Check your baggage …

  • Posted on March 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I had this vision of meeting someone the other day … They were walking along, but struggling under the weight of two holdalls, one in each hand.

They seemed happy enough: I would be, if I had two heavy bags full of something valuable! I offered to carry one, because we were going the same way. But no, they insisted they carried both (my mother used to say this when I offered with the shopping) – because they were ‘balanced’. Well, maybe that makes sense; it saves a bad back.

But the trouble was, they couldn’t get on very quickly, and opening doors was a bit difficult. I asked how long had they been carrying the bags? ‘Oh, as along as I can remember’, they said. ‘Doesn’t everyone?’ I replied that they must be very inconvenient, but no: ‘they’re mine!’

‘When did you last open them, and need what’s inside them? And how do you know which is which, when you pick them up?’ I inquired.

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ they replied. ‘I’m so used to carrying them, it hardly matters! It’s just what I have to carry.’

‘Maybe you don’t need them any more?’ I suggested. ‘Why don’t you put them down and look inside? Perhaps they aren’t as important or useful as you think?’

Well, it took a great deal of persuasion, but as we talked, the weight of the bags seemed to become questionable, and finally the bags were lowered and let go – not without some relief. Together we worked the zippers that hadn’t been pulled for a very long time, until they dragged their teeth apart to reveal the contents.

Each bag seemed to contain pretty much the same thing: bricks. Just bricks. A little dusty from rubbing together so long, but still – just bricks. They probably fitted together quite well, and who knows, something useful might be built with them. Maybe those from one bag and those from the other, put together, might be even better, but deciding which came from which bag, to put them back again afterwards, would be really quite difficult. Maybe it didn’t matter.

‘Oh.’ my companion said, ‘I really didn’t know what was in the bags. They’re so heavy and they seemed so important. But they’re just bricks!’

‘Then perhaps you can leave them behind now?’ I ventured, looking up at them. Then, glancing down at these impeccably balanced burdens, I noticed there were tired, old labels tied to the handles. I rubbed the dust off the fading ink, and when I’d worked out which way was up, saw that one read ‘male’ and the other ‘female’.

We took a couple of bricks out and examined them more closely. Yes, there were slight differences in shape, where they would fit together for strength, but otherwise they were all very much alike.

‘What are you going to do now?’ I asked.

‘Dunno. But I’m not carrying these bags around any more; no point. I’ll just take a couple – could be useful. Here, any two will do.’

‘Don’t you want one from each bag?’

‘No. It doesn’t matter. I only want them to keep doors open.’

Learning points

  • check your baggage: did you pack it yourself?
  • question the contents: are they important?
  • just because you have a balanced burden doesn’t mean you can’t put it down
  • whatever your burdens, keep your doors open
  • never stretch a metaphor too far; just see if it helps!
We all carry around far too much baggage about the useless gender binary of male and female, and in doing so fail to see others as they really are. Instead we constrain them and us, so we can’t even shake hands or hold doors open for each other. Put these bags down. Walk away.


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