Wednesday 1 October 2014

You Wouldn’t Ask Me to Move My Bag from the Seat Next to Me If You Knew Its Dad Had Just Died

Look, I understand. You had a long day, and you’re exhausted. What’s worse, this bus is packed; literally every single seat is occupied. If I was in your position, I’d probably be somewhat desperate too. It’s only natural to start looking around, anxious to find someone—or yes, something—that may not be in dire need of a seat. I get it. You see my backpack placed on the seat next to me and you think to yourself: “Why does a backpack need its own seat? Surely a backpack wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a seat and a lap; it would be just as comfortable sitting on either.” This sentiment, while understandable, is highly presumptuous and, quite frankly, insensitive. I have a feeling you wouldn’t be quite so indignant at the placement of my backpack if you only knew that, just yesterday, my backpack’s father passed away.

Hmm, not so annoyed now, are you? In fact, you look downright confused as to how I could offer such a seemingly outlandish explanation with such confidence. The reason for your bafflement is a simple one: prejudice. You’ve been conditioned by your upbringing (one that, no doubt, came at the hands of a starved and angry pit bull) that backpacks can never know the pain of losing a loved one, particularly in a tragic backpack fire that took out an entire city block of Dayton, Ohio. It never once occurred to you that a being of cloth and vinyl might know the exquisite, incendiary pangs of loss. Well, take this to heart: this backpack has lived. It once had, for a short yet intense period, a serious problem with alcohol. (I put a flask in it but forgot to screw the cap on tight enough, so it spilled.) It has loved. (A dog humped it once in the park.) It has lost. (Well, it’s been lost. I left it in an Applebee’s after I got blackout-drunk on my step-grandma’s birthday.) It has certainly been mistreated. (One time, in order to impress his buddies, a very rude teen humped it in the park.)

And so, in light of these indignities great and small, is it really such a tall order to allow this backpack, a being that once saw Lou Reed in the store in which it lived before I purchased it (he was drunk and lost on a Labor Day weekend), its own temporary square of public real estate? Its own zone of comfort and tranquility? Yes, I’m sure we agree that it isn’t. And I would challenge you, upon leaving this bus, to go out into the world and spread my backpack’s message of kindness and peace to all whom you meet. Perhaps you can start with those three ten-pound bags of potatoes you’re towing? Revolutions begin at home, after all!

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