June 8, 2001
Exactly when did we become a nation of
For some reason everyone around me seems to
belong to a tribe of nomads, carrying all their worldly possessions
wherever they go.
From the tallest businessman to the smallest
toddler, everywhere I go I see people lugging around huge knapsacks.
I'm not sure what a six-year old owns that requires carrying a
backpack larger than the ones worn by the US Marines.
Sure, we live in a consumer society, but it
doesn't mean you have to keep everything you own with you at all
I think it has to do with there being two
kinds of people - those who always over-pack and those who travel
light. Personally, I've always travelled light. I like being the
first one off the airplane and not having to wear an back brace.
I've never understood people who pack a steamer trunk for a long
When I went to Europe for seven weeks I only
took what most people would consider an overnight bag. If you're
going to be away that long, you really only need a change of
clothes, toothbrush and bar of soap. Maybe not even the bar of soap
if you get a big enough tube of toothpaste.
I guess what others may consider unhygienic
I think of as low-maintenance. Besides, I didn't have any friends in
Europe, so it's not like I was going to be offending anyone I knew.
But people on a daily basis are dragging
along with them tons of useless junk. The techno-junkies won't leave
home without packing their cell phone, laptop and CD player. And
because a single one hour CD isn't enough to get you where you're
going, you've got to bring your whole music library. No doubt to
suit the many festive moods of the commuter.
A book or knitting passes the time in
transit, but unless you're a speed reader there isn't much point in
packing two hardcovers, six paperbacks and a drug store's worth of
And of course hauling around everything you
own all day takes a lot of energy. That's why overloaded commuters
have to bring along plenty of food and water too.
Last week I watched a woman set out a full
breakfast for herself on the bus. She took half a grapefruit out of
a bag and followed it with a bowl of cereal. I was waiting for the
pancakes to come out next. I was afraid to see what pocket she kept
the syrup in.
I can't believe that packing a seven-course
breakfast before you leave the house is really much of a time-saver.
Maybe what she found so appealing was the ambiance of eating under
the armpits of a dozen sweaty commuters.
Perhaps I'm just jealous. I can barely
manage a newspaper in the morning, let alone balance a burger, onion
rings and a shake on my lap over bumpy roads.
Of course all this carrying and eating makes
you thirsty. That's why most of my fellow travellers carry water
bottles that would get you safely across the Gobi Desert.
The result of all this is I'm very easy to
recognize me if you see me on the bus.
I'll be the hungry, bored guy with nothing