lasting impact. After two years, the bag is slightly bruised and may need to be replaced. We’ve been through a lot — job changes, moving across the country, humidity. It’s been a whirlwind, and I couldn’t be more grateful to my commute buddy.

Perhaps in the near future, we will provide more elevators, or even a walking lane specifically for people with rolling bags or wheels. For now, I’ll settle with rolling over tourists’ toes.

KATIE GEZI is a publishing professional in New York City. She is the series editor for “The Last Thing I Loved” on The Coil. Email her at for all pitches and inquiries.