suitcase malfunction, solved

May 11th, 2012 | Uncategorized

On my 12-day cross country schlep, my new Osprey suitcase failed. The handle would come completely free from its shaft, then wouldn’t retract at crucial moments. Like when I was trying to shove it into the overhead compartment while blocking 75 annoyed people from getting to their seats. It was really stressful on top of everything else I’m managing on this trip.


I didn’t have any time to deal with it. I sort of got it to work occasionally, but it kept losing its shit at the most inopportune junctures. Finally today in LA I had time to call the company. It’s a new suitcase, I bought it in October. The customer service people did not say Dude, that so sucks, I’m sorry! But they did direct me unapologetically to a video on their website that would show you how to fix the problem with a phillips head screwdriver and some duct tape.

I called the front desk at the hotel and they immediately provided me with these items.


In a few short steps, I repaired the suitcase. One of the rails inside the shafts had come disconnected. A little tape did the trick.


This gave me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. But I am still kind of annoyed by the whole thing. After returning the tape and screwdriver to the front desk, I noticed this cryptic message as I got off the elevator.


I had a great time at the LA public library ALOUD series tonight. Lots of friends, including Eloise Klein Healy, Jack Halberstam, and my high school boyfriend were there.

29 Responses to “suitcase malfunction, solved”

  1. NLC says:

    OK, a bit off-topic, but –speaking of suitcase handles– this must be shared (in, I hope, a stress-relieving way): [HERE]

  2. AuntSoozie says:

    Too funny Alison… I’m seeing this story in comic form in your next book… that memoir about doing the tour for the memoir about writing a memoir.

  3. Kate L says:

    Bravo! I don’t know what I would have done… for years, I actually thought it was called duck tape! Btw, at local planetary dawn on the High Plains tomorrow (Saturday), our rag-tag team of pro-LGBT rights folk will out at the Moo U graduation to sieze the high ground along the walkway to the auditorium where the ceremony is to be held. In this way, we keep the Fred Phelps people down the hill, and away from the graduates, their families and friends. We block the view of the Phelps crowd and their hateful signs with our own congratulatory signs.

  4. I can see how you had to take that last photograph, just to make sure you weren’t dreaming!

  5. Payton says:

    Looks like the Standard Downtown — such a strangely thoughtful place. (Kind of like UChicago, in a fashion πŸ™‚

  6. Ruth in RI says:

    Wait. Where’s the link to the video, so we can fix our similarly malfunctioning suitcases?

  7. Andrew B says:

    Pretty disappointing, considering that Osprey is primarily a backpack maker. You’d hope their products would be more reliable than that. Hard to view the repair video if you’re, say, on the Appalachian Trail in Maine’s hundred mile wilderness. (Smartphone? Is your battery still charged? Can you get reception?)

    Alison, this is almost certainly unnecessary, forgive me, but I gotta be me… You’re not going to count on that “repair” for any longer than you have to, right? Because that tape is going to work loose, and according to Murphy it will find the worst possible time to do so.

    Delicately interconnected”? That seems optimistic. In my experience, the unexpected interconnections tend to be boisterous at best and more often outright violent.

  8. shadocat says:

    judybusy-I’ve always heard that all problems can be solved with either of those two…

  9. Glenn says:

    It’s very appropriate that the photo of the “All things are delicately interconnected (No Smoking)” sign includes the reflection of the photographer.

  10. NLC says:


    Google turns up a huge number of hits for the string β€œAll things are delicately interconnected” (including at least one song).

    Is this a reference to something specific?

  11. Diamond says:

    NLC 11, Yes, it looks to be a quote from something quite recent but I suppose it’s originally based on the Buddhist teaching of dependent origination, or Prat?tyasamutp?da. This involves an acknowledgment that nothing arises independently of everything else, and therefore imagining that we are separate from others is an illusion.

    Words to live by! I will choose my hotels in future on the basis of how profound the quotes above their no smoking signs are.

  12. Diamond says:

    . . . That’s Pratiyasamutpada without the unplanned question marks . . .

  13. NW Dreamer says:

    If you are going to have had a high school boyfriend, not a bad choice. Not bad at all πŸ˜‰

  14. Christina says:

    I was bummed to have missed your talk at the LA library, but am hopeful that they seem to post podcasts of the ALOUD series online. I’ll be keeping an eye out for that!

  15. Kate L says:

    Thanks, judybusy (#7)! And, HERE is a totally new side of Terry Gross, host of NPR’s Fresh Air!

  16. Aunt Soozie says:

    Shado I think that twosome is;
    if you want it to stick and it won’t, duct tape.
    if it’s stuck and you want it to open, WD40

  17. Kate L says:

    I’ve just come from Moo U’s graduation ceremony, where we stood in the cold rain to counter-protest the Fred Phelps people. A revolting new development was that the Phelps people brought a boom box to amplify their hateful sayings.

  18. hairball_of_hope says:

    @shadocat & @Aunt Soozie

    In my industrial process control days, we joked about one of our colleagues who seemed to repair everything with WD40 or duct tape. Our joke ran, “If it moves when it shouldn’t, use duct tape. If it doesn’t move when it should, use WD40.” There was a corollary to this, “If it doesn’t move, use a hammer. If it still doesn’t move, use a bigger hammer.”

    We disparagingly called him a lumberjack; working behind him to actually repair his “fixes” was always a terrible experience. Making the real repair would take three times as long as it should, because we’d have to undo whatever damage he caused with the hammer/WD40/duct tape quick fix.

    (If you recall my tale of a knucklehead who set the conveyor structural steel paint on fire, it’s the same guy.

    As Andrew B noted, AB should have that bag properly repaired after she gets back home, it won’t hold for long.

