The Duffel Bag of Eternity

The older I get, the more wisdom I see in always having an extra pair of underwear available. In fact, having an entire set of replacement clothing is an even better idea.

You know how it goes. You get older, you get sicker, you get leakier. Having Parkinson’s disease only complicates this process. When you add to this the inherent unpredictability of life, a good argument can be made for dragging along a host of “comfort items” every time you leave the house, in case of accident or emergency.

Be prepared

I’ve always been the sort of person who is pretty well-prepared for unforeseen circumstances on a day trip, vacation, or even just a drive to the grocery store. You never know when you’re going to need a Band-Aid, a Kleenex, or a flashlight with a built-in laser pointer. Or a hand-held can opener. But now that I have a Parkinson’s diagnosis, being well-prepared seems even more important and justifiable, so I constantly carry with me a duffel bag chock-full of assorted stuff that might come in handy.

I’ll admit that many of the things I’ve been lugging around in my duffel bag for years have actually never been used, and I suspect my need to be uber-prepared means that I’m smitten by a mild case of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). But my wife, who happens to be a licensed psychotherapist, assures me that my diagnosis is not OCD; it’s BDI (Big Dumb Idiot).

Contents of the duffel bag

So, what’s in my duffel bag? The aforementioned extra clothing, of course, which includes a jacket for cold weather and a raincoat for rainy weather. And a small umbrella in case I don’t feel like putting on the raincoat. (I keep a larger umbrella in the back seat of my car in case the rain is too heavy for the small umbrella to handle.) There’s my medication, including not only the PD stuff but also cough drops, antacids, and laxatives, complemented by a tasty variety of differently-flavored breath mints. There’s ibuprofen, but also acetaminophen in case I’m with someone who develops a headache and has a pain medication preference.

Other stuff: Granola bars, raisins, bottled water. An extra face mask for high-risk covid environments. Insect repellent. Binoculars, because you never know when there’ll be an opportunity for bird-watching. Pepper spray because old, feeble people like me stand out as easy prey for muggers—especially if they’re carrying a duffel bag. I’m not sure how effective pepper spray would be in stopping an assailant, but it’s a lot cheaper than taking karate lessons. And, of course, I carry a Swiss army knife which holds the promise of great functionality but is, usually, more trouble to use than it’s worth. I suspect the reason Switzerland never goes to war with other countries is that everyone in the Army is too busy trying to figure out how to operate their knife.

This is certainly not a complete list of my duffel bag contents, but it should be enough to convey a sense of its prodigious scope.

I always have my bag with me, especially when I’m traveling long distances. When my time on this lovely Earth is over, I may even choose to take it with me on the Ultimate Journey, like ancient Egyptian pharaohs who were buried with objects they wished to have with them in the afterlife. Since the final disposition of my everlasting soul is yet to be determined, I’m thinking that to be prepared for all contingencies I should install a flame-resistant liner in my duffel bag. But if things work out the way I hope, when somebody in heaven sneezes, I’ll be able to offer them a tissue.

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