The discussion was luggage.

I’ve been on the road, in one form or another, for over thirty years.  While I hesitate to recount some of the changes in the way we all move around these days compared to the late 70s and 80s, I can’t help but be mildly fascinated, if not downright amused by the differences.

Travel observations are not original and that’s for sure.  Jerry Seinfeld and a multitude of other comics have made millions by simply observing and forming commentary on such things as airline peanuts (you don’t see those much anymore  . . . allergies, etc), airplane bathrooms, etc. etc.

I guess the most obvious changes have been in the area of security and the most dramatic of those came a mere decade ago after 9/11/01.  That changed everything.  But more than enough has been written about the personal intrusions of airport security.  So, enough of that.

Right now, as I sit on this plane flying from Orange County, CA back to Houston, it seems like the one major issue, the one thing we’re all concerned with is entertainment.  Anything to keep our minds off how small these seats are (paid extra for more leg room.  Came to about $23 an inch) whether or not the guy sitting next to me is gonna hog the arm rest the whole trip.

On every seatback, there’s a TV screen.  Direct TV, for a small contribution will entertain us all the way home.  The guy beside me, aside from hogging the armrest, is watching Notre Dame vs. Navy.  A few seats up, someone’s watching the History Channel, something about the first commercial airplane travel and how big the planes and seats used to be.  CNN is recounting every detail from the Michael Jackson case.

Me?  I’m taking a break from reading a book (on my iPad) and writing this story (on my iPad)  Geez, I’ve become one of those guys.

When this plane lands – and I mean as soon as the wheels touch the ground – most everyone from business executive to high school student will reach for their cell phones to (1) call someone to simply say “We’re here.” Or (2) check emails that came in during the flight.  I’m probably starting to sound like Andy Rooney here (just as long as I don’t get those eyebrows . . . I mean, come on man, pick up a clipper), but I remember sprinting from the plane to banks of pay phones to call in.  Try and find a pay phone in the airport today.

My old routine was to get to the airport early, grab a newspaper or two and wait for the flight.  Now the newspapers are electronic. No sense getting ink all over me.

I remember being excited to travel to the northwest, especially Seattle, Washington ‘cause that was the only place you could get Starbucks Coffee.  If I’d let them, I think Starbucks would open a shop in my driveway.

I stayed in a nice hotel in Costa Mesa, CA.  The shower had two heads.  There was a small, nicely printed sign in the shower touting the great luxury of the two-headed shower.  On the same little sign, in perfectly executed doublespeak English that succeeded in both, informing and shaming me at the same time, the message strongly discouraged me from using both shower heads, therefore, saving “one of our most precious natural resources.”  I stood there for a minute praying about what to do.  And I’m not telling you.

But the topic was luggage.

I can’t begin to imagine how many suitcases I’ve gone through, but I do remember some of them.  The most memorable, and at the same time, maybe the most disappointing was the great shiny silver Halliburton. Man, that thing was beautiful in the store – looked like something out of a James Bond flick.  Sleek, but heavy – even empty – with latches that were suspect even when handled carefully.  Latches that were absolutely no match for the UFC contestants masquerading as baggage handlers.

This was back when you could check 3 or 4 bags FREE and each one could weigh in at 70 pounds!  Airport skycaps made good $$$ when we’d roll up with 3 suitcases each and a couple of guitars.  They were always so nice to me.  Hmmm.

Then somebody came up with the idea of wheels on luggage.  Early versions were a joke.  Airport concourses were full of mini crashes caused by faulty plastic luggage wheels with just enough stamina to get you out of the store.  But luggage wheels have come a long, long way. The wheels on my Eagle Creek bag look like the mags on my brother’s 1970 GTO.

So we pile it on and roll away.

(Metaphor alert)

If guilt is luggage, maybe we were better off when we had to feel the load every day, face it, deal with it, and then, finally, let it go.  Of course that’s the hard part, isn’t it?  Letting it go.

The trick being played on most of us is that as the load gets heavier and more cumbersome, we just get snazzier luggage with better wheels and that way, we don’t notice the extra weight.  It all feels the same on wheels until you try face it head on and try to lift it.  That’s when you realize it’s getting out of hand.  So the coping alternatives show their faces and we make our picks.  Denial, minimizing, shifting blame, pills, booze and any number or other gadgets to get through the day.

Somewhere, some merciful and benevolent agent of God is gonna look you right in the eyes and tell you, “Hey, you can’t be dragging all that stuff with you on the rest of your trip.”

I believe God hears prayer. I believe He forgives. The issue isn’t with Him, it’s with me.  I wrote a song years ago called “Don’t You Remember” that dealt with my constant trips to face God with my requests for forgiveness (often for the same thing) only to find that He didn’t know what I was talking about.  It was forgiven and forgotten.

I won’t go off on the fact that some of you are thinking “Hey, God doesn’t forget anything . . . All Knowing, etc. etc.  That’s for another song . . .or a real theologian.

But most of us feel like, to really be forgiven, we need to DO something . . . prove how really sorry we are.  It simply goes against all human nature to allow God to forgive, to accept the Sacrifice of Christ, and move on.  I’ve got to do something.

“So God’s forgiveness isn’t enough, huh?  You’ve got to add something to it???”

In the movie, “The Mission,” Robert DeNiro plays a character facing the memories of a horrific past, a murder and a slave dealer, heartless and violent, self-serving and hard.  When he comes to faith, he feels he must do penance for his sins.  Over the course of several scenes, he’s shown carrying a load, a net filled with armor and weapons of his past crimes.  He carries it up steep cliffs, across angry rivers.  At one point, one of his traveling companions, a priest, cuts the rope and the load of guilt falls to the river below.  Without at word, he retreats to reclaim it and begins to try again to pull it up the cliff.

Finally, he comes to realize he can’t do it anymore.  Enough.

My friends . . . it is finished.  It’s done.  Let it be so for you.


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