Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Travelers and Baggage Handlers

Among serious travelers, the conventional wisdom speaks toward traveling light, exemplified in its extreme avatar in suspense novelist Lee Childs' protagonist, Jack Reacher. In addition to the modest and comfortable clothing on his back, Reacher's accouterments are a tooth brush and a credit card. Most other travelers settle by degrees on back packs, carry-on bags, and those ubiquitous one- and two-suiter envelopes that fold in the middle, allowing a more comfortable transportation.

Some form of baggage is associated with most forms of travel. Only the rare traveler is as Spartan as Jack Reacher. Your own preferred model is the sort of carry-on complete with wheels and a handle, making it easy to maneuver wherever circumstances take it.  

Professional baggage handlers are as ubiquitous as baggage itself in air terminals, train stations, and to a lesser extent, bus terminals. These individuals are a part of a great, largely unnoticed network devoted to getting travelers' baggage on conveyances, where they will arrive at the travelers' chosen destination. 

Your interest in such baggage is minimal, where it will remain until and if your travel baggage should go missing, at which point, in spite of your present resolve to accept such misdirection as a cost of being a part of an enormous and highly mobile public, you feel the need to vent your spleen and the energy to do so.

The baggage of greater interest to you at the moment is of the emotional type, sometimes carried about by the individual from early years, occasioned by the forces that nurtured or failed to nurture them as they were growing forth from infancy. 

At this stage in your life, you've had contact with hundreds of dozens of individuals, thanks to your time in the trenches of being a teacher at universities and writers' conferences, leaving you with a wide display of types, attitudes, and agendas. All these have carried the emotional sorts of baggage about with them, causing some of them to behave in ways you had difficulty in fathoming.

You cannot in fact think of a single individual who is to emotional baggage as the young man you saw this morning, standing at a bus stop, clad in jeans, a t-shirt, and Chuck Taylor gym shoes. is to Jack Reacher and his toothbrush. This young man probably had a cell phone--everyone has a cell phone--but you were unable to see it. Baggage of this sort is a product of the human condition,wired into the human genome.

Somewhere along your own journey of self-discovery. you read and heard from instructor of the necessity to inflicting some significant flaw on your character creations, keeping Michael Henchard in mind and the amazing first chapter of The Mayor of Casterbridge, in which Henchard, already afflicted with the flaw of little or no self-control when in the company of booze, adds a significant load of one of the more popular significant flaws, guilt, to his dossier. You look for flaws in others characters and how their authors have nudged them through the process of overcoming them.

In addition, you look for revelations of flaws in your own characters, trying to show them enough friendship and respect to cause them to reveal their greater secrets to you. You become grateful when you've been confided in; now you have a greater sense of why the character adopts a particular type of attack or defense mechanism, thus you are on the way to becomming one of the great fraternity of baggage handlers in air ports, railroad stations, and hotels throughout your own travels.

Time was when you, a mere iron filing, were drawn toward the magnet of writing by the notion that it was a safe haven for you, who felt different from others. But somehow the equation became twisted; you used being a writer as a justification for being different, almost to the point off taking on differences to supply yourself with promotions along the writing curve.  

Soldiers rose from private to corporal to enhanced degrees of being a sergeant. You gave yourelf promotions not from publications or things learned from writing but rather from quirks and differences from a world you were seeing as "them," the world of civilians.

More recent times have caused you to see the matter differently. You have brothers and sisters not only as baggage handlers but as actors, dancers, photographers, wait persons, and the apparently gender specific cadre of garbage workers, men who drive huge trucks along assigned routes, picking up the contents of containers not unlike suitcases, with handles, wheels, and a generous capacity for contents.

When you were stepping into the streams of friends and relationships for the first time, you saw, were attracted to or repelled by individuals with similar issues as yours or conflicting issues. That was then. Now, instead of mere issues, there are children and grandchildren, sons- and daughters-in-law, and don't forget the ghosts, yours and theirs, the habits not yet worked into muscle memory, and the habits you likely could not change were you to wish to.

Friends and potential relationships come to you with baggage, and, now that you think about it, you've spent years of your life as baggage for others.

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