Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Confessions of a Pack Mule

So I’m walking up to the door of the office where I work and an attractive young woman stops and holds the door open for me.

I’m of the old school and usually try to hold doors open for women instead of vice versa and my first thought is that I must look really old and decrepit. I try not to feel too badly about myself. As I squeeze by, however, I realize she has simply taken pity on me because I am so loaded down with stuff.

I am always loaded down with stuff. As a good little Boy Scout, I learned to always “Be Prepared.”

BUTLER: “Except you were never actually a Boy Scout.”

BAGMAN: “He was a Cub Scout…embarrassed me to no end with that silly little blue uniform!”

My primary load is a black back-pack where I keep my laptop. My job provided me with a more conservative looking briefcase to carry it in but the backpack has more room and is more comfortable although I never wear it correctly and sling it over my shoulder instead. For no other reason than my ego thinks it looks cooler that way. So I wear out one strap but not the other.

In addition to the laptop, I load it to bursting with work files that I can read at home and bills, letters, and junk from home that I can process during free time at work. With very few exceptions, I have never done work-work at home or home-work at work. But I carry this stuff back and forth every day.

In my right hand, I carry my camera bag. I carry my camera everywhere I go. Over the weekend, Karen and I were running off to buy some paint at Lowes and I stopped and ran back into the house to get my camera. Karen just rolls her eyes. She knows what I will say. “I never know when I might run across a great image to capture!” With very few exceptions, I never run into images unless I’m actually going off to shoot something.

In my left hand, I carry an outlandish orange insulated lunch box. I have a reputation for never going out for lunch. This is because (a) I use the time to write blogs and (b) because I’m too cheap to eat in restaurants. With slightly more exceptions than the previous paragraphs, I seldom actually eat my lunch. Usually I forget and waste countless quarters on the snack machines. Then I feel guilty and have to find some trash can on the way home to dump what I haven’t eaten so Karen won’t find out.

BUTLER: “What if she reads this blog!”

BAGMAN: “Then you stand up and take it like a man! I think you should announce it anyway! Say, ‘Honey. I’ve got a confession I need to make. I’m sorry you have to find out, but I’ve been doing something behind your back. I’ve been having an affair with the candy machine.’”

And under my arm I often carry frames of photographs. Whenever I frame something, I take it work and hang it in my office, replacing one that I then take home. It keeps my office changing and I sometimes get good feedback from some of my co-workers.

Someday I plan to become very daring and heroic. I will leave my laptop and work at work. Leave my camera and personal junk at home. Announce that I am planning to eat out. And see if I can go to work without carrying anything!

Nah. Way too scary.

BAGMAN: “But you could hold doors open for women!”

BUTLER: “Leave him alone. He is safer with the snack machine.”


  1. I can relate to the Pack Mule Syndrome. I used to do the same things until I retired six years ago. Now it's the volunteer activities and even worse because I am really active in two different organizations so I carry paraphernalia for both plus camera, purse and day planner.

  2. hey cool: I'm not the only one who carries work home and homework to work and then never touches either one! I feel much less silly now there's company. Though I do often eat my bag lunch. Not always. But who would I keep that a secret from? Myself?

    Your blog is a pleasure, as always!

  3. I held the door open at the post office for a man about 5 years younger than me. He had a box in his arm, but could have managed without me...but I am always on the lookout to open doors for others!

    What you wrote (except for the skipping lunch part) was so much like me when I went to work.

  4. And to think that I was the only one that carries tons of stuff back and forth from work every day! Every morning I make multiple trips to my truck to head to work, make multiple trips to carry stuff to my office and then make multiple trips to my truck again to head home and then multiple trips to unload my truck once home....Geesh....I really must stop this cycle.

  5. Yep, sounds like me before retirement, too. These days I've finally learned to go almost everywhere empty handed except for purse and camera -- but of course, I'm too old to carry much more than that anyway -- not that I'm complaining about that either, it's sure as hell better than the alternative!

    Have a great day, Mark, always fun to start my day with a visit here!


