On fighting suitcases…

(-The story behind yesterday’s walk home-)

Over the years I’ve had a fair bit of practice at this. As a kid we went on holiday incredibly regularly. Mostly camping, or visiting grandparents, but nevertheless ‘going away’. This almost always calls for packing and carrying some kind of luggage. The folks packed the tent and other useful stuffages so I only had to pack MY things. Usually a backpack is enough for a short trip, but since we almost invariably drove to our final destination it didn’t really matter if things didn’t fit. We had the sort of suitcases you can sit on to do up, ones with buckles and locks. Later, ones with zips. When the family took up flying and hostelling, backpacking moved more into focus. We seemed to fly to the most distant airport from where we wanted to end up, and walk. Walking from an airport equates to carrying your backpack. We also spent considerable time travelling between towns and beaches and generally being on the move. Over time it became normal to have a really good think about whether something made the grade to stay packed, BEFORE setting out. When I started DofE I realised just how important it was to get everything into one backpack, including all the important stuff like tents, sleeping bags and stoves.. (Having a bag with decent straps is also sensible, but that’s a different story). Doing the Offa’s Dyke walk a couple of years later I was surprised to find that not everyone had had the same experience. We (as a group, so as not to name names) sent approximately 25 kg of ‘excess baggage’  home from a remote post office en route.

At some point in [my] history, suitcases with wheels became more common. I don’t know why they hadn’t been thought of before, but they’re a brilliant invention. Anyone who has tried travelling with 30kg of anything will back me up on this.

I moved to Germany 7 and a bit years ago and since then have had a lot of opportunity to fly, move house, visit people a long way off and go sightseeing. I have got through about 4 suitcases, with and without wheels, and have been known to pack my things in washing baskets. As a rule I have too much stuff and, despite all the warnings, still carry too much on a regular basis. Especially when coming back from shopping 😉

Considering all this, I don’t seem to have made a lot of progress when it comes to actually fighting the silly things.

My folks were here recently and left me a ‘broken’ suitcase which I think originally belonged to my sister. I don’t really know where or how it’s broken, so I’ve been using it since to go shopping. I had a party at work (will probably make its own post soon) which I needed to cater for and this meant lugging drinks and food from town to my house, and from my house to work. When I usually go foodshopping, I take cloth bags with me, pick up an empty box while perusing the isles and therefore know how much more I can buy before my arms drop off. Once everything’s paid for it makes its way into my rucksack and/or my cloth bags and I go home. Easy. Ish. I live by myself, so most of the time I only have to feed one person. I eat enough, but there’s only so much food a person [of normal build] can get through so I don’t often have to carry THAT much home – unless Aldi has a good deal on huge plastic tubs or duvets or papercutting devices that is..

This time I knew I was feeding most of the people I spend time with at work and had come prepared. I had my sisters ex-suitcase with me.  I felt ready to take on the world. I got a trolley. WHOO!! – No more juggling with halffilled boxes while bending down to get something off the bottom shelf. No more onehanded unpacking. No more looking for a bigger empty box when the original becomes too full. Bliss.

The bliss lasted until I reached the other side of the till and realised I was going to have to give my trolley back.

Damn.

Then I remembered I had my suitcase.. So all was not lost.

While I don’t have anything very much against alcohol, I don’t see why I should buy it for other people when I don’t drink it myself. This doesn’t go down well in Germany. But anyway. My party, my rules. I bought enough for everyone to comfortably drink their usual fill, except I didn’t buy beer, I bought I bought fizzy water and fruit juice. This would be largely irrelevant, if it wasn’t for the fact that liquid is heavy. Very heavy. Heavier, in fact, than I’m guessing the suitcase had ever been subjected to previously. 18 bottles of water a 1.5L plus 16 L of fruitjuice = 43L. Assuming the packaging weighs nothing (which blatantly isn’t true) and that water and juice both weigh 1kg/L that’s 43kg. And I didn’t only buy drinks. I also bought crisps and other frivolities like onions and lettuce.

Having got myself and my shopping out of both the trolley and the shop, I realised I had left my buspass at home with my previous pile of shopping (even I don’t try to buy real food at the same time as drinks). I phoned a friend. No luck – when faced between going out for dinner and lugging the best part of 50kg up a hill I know what I would choose. They chose it too. The other people I tried phoning – the people I know have a car – were out. Walking it is then – YAY!! And then I found a bus ticket in my pocket. Not my buspass, where I can travel for ‘free’ (as long as I pay the monthly subscription), but a proper ticket which needs stamping. Better than nothing, and certainly better than walking the “long miles” (/4km) home (thanks RT).

Once on the bus I decided that my original idea was a very silly one, and that it made no sense to take anything home which was going to be needed for the party. I got off the bus at the stop closest to where I work (luckily on the same busroute) and tried to persuade the suitcase it wanted to come with me. It took more persuasion than I care to write about, but we both ended up on the pavement so it was okay. So far so good. Now to go about getting from the busstop to the party room. It is a stretch of maybe 150m. It usually takes about 2-3 minutes to get there, including the time you have to wait for the lights to go green. For this trip I think I needed something more in the region of 23 minutes. I stopped every few metres to let the blood back into my fingers and to get my breath back. I’d swap hands and tackle the next couple of metres and then stop again. I don’t remember the last time I made such slow and painfull progress.

When we finally got there, I unloaded everything liquid out of the bag and went home.
The next day (after a remarkably short night) I packed the 3 deep trays of freshly prepared lasagne into my trusty suitcase and trudged into work. They too were heavy, but nothing compared to the ordeal of the evening before.

The party happened, or didn’t as the case may be, and the leftovers were left for the next day. The next day came and went without making much of a mark on anything, which is why I came to once more be dragging my suitcase on and off busses and fighting for blood in my fingertips. However, I did leave the juice at work, to be collected at a later date. I might be a little overenthusiastic when packing but I don’t have a death wish.

The handle is made of plastic coated cloth sewn onto the end of the case, which I guess is pretty handy, but it does mean you have to either stoop or hold the case at about 45 degrees to the floor.

It bit me. Repeatedly.

For some reason I can only really pull suitcases or trolleys with my right hand as my left one stays too close to my body and so makes whatever I’m pulling bash my ankles. I’m used to having a telescope handle on my suitcases, which helps on the ankle-bashing front, but which this particular case doesn’t have. When you take a step the re-enforced end bashes into the back of your leg, and the handle digs into your hand and pinches the skin at the joints. Even when dragging with my right hand it bashed me. It might not have been an entirely fair fight, given that I still weigh more than it does, but I don’t think that gave me any advantages over it. I didn’t give up, but it didn’t either..  I suppose I must have won overall, since both I and it made it back in one piece, but I think I have to give it points for effort. It also appears to have suffered no damage at all, whereas my leg is decidedly more bruised than it was when I started.

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