August 12, 2009
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I hate, with unbridled passion, wheely suitcases in crowded places. People who treat them like a manservant, always three steps behind, trailing in an arc almost as wide as the moon's path. Kings Cross tube is the worst place for these things, being the mecca for continent-bound tourists as well as rammed with commuters. Getting stuck behind a gormless wheely case owner at the bottom of an escalator with a crowd behind you is never going to end well.
Of course, I have a wheely suitcase. I caved two years ago after finally realising that I could no longer stand using a rucksack. I knackered my back in 2001 carrying a disastrously designed (and overpacked) one round the US for a month, and I get too hot and irritable trudging around hot countries (for hot read: Mediterranean. Or even central Europe on a warm day. I don't do heat). Rucksacks are almost as bad as wheelies – who hasn't been almost, or actually, clocked in the face by an American college student? But wheelies win on the hate scale for their ubiquity – and at least you can see a rucksack coming towards you.
I take pride in doing everything I can to use my wheely with care. I wheel it close behind me in crowds, I try to pick out gaps to maneouvre it through or stick close to walls. So imagine my dismay on Tuesday morning, hefting the case up the stairs at the Kings Cross ticket hall on my way to Paris, when I put my case down on a woman's ankle.
Where on earth did she come from? I was by the wall; admittedly, the weight of the case had made me drift to the right by maybe half a metre, but still not enough space for someone to nip through. The wall was to my left, the case between me and the wall; when I hauled it up that last step I dropped it virtually on my own feet. Where the fuck did that red sandalled foot come from? Was she an experienced commuter, shimmying round me to get to the stairs? In that unfortunate split second, did she miscalculate the amount of time it would take me to de-case? I was horrified at what I'd done and said so; she was genuinely hurt but in too much of a hurry to pause in her flight to the office (note: it was 7.30am). Ironically, this was one of the few times the case was being used as a carry-handle case rather than a wheely case. Damn stairs. And still it maimed.
So. What's the lesson from this? Perhaps that it just is impossible to go on holiday and remain completely free of inflicting wounds. That we commuters aren't as savvy as we think we are; that tiny gap might be just a bit too tiny. Or perhaps that the time has come when we should be looking around and demanding why nobody's invented the bloody matter transporter yet.
I still hate wheelies though.