“Your suitcase is a dinosaur,” Usha said as she helped me haul it into the back of her van. It looks like it. My sturdy grey Samsonite is maybe 20 years old. It’s heavy and has only two wheels, so it’s not maneuverable. This isn’t the suitcase I’d normally take on a short trip inside the country. I use it for international travel when I anticipate rough handling of luggage.
My usual suitcase for domestic travel is a sleek American Tourister (coincidentally, bought in Japan!) with four wheels. It’s much newer, maybe 4 years old. It’s small, light, and easy to move in any direction. But thanks to the TSA, it’s dead.
For my non-US readers, here’s the background: When you’re traveling inside the US, bags can be inspected by the Transport Security Agency at any time. You can’t use a lock that isn’t TSA-approved (meaning that they can unlock it with their master keys). You check in your bag, it goes through some kind of inspection process, and if they want, they open it and check the contents.
It nearly always happens to my luggage, no matter from where to where I’m flying. I don’t mind. They re-pack everything perfectly; the only way you know they’ve been through is a little paper slip that informs you that your bag was opened for inspection. I have a sheaf of them.
This suitcase has a TSA lock. Somewhere, on its multifarious journeys, we’d lost the keys. It didn’t matter; we never locked it when traveling anyway. It was never a problem.
Except this one time. I got home late at night from a trip, and found I couldn’t open my bag. The TSA had inspected it, and then — locked it. Since we had no keys, we had to break into it with a large screwdriver. That was the end of that suitcase.
I’ll replace it one of these days. Until then, I travel with a dinosaur.