Friday, December 21, 2007

Rolling Baggage

A peculiar editorial in the New York Times takes on rolling baggage. The author's primary concern appears to be that rolling baggage is annoying to air travelers - that is, the ones who don't have similar bags. People get bumped, have bags rolled over their toes, have to deal with delays while passengers try to stow their bags in overhead bins.... Fair enough. But those problems arise less from the bags themselves, and more from the inconvenience and delay of checking your luggage and retrieving it at the end of a trip. Not to mention the rough treatment often given to checked bags, with new scars appearing on your bags at the conclusion of pretty much every trip. It would be easy enough for airlines to impose more restrictive rules on the size of carry-on luggage, but instead they're doing the opposite - imposing additional restrictions (and surcharges) on checked luggage.

It's also a fair argument that rolling luggage often results in people packing more than they need - it's easier to carry extra weight, because you don't have to carry the bag through the airport, and it appears to be human nature to want to fill a suitcase even when you know that you're packing more than you need.
Also: aesthetics. Your dorky rolling bag doesn’t say, “I’m embarking on a voyage.” It says, “I’m going to a conference in Cleveland.” And maybe you are, but you don’t have advertise it. The swashbuckling adventurer hoists a leather rucksack, or a battered canvas duffel. He doesn’t tug his bag behind him on a leash like a stubborn and especially boring pet.

It’s easy to see the appeal of wheeled luggage, of course. It eases our burdens and lifts the weight off our shoulders. It keeps our neatly pressed jackets un-mussed. But rolling bags are really functional only for the type of journey that goes taxi-airport-taxi-hotel-shuttle bus-convention center. Outside this comfortable circuit, they’re often useless.
Well, a lot of the people with those rolling bags are the equivalent of somebody going to a conference in Cleveland. And with all due respect to the swashbuckling adventurer, I've been smacked more than a few times by oversized duffels, and have been held up while people tried to squeeze them into overhead bins.

I found this argument somewhat amusing:
I’ve been traveling a lot recently, in countries ranging from developed to less developed to dear Lord, is that a monkey attacking a naked child? In harsher conditions, a dainty rolling bag is absurdly out of place. It’s no fun rolling those wheels across a “street” that’s just a rain-soaked blotch of mud. Or bouncing them up the stairs of a packed train station. Or dragging them through a marketplace where puddles are indeed full of fish and goat entrails. (Enjoy that pungent odor when your bag is back in your room.)
The comical inference is that the author initially tried to "rough it" on a lengthy journey through the developing world with a rolling suitcase designed as airplane carry-on baggage, but found it to be wanting. If so, I'm not surprised by his conclusion - no sensible person would try that. But I'll tell you this - while I avoided marketplaces littered with goat entrails, I did quite a bit of travel with a "rolling duffel" from L.L.Bean, and found both that I could use the handles and strap to carry the bag when I didn't choose to roll it, and that it was at times terrifically convenient to be able to roll the bag instead of carrying it. Including at airports and railroad stations in the developing world.

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