    Unsolicited luggage advice…

    I spent about 20 years in road-warrior mode. I exclusively used Lowe Alpine bags for convertible backpacks, never had a problem with them. I still use all three regularly, the big one gets used for laundromat trips. For conventional and rolling luggage I found Travelpro Platinum and Tumi to be the only ones that survived. For folding travel carts, I found Remin Kart-A-Bags lasted longest (made in USA!), and the manufacturer would rebuild them to brand-new condition for a small fee.

    I always have the following items stuffed into a pocket of my luggage for those inevitable quick repairs:

    1) Plastic zip cable ties in various sizes.

    2) Flat pack of duct tape. (You can fold your own, but these days you can actually buy small flat packs at Walmart.)

    3) Random keyfobs with split rings. They make great replacements for broken zipper pulls and broken D-ring attachment points. I usually picked these up for free as tradeshow giveaways.

    4) Long nylon strap with buckle, suitable for keeping an overstuffed bag with dicey zipper closed.

    5) Small roll of Velcro One-Wrap strapping (cut it to size). This does everything from keeping cables neatly tied up to hanging bags off the rolling luggage.

    6) These days I have a few carabiners in the pocket (non-climbing grade). The larger ones pair nicely with the Velcro for hanging bags to the rolling luggage, the smaller ones make quick clip or D-ring substitutions for shoulder straps.

    7) Small flashlight. These days, small LED flashlights are really cheap, but I’ve got a nice tiny Streamlight LED flashlight on a lanyard in the pocket.

    8) Colored bandana. Great for tying handles of dufflebags together, or to tie on a bag as visual identifier.

    9) Extra luggage tags, already filled out and ready to go. These were also typically tradeshow giveaways, where they laminate your business card and make luggage tags out of them.

    Of course, now with the TSA stupidity, I no longer have the small random tools in the pocket. Before 9/11, I always had an original Leatherman in the pocket, along with a Maglight flashlight, and a really good/really small pair of German folding scissors.

    Inside the bag, I always have an empty duffel bag for the inevitable extra crap I pick up on my trips. Inside the duffel bag, I keep a bungie cord or two.

    (… goes back to not missing her road warrior days at all …)

  19. Erma Lee says:

    Oh wow, the attendance roster at your LA book signing sounds like the setup to one of my “Oh my god, I’m naked” dreams!

  20. Andrew B says:

    NLC, 11, I don’t know the answer to your question, but I had some fun looking. Jenny Holzer’s Truisms look like a plausible source for three reasons. First, the truisms are old enough (late 70s) that it’s plausible that other uses of the phrase derive from them. Second, she used that exact wording. Third, what she typically does with the truisms is inscribe them in public places. Not that she has been fiddling with the signs in an LA hotel (obviously), but a sign in a public place would be an appropriate way for a fan to express her/his interest in Holzer.

  21. Alex K says:

    @Glenn: Yes. Lovely notation; thank you.

    @AB: Hmmm. “Tym”? Glad you’re with “Holli”. Creative mis-spelling is a — red flag? No. Rainbow flag. RUN. AWAI.

    @Glenn, AB, and interconnectedness: This morning I queued outside the Royal Albert Hall for five hours, arriving at 0730 and finally being allowed inside to buy Promenade Concerts tickets at 1230. (A box, for NIXON IN CHINA. “Roll up straw matting after use — after use — after use…” Chugging ostinato after chugging ostinato. With friends, and perhaps with a hamper from Harrod’s. We’ll see.) I brought along, as fortification, one copy of yesterday’s TIMES, one copy of this week’s ECONOMIST, and one copy of this week’s NEW YORKER, and Hoovered up every bit of print in each of them, with demonstrative can’t-you-see-I’m-reading avidity, in order to avoid queue conversations. In the NYER — a full-column advertisement for RUMM. Grand to see that; when I had absolutely nothing to do with its genesis, why am I so fondly proud of its success? Maybe it’s because real art offers us Glenn’s reflected, and reflective, interconnectedness, thereby makes the work somehow ours… AB, safe travels!

  22. RKMiller says:

    I use High Sierra and Eagle Creek bags for this reason. Both come with lifetime warranties. Eagle Creek is virtually indestructible … I have one well traveled bag from them still going strong some 15 years.

  23. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Alex K (#22)

    re: “…I had absolutely nothing to do with its genesis, why am I so fondly proud of its success?”

    Answer: Nachas.

    Nachas is the Yiddish word for experiencing vicarious pleasure and joy from the accomplishments of others, most commonly one’s children or close relations.

    N.B. Pronunciation is with a Germanic ch sound, the same sound made when clearing phlegm from one’s throat, as in Achtung!.

  24. hairball_of_hope says:


    According to the Osprey website, they have a lifetime guarantee on their products and will repair them free of charge:

    “Osprey will repair for any reason, free of charge, any damage or defect in our product – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it. We proudly stand behind this guarantee, so much so that it bears the signature of company founder and head designer, Mike Pfotenhauer.”

    Looks like you will get a proper fix for that duct tape job, you just have to pay for one-way shipping.

    (… goes back to a lovely day in the Big Apple …)

  25. Jain says:

    Heading up to Portland to hear AB read. Filled with joy.

  26. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Aw, your high school boyfriend is fucking adorable! Nice catch. πŸ˜€

    Sorry to be so flippant, it’s just that I’m still reeling internally from marathoning _Are You My Mother?_ and I can’t possibly fit everything I want to say into a comments forum.

  27. Cathy says:

    Re: interesting interior decorating, I just saw this on a local arts blog:

    And with apologies for not posting this link sooner, here is my husband’s Flickr page, which begins with two photos of me talking to AB at the book signing at Politics and Prose on May 4:

  28. hairball_of_hope says:

    Cool! I love the ancient vulva art.

    (… goes back to wishing she had some more recent vulvas to stare at …)