In the course of monkeying around with a netbook and then an iPad, and with some mild Kindle experimentation going on with other folks’ hardware, I’ve come to think a little more about what I carry with me. Obviously, if you have to carry a bag, you may as well put some of your S in it beyond just the laptop (and if you DO have to carry a bag, unless you are traveling you may as well have the laptop rather than a lesser device). But even before I went back to the stage of carrying a 15″ MacBook Pro back and forth to work every day in a Timbuk2 backpack (and then scaling down to a lighter one-strap laptop sleeve with a couple of pockets), I was already reducing what I go around with. To wit:
SMOKING UTENSILS. Let’s face it: when I lived in DC, I was a smoker. Since leaving Cupertino, I’m not. Badabing. During that ten-year window, I had to go around with a pipe, a Zippo lighter, a tobacco pouch, and some means of scraping and cleaning said pipe. That is a hell of a lot of gear, even if you don’t add a cigar punch to the mix, and I usually did.
POCKET TOOL. I’ve carried a pocketknife of some sort almost continuously since starting high school, because I’m a guy from Alabama and that is the done thing. By the time I was a year or so into DC, I had ramped up to one Leatherman or another to weigh down my pockets. When I started in California, I worked somewhere that had all the tools I needed in ready reach, and the state of things evolved to the point where I found I almost never needed to carry a Leatherman or Swiss Army knife or the like. By the end of my time in Cupertino, I was down to a simple Buck knife with a hookbill blade for opening boxes and a bottle opener on the back – and with my Vandy ring, even the bottle opener is superfluous. Now, the work Swiss Army Cybertool is in my laptop bag, because if I’m not somewhere with a computer I probably don’t need it.
PAGER/BLACKBERRY. I was forced to keep toting the pager until the end of my time in DC, so most days I was going out with a pager, a cell phone, and some sort of music player (Walkman, then Rio, then another Rio, then the first iPod I owned). Not until a couple of weeks into the iPhone era did I finally feel the need to divest myself of the separate iPod. I also haven’t had a separate work phone, except for a couple of years in Cupertino, and even then I divested myself of my personal phone shortly thereafter. Now, with the iPhone doing for everything, a whole category of utility-belt crap has gone away.
CAR KEY. I kept it separate from my other keys almost from the time I arrived in DC and parked the car, and now it usually sits on the nightstand.
So what am I down to for everyday carry? It’s gotten about as light and simple as I can make it. What has it got in its pocketses, precious?
KEYS. Duh. House and a couple others, including the work lockup.
CLIP. And when I say clip, I mean an extra-small binder clip holding my folding money to a thin sliver of driver’s license, insurance card, credit card, debit card and work ID (with transit pass stickers). That’s pretty much all I ever need on a routine basis and it’s smaller than any wallet.
iPHONE (w/earbuds obvs). This goes in a pocket all by itself. Replaces phone, pager, iPod, books, magazines, laptop*, VCR, record shop, James Spann**, and those whiteboards we all had on the dorm room door in 1990.
HANDKERCHIEF. Hey, I’m from Alabama and I’m allergic to air, what do you expect? (Guys: the move is to have two. One in your pocket for the nose, and one in your inside jacket pocket in case a young lady needs to burst into tears or blot her lipstick or something. Trust your Unca Donkey. Also, quit smoking machine-rolled cigars from the drugstore.)
PEN. Has gone in the right hip pocket since 7th grade. The current model is almost always some sort of Fisher Space Pen, because I don’t write with it very often and the important thing is that it make a mark the first time wherever (and on whatever) I happen to be writing.
NOTEBOOK. Because you can’t jot down reminders in an iPhone in 5 seconds or less. The little paperback Rhodia is the thinnest thing I can easily use and doesn’t seem to have covers as fragile as the Moleskine Cahiers I use for travel abroad.
WALLET (optional). This is a Timbuk2 card wallet which holds all the stuff you don’t actually need daily but might be handy to have: donor card for the Blood Center, pass to the California Academy of Sciences, my Clipper card in case I need to take mass transit in the Bay Area other than Caltrain or VTA, five or six business cards, a five-pound note from the Bank of Scotland (hey, you never know), all my CERT identifier/certification cards (basically everything twice, once for work and once for home), and the Costco membership card in case I suddenly need five gallons of mustard and a 36-pack of Mexican Coke. The best part is that I don’t even necessarily have to have this, so if I have to go somewhere in a tux or what have you, I can leave it behind without a problem. And it’s flat enough that it’s not really a problem for everyday carry.
That’s it. Obviously this doesn’t cover worn things like sunglasses or watch or work badge, but that’s what I’m down to after twenty-five years of carrying things in my pockets.
Next trick? Using the greatly reduced space in the laptop sleeve to force a cutdown of what I carry back and forth daily…
* The iPhone isn’t truly a laptop replacement, but I would argue that it’s a very servicable netbook replacement.
** When I was a kid it was Channel 6, now it’s Channel 33/40, but the process is the same: if it’s tornado season and the weather is bad, turn on the TV and wait for James Spann. If he’s standing in front of the weather radar in a coat and tie, you’re fine; you can ignore all the watches and warnings and stuff, nothing to see here. If he has the coat off and the sleeves rolled up, it’s gonna be a long night and you need to take your ass to the storm cellar.