Around the globe several times. Almost a million domestic miles. This LL Bean bag was my sidearm/briefcase/work horse for about seven years. I bought it new at the (now closed) Portland, Maine outlet. Mrs. and I would get on the Downeaster at North Station and ride comfortably for $22 from Boston to Portland and spend a nice weekend eating, drinking, and puttering in and out of shops and tea houses in the dead of the Maine winter. At one restaurant, the waitress asked me how I wanted my eggs. Then she asked me if I wanted to have a drink with my coffee. I indicated that it was only 9am and I would not be drinking. She delivered the eggs and a small glass of nice Brandy, letting me know that I would be charged for it if there was anything left in the glass, but that it was gratis if consumed fully. My wife snickered at the jab and seemed to take the side of the waitress against me when the phrase "If you're up to it" was floated.
Back to the bag. It was there during many critical and pivotal career moments, it was at the hospital when Jr. was born, it was an overnight bag for single-night trips, and it plagued me with connectivity during vacations and trips to otherwise pleasant locations. It wasn't stylish and it seemed to attract stains. The black smears on the leather cover were from ink drops out of a broken ballpoint pen that Jr. had turned into a missile. The inside had pen marks, rips, abrasions, my name and phone number in permanent marker, and a small assortment of travel and business items like tea, ink cartridges, and pink tablets in case of food-poisoning.
I took it to LL Bean last week to request a replacement of a broken brass fitting that seemed to be beyond repair capabilities of the local brass andiron experts (yes, Boston has several). They said no, but if I gave it to them, they would give me a gift card (generously) worth the full original amount, and not the (fractional) amount I paid at the outlet.
As usual, the customer service was excellent, but I'm always torn between nostalgic thrift and the consumeristic "just get a new one if you're not completely satisfied". I was satisfied with the bag and didn't want a new one, but they are mostly unwilling to make repairs. "Why would you want to pay for a repair if you can just get a new one for free?" she asked me. Reluctantly, I surrendered it, thinking of all of those trips (both good and bad) and how it partially symbolized our family's steadfast cohesiveness throughout the challenges of frequent absences from business travel. With the fanfare of flushing a toilet, the clerk threw it into a bin behind the counter.
"Did they repair your bag?" asked Mrs. later that day.
"No, but they sent it to live on a farm upstate where it'll be much happier" I said.