|The black hole. See my problem?|
This past week I purchased a new purse. I have one that is serviceable, although items like my keys tend to disappear into the black depths, requiring much embarrassing scrabbling in public and/or small nervous crises. But this is a special purchase: I need a new bag for a trip to Italy.
When I first started traveling, as a young woman, I was warned to hang on to my bag (which held my passport and money, if not much else—I didn't have a credit card for years). Conventional wisdom said: Keep it tucked under your arm at all times; don't set it down on a counter while haggling with a vendor; never flash what cash you had. Pickpockets and purse snatcher abounded, especially in Italy.
I did have my purse stolen once, but that was in London—by someone who had to climb across the façade of a building on a busy street to come in through my third floor window while I was taking a bath down the hall. I didn't see that one coming. That necessitated making a police report (a lovely sympathetic bobby came to the B&B and talked to me in the kitchen over the classic cup of tea), finding the US Embassy and getting a new passport, and after I'd moved on to France with my new passport, wheedling a rental car company into letting me have a car despite the fact I had no driver's license. The French were very accommodating, and I didn't even have to bribe anyone.
I have also been accosted by gypsies in France, including one small grubby boy who kept saying "donnez moi un sou" and was rather annoyed when I didn't. For your information, the sou hasn't been currency in France for quite a while, and it never was worth much. It had devolved into a stock phrase for panhandlers. Anyway, I didn't open my purse.
Back to the bag. The first thing I wanted was a shoulder strap, a long one so that I could wear it across my body, thus keeping my hands free. Funny—there aren't that many bags with functional shoulder straps available these days, although there are some with very decorative shorter straps.
I also wanted pockets that zipped—and I got that with a vengeance. The new purse has six outside zippered pockets and one interior zippered pocket, plus two open pockets, one for the ubiquitous cell phone. And (drumroll, please) it has its own umbrella, which lives in its own little inside pocket that snaps shut. Once I saw that I was sold.
The best part is that all the pockets and the interior are lined with a bright, cheerful print fabric—not like my current black pit of a purse. I might even be able to find something (and will take along one of my mini LED flashlights in case I do need to search)!
The thing should also be indestructible, because it's not real leather—it's a believable fake. My grandmother would be appalled: in her world, ladies carried leather bags and wore leather shoes, preferably matching. She was a woman who had more than one real alligator handbag (it was a long time ago, and I didn't keep them). But this handy (and inexpensive) fake leather bag is something I don't have to worry about. I can drag it through puddles and carry it in the rain and it will probably fare better than I will.
But it needs to be sturdy, because my bags usually average about eight to ten pounds in weight. What's in there? Wallet (ID, credit cards, health insurance card), small notebook (hey, I'm a writer!), usually a camera, cell phone, keys, cash (the coins to fall to the bottom and get forgotten), about a dozen pens, Tylenol, antacids, tissues, often a book to read, in case I have to wait somewhere, now and then a tablet computer…the list goes on. I think I'm permanently tilted from carrying this accumulation on my left shoulder for decades. But I'd bet that if I walloped somebody in the head with it (especially with that nice long strap), the guy would drop in his tracks!
Sometimes I envy men: they stick a wallet in their back pocket and go. I don't know how they do it.