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Lost Luggage Blues

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Photo: Davies + Starr

Somewhere in the world, alone and abandoned in the non-space of a baggage-handling center, is my suitcase. Air France lost it five days ago. The details of how this happened are commonplace and banal. I was headed for Florence. The bag took off on its own for Mumbai.

Is there any sight, I wonder, as forlorn as that of an unclaimed valise?You see it all the time in airports, a luggage orphan stranded alongside the baggage carousel. Sometimes it is segregated near the rubber flaps of the entry port. Sometimes it is trapped behind stanchions or webs. Sometimes it is covered in a protective net that makes it look like the catch of the day.

The carousel keeps revolving, but the bag is going nowhere, except at last into the keeping of handlers who will scan and log it and then send it off…well, where?It doesn’t matter. Yours is one of thousands that are misplaced every day. I say “misplaced” because lost is apparently a misnomer, since most of the time “We know where it is,” as an aviation expert with an existentialist cast of mind once remarked to a congressional panel. “It just isn’t where it’s supposed to be.”

It was not until I was parted from my bag that I realized how sentimentally attached to it I am. The bag itself is nothing terribly special; a big boxy thing with fitted leather bumpers, it looks like a sample case for someone who sells large and unwieldy goods—prosthetic limbs, perhaps. It is built of vulcanized fiberboard over a frame of ash wood, and made using methods apparently unaltered since its English manufacturer started business in 1897. Before fashionable types became aware of the label’s existence, Globe-Trotter suitcases seemed to me to be favored mainly by minor English nobles and persons who resemble the lady ornithologist in Hitchcock’s The Birds. They were unhip and that is why they were cool.

Now J.Crew has the bags on offer in exclusive colors, and Vivre, the catalogue for whatever high-net-worth types remain in the world, sells them in limited-edition colors. The industrial designer Ross Lovegrove has even taken a crack at updating the clunky Globe-Trotter design. Will the buyers of Lovegrove’s Air Cabin cases feel the same affection for their luggage that I do, the same little frisson of nervous anticipation when the bag appears from behind the rubber curtains and starts to make its way toward me?I imagine they will, and not just because they can then get on with their journeys.

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