FOR the modern traveler, luggage plays an enormously important part, since in most areas, unless you are able to carry it yourself, you might as well stay at home. That there has been a revolution in the luggage world is obvious, but it is interesting to note that from whatever age group you are viewing it, there is a common characteristic. This is the curious fact that luggage apparently loathes traveling. Whether you are a senior citizen buying a suitcase or a juvenile investing in a duffel bag, you will find that however light this item was in the shop (and you were resolutely determined that it should be so), you have only to put a pair of shoes into it and can hardly lift it off the ground. It seems that at the very sight of a hair brush it deliberately makes itself as heavy as possible and will probably have to be pulled, like some sullen and reluctant dog, out of the house, precariously balanced, as likely as not, on gimmicky little wheels.
This strange reluctance of grips to get around is matched by their determination to contract. However well you pack for the outward journey, on the homeward trip you will find that your bags have shrunk. It is true that clean clothes take up less room than worn ones, but one might reasonably suppose that most of the objects packed for a holiday would fit back into their receptacles. Yet this is not the case. Or rather, it is the case, but it won't shut.
Of course, the journeying young of today have practically no clothes: a couple of shirts, a pair of jeans, a sweater, a headband or two, and heaps of bracelets; and yet if you go to an airport you do see them weighed down, almost to the ground, by their rucksacks. Possibly these are full of cassettes, but much more likely it is because the rucksacks do not want to travel. They are 100 percent chauvinist.
When I look back on my youth - which, granted, is an incalculable time ago - I am amazed to remember its luggage. When I went on my honeymoon I took a trunk, a case fitted out especially for shoes, a hatbox, a box designed for holding books, a dressing case full of bottles and brushes, and all of it weighing a ton. Amiable porters pushed this lot round airports in country after country, or else it sat in luggage vans at the ends of trains without the smallest danger of theft or pilferage.
Ah my children, those were the days! Staggering along for miles with a bulging and recalcitrant valise, I find it impossible not to regret them just a tiny bit. As an afterthought, while talking of miles, have you ever met anybody traveling from any airport, whose flight left Gate 1? Or indeed, 10? My journeys always go from Gate 22 or 25, reached by long, long slippery walks, occasionally punctuated, it is true, by brief rides on moving floors, but more usually hiked, with a petulant case bumping against my legs. Only the promise of pleasures to come, such as the Taj Mahal, for instance, or meeting a dear old friend, prevents me from there and then dropping my bags on the airport floor and heading for home in a bus.
Maybe I should stay home?