By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I saw my friend Shannon, who’s a girl. It’s a bad song, but it’s a true story.
We went out to bowl, we went out for walks, we went out to see her friends. All throughout, we took photos and wrote stuff down and I noticed Shannon never had a problem carrying things. I, however, did have problems holding a camera, a magazine, electronic items, my sunglasses, a bottle of sunscreen and something to drink in the hot Texas sun.
It’s not just El Paso where two hands and a pair of cargo jeans aren’t enough. On an average assignment, I may need a notebook. And a camera. And a voice recorder. And backup writing materials. And batteries for the camera and voice recorder. And money to buy more batteries because I didn’t pack size AAA.
That doesn’t include my personal items, like a phone or an mp3 player, or a magazine if I’ve got to wait on something.
I needed a messenger bag, but I was afraid of the “man purse” label.
Rather, I visualized the first episode of “24,” Season Five. Federal Agent Jack Bauer had to come out of hiding. He took his gun, his hidden cash and his Ids and slung them into a messenger bag that told hostiles, “Call it a man purse and you face government torture.” That’s the bag I wanted.
On Monday, my final day in El Paso, I separated from my friends for a few hours. I had to find something that didn’t scream out, “Check out the metrosexual with the man purse.”
After checking at five stores in El Paso’s Sunland Park Mall, I found one I liked — two main pockets for stuff, and a secondary pocket for the wallet, phone and mp3 player.
I found it despite the pushy charge card staff. By that term, I mean the employees who are more interested in signing you up for their store charge card than helping you find merchandise.
“You got a card with us?” Nope, I’m visiting friends and I don’t have your store within 100 miles.
“The card is free to sign up.” So it won’t cost me anything for a card I wouldn’t use? I’m still not convinced.
“Sign up today and you can save 10 percent…” Sorry, pal, not worth $2 to go through your 10-minute application process and pay an interest rate that would surely wipe out any savings you’re offering.
Soon enough, I had my bag. It fit my camera, a magazine and some going-away gifts for Shannon. Shannon loved the presents and my new messenger bag.
“I like it,” she said. “Nobody will think it’s a purse.”
I came into work Tuesday refreshed from a good night of sleep, ready for a day of work and confident every item I’d ever forget was instead in my messenger bag. I’d completed my mission in a way that even Jack Bauer could be proud of.
Until I ran into a hostile.
“Hey Kevin,” co-worker Marlena Hartz said, “is that your man purse?”
Maybe Bauer wouldn’t be that proud.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be reached at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: