Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


... and keeps on ticking.  If you are of a Certain Age, you’ll remember those Timex watch ads, the ones in which John Cameron Swayze subjected watches to all sorts of cruel and unusual punishment, after which the watch would be shown to be functioning perfectly. (Or at least appearing to.  If it started losing three hours a day, who could tell?)

Speaking of ads featuring products having the snot knocked out of them, anyone remember this vintage American Tourister ad from 1980?  It shows a gorilla beating the living shit out of a couple of suitcases.  The American Tourister bag survives without so much as a scratch; the inferior competitive product, on the other hand, is bashed to flinders.

Now that everyone uses rollaboards or boxy wheeled bags, the old-school hard-shell American Tourister valise is a quaint memory.  But I traveled with one for years, all around this little blue pill of ours.  And that bag was tough... but not quite as tough as that ad would have you believe.

Years ago - it was, if I recall correctly, back in 1989 or thereabouts - I was getting ready for a lengthy overseas trip.  We were living in the northeast at the time, and just to complicate matters, I had tacked on a stop in Atlanta.  There, the Missus and I would visit her mom and stepdad together over the weekend, after which she would remain a few days more while I headed off to do my business in Indonesia and China.

I had packed my suitcase, a hard-shell American Tourister affair that I had had for many years, with all the things I would need for the trip.  Lots of suity and jackety stuff.  Plenty of shirts and undergarments.  And then we set off for Atlanta.

You know that sinking feeling you get when that luggage belt stops after everyone has claimed their bags, and yours has not yet shown up?  Sure you do.  That’s generally when you hike over to the baggage office to fill out a small pile of forms and pray that your bag will eventually appear and be delivered unto you.  Which is precisely what I did.  SWMBO’s bag, happily, had arrived in good order, so it was just mine - the one crammed with a two week supply of business clothing - that was missing.

What happened next was a bit unexpected... and unnerving.

“Uhhh, Mr. Elisson?  Would you mind coming around back here?  Can you identify this bag?”

Squishcase: flattened American Tourister bag
“Looks like the gorilla got a bit overenthusiastic this time, Mr. Elisson.  Sorry.”

Well, yes, I could, for it was my trusty American Tourister.  But it had been crushed, almost as if someone had driven a dump truck over it.  The baggage claim people were actually embarrassed.  Errr, we’re really sorry about this, they mumbled.  We’ll replace it immediately, they mumbled.  And they did, providing an equivalent hard-shell valise on the spot.  All I needed to do was transfer my stuff from the old bag to the new and we could be on our way.

Shit, I thought, as I looked at what was left of my poor, flattened valise.  My clothing is destroyed!  I’m gonna have to buy replacements fast, too - I leave for Singapore in two days!  But, shockingly, when I pried the damned thing open, not a stitch of clothing was out of place.  The bag had been smashed to smithereens, but there was not so much as a pull in my costly worsted wool (tropical weight) suits.

All things considered, this still would have been a pretty good advertisement for American Tourister.  For Delta Airlines?  Not so much.


Kevin Kim said...

Things would have been different for Ronald Reagan had he been carrying an American Tourister with him when John Hinckley appeared.

Elisson said...

True, Kevin - one could make the argument that he would have been far less popular. Before the failed assassination, his approval ratings were pretty dismal; afterward, they skyrocketed due to a combination of sympathy and Reagan's breezy demeanor in the hospital (e.g., "Honey, I forgot to duck," and "I hope you are all Republicans," the latter addressed to the surgical team).