Case closed

Ideally, a person should occupy the space of a person. This should rule out the trailing of collision-prone wheeled suitcases

Keren Levy

Ideally, a person should occupy the space of a person. This rules out the trailing of a small block of suitcase, at the end of a metal bar handle.

Occurring about a metre after its owner, who walks, smugly separate from what is an appendage, it passes unseen until it is too late, an unwelcome brick of a thing. It doesn’t require a holiday season. Or even an airport. Victoria Station, on a recent morning, was a mass of these hidden hurdles. They are the hard stuff of Tube carriages and walkways, there on pavements and in shops.

Collision with one of them is so much worse than the rucksack nudge because they’re there by stealth. This is not the backpacker made clumsy by the bursting supplies of six months’ travel in all seasons, contained within its worn canvas. Cumbersome as they are, with these what you see is what you get, and what you get will be by accident.

At the risk of outdoing my own inner curmudgeon, it is equally the unyielding pristine nature of the wheeler-dealers that irritates. I look fondly upon my loose, pocketed roll of a travel bag and know it’s not for all. But it tells a story: its baggy side compartments, a faded underside from only partial exposure to sunlight and the grubbiness of carousels.

If this were about being old or enfeebled, the mini-trunks would pose the same hazards but their edges would be softened by the knowledge that necessity is at work. But it is not. This is a choice, by a growing majority, of all ages and strengths.

“No problem, I’ve got wheels,” they say. They have. And that’s only the half of it. Uneven, disproportionately loud, their rollers harrumph along the pavement. And their diminutive size bears no relation to their capacity to annoy. We’re all about ease and economy. But this is one without the other. A hidden handle, reads some related literature, “pops up into towing position”. More stealth.

“Travelling made easy,” proclaims an online description. But where it’s almost weightless to lift, it’s heavy to encounter. Its dimensions are carefully crafted to fit those of the overhead locker; less care is given to its fit into the communal space that is a platform or a pavement.

“Rolling suitcases” came into being in the 1970s, an invention by one Bernard D. Sadow. Walking through customs at an airport in Puerto Rico with his family, and struggling with two large, tightly-packed suitcases, he spotted a man moving a piece of machinery on a wheeled platform. “He was just pushing it along without much effort. We need wheels on luggage,” he stated.

I beg to differ.

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