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Brenthaven bags it

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Traveling with laptop through 36 countries in the last 15 years, I have tried all manner of ways to transport the computer safely and comfortably in something that will fit in overhead bin or under the seat.

The traditional computer case dug deep trenches in my shoulders. Next I tried wrapping my laptop in bubble wrap and packing it in a roller bag. That worked until a back sprain made hoisting it into the overhead bin problematic. Then there was the flight I had to gate check my roller bag. The computer did not travel well in the luggage bay and displayed a frowny face when I turned it on.

"Stylish" was not on my list despite my need to deplane looking professional. My main concern was deplaning with electronics intact. So, I tried stuffing the laptop into my backpack along with all my other gear and a change of clothes. Theoretically, this would get me comfortably down the concourse (It didn’t) and fit under the seat (It wouldn’t). Then, I bought a computer case on wheels. Wow! It would fit under the seat per their advertisement. (Not on Lufthansa or regional jets.)

Several times I left laptop at home and took a notebook. Great idea! But I had spent so much time writing on computer, I could no longer decipher my never-close-to-copperplate scribbling.

A friend whispered “messenger bag” like it was a corporate secret, such as the cost of living raise will be based on the cost of living in 1703. It sounded like a blast from the past, something my grandfather would have carried or the post man. But I had a trip coming up that required a laptop. Feeling retro, I googled “messenger bag.”

Messenger bags as we know them today originated in the 1950s, produced for telephone linemen who needed a tool bag they could easily access while climbing telephone poles. New York City messenger companies began using them in the 1970s. As I don’t climb telephone poles, ride bikes, or dash down urban streets, I wondered what a messenger bag had to do with me.

Then, Brenthaven popped up. Their Collins Messenger Bag, available in several colors, looked surprisingly stylish. The charcoal one would go well with my traveling no-wrinkle (except on me) business suit and would not show the dirt of our less than pristine airports and air craft.

I took the plunge and requested one.

It looks better than my Italian handbag. The padded inner pockets felt as protective as bubble wrap. After packing my laptop and power cords, I found there was room for my Kindle, phone, wallet, passport, tickets, notebook, make-up, granola bars, tissues, and phrasebook. My Italian handbag, as much as I love it, was superfluous. It stayed home with the dog sitter, who borrowed it. I mean, those paper coasters from Ogle the Gents Ladies Club and florescent blue lipstick did not come from me.

I was delighted at the ease the bag fit under the seat in front of me and how it still looked clean after an 18-hour flight. When I finally deplaned in Mumbai, the messenger bag looked better than my suit, my hair, and my attitude. I realized I could take that bag anywhere. As it is not leather, I could carry it through the pickpocket alley of a taxi stand without it being stolen. It is that unobtrusive.

And comfortable. When my shoulder starts to whine against the strap. I use the handle, which has a business-like grip: firm and padded, not limp and bony.

Brenthaven’s lifetime guarantee means I will never again be a lab rat for mobile electronics cases. And to think, I owe it all to telephone linemen. I haven’t had a landline in ten years, but my messenger bag is a sweet echo of the good old days when the phone stayed home.

You can google Brenthaven for locations of their retail stores, or you can order on-line.

For more of my travel adventures and misadventures and useful products I find along the way, you can subscribe to my column by clicking the “subscribe” button by my photo. And, you can poke around my pages to find a destination or product that piques your curiosity.

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