  6. I know the pack mule feeling. I leave home with three cameras, four lenses, and a camera bag loaded with extras. My Blackberry is stuffed in one back pocket (I always wear jeans unless I am doing a boring shoot where I have to "blend") and I have a notepad and pen in the other pocket. Oh, and I never leave home without my un-sweet tea, which requires a special trip back into the house.

    In my car, I have a step ladder, wading boots, rain coat, tripod, and a black umbrella for when the sun has to be blocked. Oh, and to the joy of all the construction supervisors who love to try and run me off by spouting safety rules, I carry a hardhat, vest, and steel-toed boots in my car.

    The last thing I need is a pocketbook so I keep $20.00 cash in my car and my driver's license lives over the visor because I have been stopped three times for speeding, driving without a license, and not wearing a seatbelt (walked away clean, though).

    I have tried going out with one lens on some quicky assignments that I think will be easy (usually carry one camera and my 24-70), but then I find out that I need my 17-24 or 35, or I may see a feature on my way that requires my 70-200.

    I am telling you this because only you can appreciate the life of a photojournalist. Yes, we need tons of equipment, because when it comes to newspapers you must have the proper lens to capture the proper photo.

    Of course, men always open doors for me even if I am traveling light.

  7. After a life time of carrying briefcases back and forth to work, I am trying to divest. I've reached the point where I can carry just my cell phone and my ipod touch and have just about everything I need in a couple of pockets.

    Of course, you'll notice I didn't mention a camera. Patty, who seems to carry the world around with her, is always asking where my camera was when I'm telling an interesting story, unillustrated by any photo.

    The camera is always safely away in a drawer at home.

  8. Between you and Patty, I am worn out! In comparison, I cart around very little. I try to hold a door for a man if he holds one for me, it's repaid kindness. I am curious about the candy.... Is this your "Tiger Woods" confessions? Will letters be arriving from candy machines all over the country betraying your cheating heart? Will Nike stop sponsoring you? It would be good if you gave up candy machines and ate your lunch, but according to Tiger Woods, all you have to do is give up golf! (I'm not sure how that works, but there it is!)

  9. I'm loving the comments as much as the original post - I'm also a sherpa. So much so, that my kids often call me "Sherpa Mom". And now I have an idea for a post of my own!

  10. having a house in Nova Friburgo and an apartment in Rio we go back and forth about every 4-5 days or so. I have a large computer bag full of wires, and camera gear and the laptop, and a backpack - I need my current book, and I don't know what else but it is always full .... Camillo an 8gb pen drive, he leaves one computer at home and has one in Rio just carries his current files in his pocket - he never carries cloths, has everything in duplicate, same razor, nose hair clipper, a book beside each bed.... As you can tell he drives me CRAZY. (Butler to the max!)

  11. That is so funny....you really should try it some time just to see if you can do it. I have to challenge myself like that occasionally just to prove that I'm not in such a rut or so addicted to the way things are.

    Love the lunch box confession!

  12. Let me tell you how I handle the door situation. If I am entering a building and I know a gentleman is behind me, notice I said gentleman ,I step to the side and give him the opportunity to open the door. If he is not a gentleman I open the door and motion for him to pass in and usually if there is a second door he will open it and I nod my head say thank you and pass in. Now the secret is to be able to tell if the male behind you is a gentleman or not. How do I know if he is a gentleman or not. It is just a chance you take, isn't it?

  13. The keyboard of my computer at work is a little sticky. I eat lunch and check the blogs at the same time. Probably should just do one or the other.

  14. When I worked I always carried stuff back and forth and never used it...good intentions I guess. But I think it is wonderful for people to hold doors for one another, in my neck of the woods it has become a lost art. So when someone actually does it, you are taken back a minute! Just two hours west of me people still practice this art, especially the gentlemen, and I find it very refreshing.

    Never met a snack machine I didn't love!

  15. I agree with Rebecca. Holding doors open for other people is a random act of kindness that we should all practice. I do it regularly and I always thank anyone who does it for me.