Monday, 23 January 2017

Public privacy

If you want to understand someone, ask them to empty their bag – be it their patent leather purse, briefcase or backpack. Or, on the likely chance that they refuse, wait until its unattended, when you’ve been trusted to keep an eye out while they nip to the toilet, and rummage around in secret. Turn it upside down so you can get to know them inside out.

Find ripped receipts, those lingering reminders of money that would be better left unspent. Lip balms that’d long been labelled lost, foreign coins, loose pieces of spearmint gum, wrappers stained with guilt and milk chocolate remains.

A grandmother’s ring, sachets of white sugar, a yellow crayon, a misshapen almond, a makeup wipe stained black with last week’s mascara, a broken cigarette, a pink highlighter missing its lid, a glasses case (with no glasses inside), an old cinema ticket, expired vouchers, a safety pin, more sachets of white sugar, a lighter with no fluid, a giant paperclip, another receipt, a pair of rusty tweezers, a tampon, a mini paperclip, bills that have yet to be paid, stained with coffee and dusted with cracker crumbs.

Search “What’s in my Bag?” on YouTube and you’ll be bombarded with about 20,700,000 results. Ten-minute long videos of the conventional wallet, water bottle, car keys, house keys, maybe an odd lipstick or hairclip. The spotless, censored version - an assortment that ceases to be embarrassing, but one that also isn’t true. Devoid of unwashed socks, one that shows the fresh pack of tissues but hides the loose used ones from view.   

Make sure to be done at least a minute or two before they’re back, enough time for you to be scrolling through your phone and for their mismatched items to settle back into those places they’ve chosen for themselves.

For each expired bus ticket and fridge magnet is part of their everyday (bag)gage. Private belongings that we dare to carry around in public.