Which Columbia are we talking about?
|Breakfast in London, lunch in New York, luggage in Bermuda, LAX, Stanstead... A big laugh. Until it is you. Or me. And my innards. I knew it was going to be one of those trips when Patty loaned me to Kate. She is a fashionista, she had to sit on me to do up my zip. Talk about a pain in the wheel base. Then she lit up a 'herbal' cigarette and the smell got in my fabric.
Fast forward to LHR. London Heathrow. The suitcase's nightmare. It is all automatic handling. Conveyor belts. Drops. Chutes. Carousels. One wobble and you are done for, lost in the guts of the machine. I got picked out by that other nemesis. A sniffer dog. I am a good suitcase. I don't do drugs. But, thanks to Kate, I was sidetracked. They undid my zip. My innards burst out. It is no fun having a fifteen stone customs officer sitting on your middle as they try to repack. Then they put me back on the conveyor. The wrong one. Naturally.
The flight was too short. My destination was supposed to be Columbia. Somehow, they sent me to FRA. Frankfurt. No hot dogs for me. Nor cold dogs. Or sniffer dogs. It is one of those highly secure baggage handling hangars. We call it the hotel. If you are on the wander, you can guarantee a rest there. Some bloke hooked me off the trailer before my fellow passengers were thrown on the carousel in Baggage Reclaim. He stuffed me on a rack and disappeared. There was a shabby sports bag next to me.
'Been here long?' I was just trying to be friendly. He told me, in no uncertain terms, to take an interest in sex and travel.
3 a.m. The worst time to travel both for suitcase stuffers and luggage. A half awake baggage handler dragged me off the rack and grunted, 'Columbia.' as he passed me to a little weed of a man who scarcely had enough strength to stow me on the trolley. It was a wheel numbing ride, I nearly fell off. I wish I had. It wasn't until I was in the airplane's hold that I discovered our destination. El Dorado International, Bogotoa. The capital of Columbia. Code, BOG. How apt.
By the time I had been on the reclaim carousel an hour, someone realised that my owner was not there. Security collected me. They wheeled me through to Customs where I went through all the usual rigmarole of being sniffed and scanned. At last, someone thought to read my destination tab. Columbia. CAE. South Carolina. In the USA. The word 'Columbia' was bandied around. No direct flights. So back to good old Blighty. Home turf.
It is a suitcase's duty to make every effort to never leave their owner alone. They cannot manage without us, and our innards. If, by mischance, we are parted, then we are duty bound to be reunited, by fair means, or otherwise. It is incumbent only to be emptied by them or, in their presence. Both my owner, Patty, and Fashionista Kate, live in England. The dilemma was whether to go home to Patty or to Kate. Suitcase 101. Patty. She could arrange delivery of my innards to Kate. They stuck a temporary transit label on me. LGW. London Gatwick. We call it Gatport Airwick. If something is going to get muddled, it is there.
Which is how I came to freeze my locks off in YVR. Vancouver. British Columbia. At least Canada is on the same continent as Columbia, South Carolina. They are only two and a half thousand miles apart. No direct flights to my destination, of course. It was to be a multihop. YVR to YYZ. Toronto. Knowing my luck I would arrive in Tokyo. YYZ to IAD. Washington DC. Onwards to IAH, Houston, Texas. We have a problem. I know my value. It was not going to happen.
Time to grasp my destination with both carry handles. Even though one had broken along the way. I chucked myself on to the next trailer that passed and held my zips in. It was the first time I had flown on a single engine propeller plane. An interesting experience. I was crammed between a generator crate and another with goods, miscellaneous. It was even colder in YSE. Squamish, British Columbia. At this point, I lost the will.
I was in a sort of British bit. Sorry Canada, I know you're a fully grown up country in your own right. And I was in the Columbia bit. How many Columbias are there in the world? The pilot refused to take me back to YVR. Oh, the ignominy of it. I was auctioned off three weeks later.
I had never travelled by sled, towed behind a snowmobile, before. Cold, or what? My new owner goes by the wonderful name of Joe Beaverhouse. He has a wife, Eliza, and three kids, Jacob, Wayne and Sophie. They have proper, Strawmas First Nation names too. But I cannot spell them. Eliza made good use of my innards, she is a brilliant seamstress. High fashion meets Arctic life. I was given to Jacob Wayne and Sophie.
I am not a suitcase any more. So far I have been a book and toy store. A table for midnight picnics. A nest for puppies. I have been loaded with logs and dragged across hard-packed snow. Now the kids are taking me sledging. I am the sledge. Jacob loaded Wayne and Sophie in my lid and base, tied a rope to my last handle and dragged us, whooping, down the street. I won't last much longer.
Patty had a card pinned to her board back in Penge. 'The purpose of life is not to step into the grave neat and well preserved. Rather, it is to skid in sideways, yelling 'Whoo-eee! What a ride!'
We are going sledging again. In the snow. Whoo-eee! What a ride!