The Cursed Bag
By Stephanie Suga Chen
“A $300 value!” the credit card promotion had declared. Made of carbon fiber and able to spin freely 360-degrees around, the sleek carry-on suitcase was easily the nicest piece of luggage we had ever owned.
But trouble started on its very first trip, a tour around southern Taiwan. In the chaos of carrying our two children and assorted luggage off a long-haul bus, both my husband and I forgot that we had placed the new suitcase underneath the bus – a bus that was now driving off into the distance.
“But what about my swimsuit?” my seven-year-old daughter shrieked.
“Why didn’t you pack YOUR clothes in that bag, not OURS?” my son grumbled, only four years old but annoyingly articulate.
Their poor dad had to hike about two miles under the scorching summer sun to the bus terminal—thankfully, we had gotten off at the last stop of the route—in order to retrieve the bag, while I tried to find some shade for our already sweat-soaked children.
A few days later we travelled north, to Taipei; while navigating through the sprawling Taipei Main Station, the handle of the shiny new suitcase failed to extend to its fullest length, instead catching at the first joint, about eight inches shy and banging the back of my ankles at every step. Sighing, I put our daughter in charge of the bag, she being the perfect height for the stunted handle.
“This bag is cursed,” she remarked.
“It is,” my son said, uncharacteristically agreeing with his sister.
Our next trip required an airport change in Tokyo (I know, I know—never again). As we were waiting to board a bus that would take us from Haneda, the airport located within the city, to Narita, the one located an hour outside it, suddenly my daughter called out, “Where’s the Cursed Bag?”
I realized that I must have left it at the Information Desk nearly an hour ago, when I was asking about the bus schedule. I hurried over, but the area in front of the desk was completely empty, and the attendant directed me to an office that was located one floor below. Panicked, I raced down the stairs; the inter-airport buses were only once an hour and if we didn’t make this one, we would likely miss our connecting flight.
Rushing into the office, I stammered to the employee that I had left a bag unattended upstairs. After some back and forth involving a lot of gesturing, she disappeared through a doorway. Anxious, I checked the time and saw that I had mere minutes to spare.
She reappeared, rolling the Cursed Bag at her side.
“Oh, thank goodness!” I exclaimed, reaching to take it from her.
She pulled it back, instead holding out a piece of paper and a pen. “Please fill out and sign,” she said, bowing politely. “Thank you.”
“I can’t; I’m going to miss my bus,” I stuttered, placing a hand on the bag’s handle.
“Please, must sign,” she said, blocking me with her body. “Thank you,” she repeated, bowing again.
Resigned, I grabbed the pen and scribbled a few scrawls that resembled a phone number and a signature. I ran out to the bus bay, carrying the suitcase in my arms, not wanting to fiddle with the faulty extender. As I reached the curb, I could see my husband and kids already on the bus, seated near the front, and all staring worriedly out the windows.
“That bag really is cursed, Mommy,” my son said, after I sat down next to him.
A few months later, we were on our way again, this time on a trip together with my cousin. The kids had already described to her our various misadventures involving the suitcase.
“Maybe you should stop calling it the Cursed Bag,” my cousin said, as we were standing at one of Changi Airport’s new automated luggage check-in stations, an ultra-high-tech machine that required no human interaction after the bag in question was placed on the belt.
“Maybe its feelings are hurt,” she continued, suggesting that instead of calling it the Cursed Bag, we should try changing its karma and rename it the “Lucky Bag”.
“What do you think?” she asked the kids.
“OK,” my daughter said, nodding agreeably. “We could try that.”
“Hmm,” my son said, frowning skeptically. “I guess we could try.”
Seconds later, laser beams swept over the bag in all directions and the words “CHECKING YOUR BAG THROUGH TO OSAKA”—our aircraft’s final destination, but NOT where we were going—appeared on the screen of the check-in kiosk in front of us. With a beep and whirr, the conveyor belt moved our bag past a clear partition, still in sight, but out of reach. Stunned, my cousin and I could only stare helplessly as the bag continued forward and disappeared through the rubber flaps.
My son, however, didn’t know how to read yet. “Bye, Lucky Bag,” he said cheerily, waving a small hand. “Hope your karma has changed!”
Stephanie Suga Chen is the author of Travails of a Trailing Spouse, the bestselling novel from Straits Times Press about expat life in Singapore. A proud Taiwanese-American, Stephanie grew up in Michigan and moved to Singapore in 2012 with her husband, two children and elderly cocker spaniel.