The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three lifelong friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. We often tackle broad ideas, but today we turn to the small and look at some of the simple elements that form the fabric of our days, making our experiences uniquely our own. This week we talk about what you can learn about someone’s life by upending their bag and shaking out the contents.
Two years ago, in a fit of frustration, I made a list and pinned it to the wall above my diaper changing table:
-change of clothes
-clean up towels
-toy for car
I made this as a reminder because I was sick of showing up places only to find that I had packed diapers, but forgotten wipes. That my daughter spit up or made a mess and I had nothing to change her into (and then have to walk around with either a very wet or nude baby!). That I got into the car for a long ride only to find that my daughter had nothing to do in the car.
In pencil, I added to the list:
-emergency back up undies
-nasal spray, vapor rub, benedryl
Because it’s amazing how often your child develops a cough or allergic reaction to something while you’re out.
I feel like a pack mule whenever I go anywhere these days. I don’t carry a purse anymore. But I have a wallet that holds my cell phone and many other things. In it i have an old photograph of my husband when he was in the U.S. Coast Guard. 3 copies of my credit card (2 are replacements – one for a card that was stolen, one has a chip in it, but I only remember that I need to destroy the extra cards when I’m at the store trying to figure out which one is valid). No cash. I have a few gift cards, but I’m not sure if there’s any money on them. Several business cards: one from my dentist with a reminder for a teeth cleaning I had scheduled for last April, one for Sledd’s U-pick strawberry farm, and one for my daughters’ pediatrician with the date and time for their next doctor’s appointment.
Occasionally, I bring my laptop back and forth from work. But, I have to bring a separate keyboard and mouse for my computer because one day, my daughter spilled coffee on my laptop and now the keyboard doesn’t work.
I carry a large planner with my everywhere I go. Mostly it’s there for moral support. I don’t sit down every day and plan my day. I use it to remind me of important things – right now it has a copy of my younger daughter’s birth certificate that I need to scan and send to my health insurance company…in fact, I’m going to do that right now.
I carry around so much luggage whenever I go anywhere, that both of my daughters have started carrying bags of their “things” with them wherever we go. Today, my older daughter brought a pail full of color pencils to her babysitter’s house and my younger daughter brought a bag full of foam blocks. It meant an extra trip to the car as we were leaving, but I loved that they needed their special things, just like I did.
I carry one little cross-body purse, and if you’ve ever seen me, you’ve seen it.
It doesn’t hold much. Of course there’s the basics, phone, wallet and keys. Notable things inside the wallet include a photo of Maggie’s four-year-old daughter in her karate uniform, a pendant given to me to mark a milestone in my eating disorder recovery, and my Georgia hunting and fishing license… only because I occasionally practice casting a line at my parents’ lake house. I’ve never caught anything and I’m okay with that.
On my key ring is a small library card, a key chain from when I went with Maggie and 4-year-old to the Kennedy Space Center, and a pea pod made of cloth that was given to me by some friendly Japanese people I met when I worked a conference in Hiroshima.
There are also two tiny packs of tissues, one empty, because I am more congested right now than I’ve ever been in my life. Totally snot-faced.
There’s a hair tie, a chapstick, and the only two lipsticks I can wear without looking like a clown who tries to lure children into forests after dark.
I’ve also got two little plastic baggies – one for the prescription migraine meds I’ve needed at least once a week for the last ten years, and one for a few cubes of candied ginger I can nibble on when my stomach gets upset.
In the very bottom of the purse there’s enough loose change to get mildly excited about. My husband pointed out that one coin is from New Zealand – it’s been down there for two and a half years.
In the inside pocket there’s a collection of pads and tampons of varying sizes and features. One for every occasion. In there with them are a pair of tarnished earrings, an arsenal of hair pins I never need, and a Benadryl in case of bees.
There’s another pocket on the back of the purse where I usually put stray papers. In the bottom of this pocket is another small arsenal of hair pins I never need – where are they coming from?! There are also a couple of receipts from recent doctors’ appointments.
And then, there’s this, for anyone who might ask to see it.
It’s unclear to me where Mary Poppins buys her bags. But more than once I’ve pondered the extraordinary usefulness of possessing a bottomless carry-all. City living has often led me to the platitude: “I carry my life around in my bag.” As a daily commuter from Brooklyn to Manhattan, when I leave my house, I’m basically gone. Anything I might need or want for that day, which as a freelancer might take me to multiple workplaces, yoga class, social outings, needs to come with me in the morning. Since I’m obviously not throwing it into the backseat of my car, necessarily it’s carried on my person. Thus my glamorous life as a human pack mule.
The MTA reminds transit users: “Backpacks and other large containers are subject to random search by the police,” and if I was ever selected, there’s a good chance they’d find some or all of these things in my bag, though I don’t think any of it would get me into great trouble…
- More clothes. My days take me through a range of inside and outside climates, so I travel prepared. Outside might be 90 degrees but the train will likely be a refrigerated icebox, so layers are crucial. On rainy days, a change of socks helps me avoid soggy, trench-foot workdays.
- More bags. Never underestimate the importance of carrying foldable bags within your bags, for shopping trips, or if there is a shift in weather and you need to peel off some aforementioned layers. I often begin as a bag lady (multiple bag scenario) and only obtain higher levels of bag lady status as the day progresses. Also I watched Captain Planet as a child, (he’s our hero, gonna take pollution down to zero!) so here’s my little PSA for reusable bags!
- Reading material. You never know how long you’ll be on the train (I recently sat in a train tunnel for 90 minutes- thanks broken rail!) or what the day may hold, so I always have a book, crosswords, notebook, knitting, or all the above, to keep me occupied. I never jumped on the e-reader bandwagon and dislike Iphone reading even more, so while it’s more toting, I prefer books with covers and doing crosswords in ink.
- Sharp scissors. Maybe this would raise some police eyebrows? When I sew in different costume shops and theatres, I bring some tools, since good supplies help me be efficient and effective. I always have a little pair of embroidery scissors (snips!) and sometimes my large sharps, because nothing slows you down like dull fabric scissors, amiright!?? (non-sewers nod slowly)
- Life wallet/Work wallet. I carry two. One for personal things, one for receipts, keys, money, credit cards, etc. for theatres/shows I’m working on. Though it’s usually hard to draw clear boundaries between our work and personal lives, in wallet world, it’s a totally achievable goal.
- A Full-size Floor Lamp. Just kidding. I’m still not Mary Poppins.