I didn’t want to spend the time and navigation to drive to REI or Mel Cotton’s, and Yahoo! told me that there were two luggage stores on El Camino. The first had a few specimens of what I wanted. The Asian immigrant who ran the place took me to the back and pointed out a few of the “convertible” packs, which means carry-on style bags with concealable straps, so they can transform in to functional backpacks. The idea is that a subdued carry-on style bag and decent clothing work well on planes and trains and particularly at customs, who find the backpacking hippie types way more interesting, but I can still schlep the thing on my back across town all day on public transportation without killing myself.
He had a few promising candidates, but none of them really sang to me. I ducked out and tried the next store, just up the street. They had one single bag of my description hanging up on the rear wall. The salesman was less interested in showing it to me than I was in hanging out in his store. As I walked out, a guy in a red backpack that basically looked like what I was trying to find crossed in front of me. Huh? Where’d he come from? Strolling casually about, I thought he might be trying the bag out from some secret stash. I followed him a few dozen feet, it was clear that he was on his own, but he had what I wanted! “Excuse me, sir …”
He was carrying his laundry. He bought the bag a decade back in Japan, where he’d been teaching English, and yes indeed his bag was a thoroughly wonderful thing. It had two sepereate storage areas, a day pack that came off of it, shoulder, waist, and sternum straps, and a pair of metal braces that gave the back shape, but that could be removed when it had to fit in to a train locker.
“I don’t know where you could get one around here …” He tried to figure out its moniker, but the only sign of product identity was the crosses on the zipper grips and the bag’s red color. “Victorinox,” I opined, “the Swiss Army Knife people.”
I though I’d give the quiet Asian merchant’s store a second look. This time, I wandered to his back room and looked for red. I found a squarish duffel bag with concealed shoulder straps that connected to rugged, concealable, metal hooks. I tried to determine if the shoulder strap could serve as the waist strap that the bag ought to have had. Nope.