Baggage

Because I am new to this professional–and professional-seeming–life, it’s taken me awhile to catch up to my colleagues and the ways in which they organise their teaching and their presentation in the classroom. Or more specifically, on their way tothe classroom. One thing I have noticed is that my more senior colleagues carry a briefcase or similar to class with them. This is wise as it means they can carry their lecture, their books, their flash drive, their whiteboard markers and marked assignments all in one convenient place.

This is what I carry to school, though I don’t lug it to my classes:
It’s from ObusForme* and I’ve used it daily for seven years and it has yet to show signs of wear. It has a laptop sleeve (which I often carry shoes in) and separate pockets for various files and a hole for earphones. And it has handy side pockets for my thermos and my brolly (pictured). And, being engineered for back health, it is very comfy to carry as long as I don’t overload it (so not Riverside Chaucer-friendly).
It is by far the easiest bag for me to carry while riding my bike and walking to campus, but there are a few notable drawbacks. It makes me look like a student rather than a prof, something I already battle sans backpack. And it wears on my clothing and outerwear. This did not matter so much when I was a student because I was not as conscious of dressing professionally but it is starting to wreak havoc on my “investment” pieces.
As I said, I don’t carry this to my classrooms with me, which means that I just pile books and papers in my arms and fill my pockets (if I have them) with whiteboard markers and my flash drive. Often I forget something (usually my markers) and have to scurry back to my office in my teaching heels (not graceful). Perhaps there is a certain scatter-brained charm to this, but it really is not the image I want to portray to my students or my colleagues (despite best efforts, our department secretary has recently dubbed me the absent-minded professor, but only because I forgot to RSVP to a luncheon I am hosting). So I decided to take a page from my colleagues’ lookbooks and look for a briefcase sort of bag that I could live with.
Thank you internet. This brown paper package tied up with string recently arrived in the mail, in exchange for my credit card info, obviously:
A handmade purple leather briefcase! From the Cambridge Satchel Company* in the UK.

It has a shoulder strap as well and is just the right size for papers and books (Riverside Chaucer!) and the front pocket is perfect for permanently storing whiteboard markers and pens and for tossing my flash drive and wallet into (the coffee shop on campus is cruelly far from my office but convenient to my classrooms). This gives the illusion of my organisation to students and it makes me feel a little more on top of things than I do rushing around campus balancing papers and books in my arms. It now lives in my office on campus, filled with pens and possibility.
I am not abandoning my backpack because it still makes the most sense for travel to and from, but I am thrilled with my new purple briefcase. It will also be a welcome addition to conferences, where I teeter around with papers in arms and pens in pockets in a decidedly unprofessional manner and without the goodwill of bemused students or department secretaries.
And finally, because we have just been reunited after a long, wet, cold winter, here is my ride:
Schwinn 5-Star Cruiser, second-hand
The Chair of our department recently saw me riding home after a long day and remarked on my environmental savvy. I smiled to myself the whole way home.
Do you have a “professional” bag? Do you pair it with a more utilitarian bag on your way to and from?

*In Professorial Fashion is not sponsored by ObusForme or the Cambridge Satchel Company. My endorsement is entirely independent.

3 thoughts on “Baggage

  1. I have thought about panniers as an alternative to the backpack but the trouble is that my bike is not my primary mode of travel to campus. I can ride until about the end of October and then it gets too icy and wet for my delicate constitution. And it is really only the beginning of April (and the end of term) before it is nice enough to ride again. I think what I have to do is not invest too much in attractive cold weather outerwear. At the moment I rock a puffy coat, which has proven immune to the backpack rub.And maybe duck tape on the back pack? Too Red Green?

  2. I totally get how much backpacks rub. I dig the beautiful bag. I want to go to there (but part of me is reluctant because it looks beautiful and fancy enough that someone else might want to steal it. I've become NY paranoid).I see you have an adorable front basket. Have you considered a back rack and some panniers? You can save on sweat and clothing wear that way (and some of them are waterproofed and awesome).

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