Saturday, November 12, 2016

Ode to a Nike bag

In 1998, I signed up for a biking and hiking trip through China with my then-girlfriend Barb (now my wife). It was to be my first true overseas trip – I don't think going to Bermuda counts –  and certainly my most exotic vacation.

For nearly six months, I prepared for the trip, learning to speak some Mandarin, reading books about China and researching the places we would visit. But barely 24 hours after we arrived, near-disaster struck: The zipper on my primary piece of luggage broke.
A final look at my bag before heading to the trashcan

Now you may not consider a broken zipper a near-disaster, but at the time I had no idea what to do. The zipper couldn't be fixed and I certainly couldn't use the bag. At home, I would run to Target and just buy a new one. But we were in a foreign country, with no car, and I had no idea how I was going to carry all my belongings around for the next two weeks.

Something needed to be done fast because our small tour group was due to get on a train soon. As an interim measure, one of our guides retrieved a duffel bag from storage that Barb had brought (the bag had been holding camping gear we would be using later in the trip). I could use that for now. But I still had to find another bag.

After our train trip, we spent a night in the city of Xian and then cycled through the countryside the next day, stopping for the night in a small city. Exploring the town that evening, Barb and I found a store selling bags.

These weren't expensive luggage pieces, but something more like workout-gear bags. We looked around and I finally selected a simple black-and-teal bag with "Nike" on the side. I liked it because it was large. It cost me about $5. I figured it would be good enough to get my stuff home.

It did indeed get my stuff home –  and then some. Over the years, I used the bag frequently to carry things like books, clothes and groceries. It worked well for hauling almost anything.

Eventually, the zipper broke, but I kept using the bag. A few small holes appeared but I still kept using it. Finally this year, with the number and size of the holes growing, the end came for my bag. With a touch of wistfulness, I dropped it in a garbage can.

If you say Chinese-made products don't last, I will tell you the story of the bag that did 18 years of hard work. Not bad for $5.


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