It was the kind of experience that would compel Tom Cruise to issue a litany of religiously significant acronyms or force Keira Knightley to start eating. It was a dark occasion, but in an un-Oscar worthy way. A weaker soul might have left the room sobbing or, worse, tried to pull the old accessory switcheroo (think Quick Change magic, not Winona Ryder in a department store).
No, it wasn’t a tête-à-tête with Hillary Clinton, although that would have been frightful. Rather, I witnessed a homeless man carrying a backpack that was the same model, color and texture as my own. Of course, I knew the backpack wasn’t mine – my own sack was in a safe place – but the fact that they looked so similar had me instantly incensed.
Had my connection with the homeless man occurred over any other accessory, I might have let it pass. But not a backpack. Backpacks are as personal as the people they ride on. Like the tiny papooses of California’s first inhabitants, they accompany their guardians unhaltingly, sometimes swinging gently at the side. On other, more turbulent occasions, they lay double strapped and tightened in for extra security. The backpack is an intimate accessory, because it gets to put its straps where most other people can only dream of putting their hands.
Seeing your backpack ride on someone else's back is like discovering your Rolex is fake, except worse, because even a fake Rolex can be faithful.
But what to do? The backpack Bill of Rights, a sacred document among those who believe themselves more than just an empty sac and who want to peregrinate with pride, explicitly prohibits harming other backpacks, even those that are riding with another. So I gave the homeless man a quarter and had a DTR with my backpack where I explained everything I’d seen.
My backpack and I have been together since high school and our relationship has already survived a couple years of college. It’s been tough, but we’ve stuck side-by-side through it all. I raised the possibility that maybe we weren’t giving each other enough space and that each should allow the other more room.
And what do you know? It turned out to be an innocent misunderstanding. I was reading way too much into a guiltless situation. Now I feel a lot better knowing that someone has my back.