Nostalgia Week: Anatomy of a Book Bag


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In high school your book bag was as vital as any organ in your body.  Especially on those days when you stuffed a note in your book bag about who had a crush on you.  Or when you spent all night writing your history paper on Saladin, the first sultan of Egypt, and carefully placed the 8 page paper in your book bag for transport to school.  Your book bag was your personal Brinks trunk, entrusted with protecting your papers and class notes that determined your grades as well as any gossip notes that factored into your social stature.

Peers and teachers identified you by your bag so it needed to be stylish yet functional.  A lot could be inferred about an individual when looking at their book bag.  Most of the cooler kids had the nicely padded North Face book bag that came in about six different colorways.  This was the Cadillac of book bags.

The smarter and more practical members of the high school all had the classic three pouch L.L. Bean bag with their initials.  This just made the most sense because it was easily identifiable, you could put your textbooks in the large pouch, your notebooks in the medium size pouch, and pencils and supplies in the third.

The one pouch Jansport bag was mostly used by the athletes and slacker group.  They stuffed everything into that one pouch hoping that when they got to class they would be able to dig a pencil out of the bottom.  And if one couldn’t be found they would ask the kids with the L.L. Bean bag to borrow one cause they always came with several.

Then there were the kids like me.  The ones who felt the need to grab attention and really stand out.  It started for me at an early age when I found my first book bag that had a decorative Reebok pump on it.  People like myself usually added patches to their bag or doodled on it to make it unique.

The one downside to this was that my bag was easy to spot and the simplest book bag to “check,”  and I’m not referring to teachers employing Gestapo tactics when I say check. Rather Urban Dictionary defines “check,” as;

verb: To take everything out of a book bag, turn it inside out, and returning all the books to the inside (or outside in this case) Usually done as a prank.

The reason you pulled this prank on your friends was because when they returned from Chapel or lunch and had to go to their next class they would be forced to carry their book bag as if it was a sac of potatoes and not able to employ “cool guy one strap.”

After that long winded rant here is the breakdown of my high school bag:

A)  Great band that ended too soon.  Still listen to What I Got and Santoria on occasion.  Pretty sure the patch was bought at the Devon Horse Show.

B)  Much angrier than anything I listen to now, but at the time I thought it was awesome.  Credit to my buddy Graham for introducing me to them

C)  This is the most embarrassing aspect of my bag.  I’m not sure what I was thinking.  Maybe I knew Trent Reznor would someday make an awesome soundtrack to a movie about a kid who invented a social media website?

D)  Along with Billabong and Vans Rusty was one of the more prominent clothing labels down at the Jersey Shore in the mid to late 90s

E)  Wu Tang Forever

F)  Front pouch where I attempted to keep Bic mechanical pencils, but the clasp on the pouch broke after a year.

G)  Umbro shorts drawstring used to replace the original that broke.  If you don’t remember Umbros I’m not sure why you are reading this.

H)  Hole in bag due to carrying around a 10 pound American history text book, an 8 pound biology text, an 8 pound pre-calc text, and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

I)  Highliter leaking accident.  Standard if your bag didn’t have a pencil and pen holster

J)  Broken buckle from throwing the bag to the ground to beat the lunch line rush

K)  Other bag contents included Five Star notebooks that I filled with sports stats when I should have been paying attention to class.

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