The true meaning of the word `embarrassing' would be difficult to fathom until you've found yourself holding up a long line at the supermarket checkout counter while frantically searching, elbow-deep, in a bottomless Savta-Simcha- like pocketbook for a credit card/ checkbook/ wallet. At the bank, you'll be the frazzled focus of unwanted attention as you try to discreetly fish around for money/ identification/ statements.
Have you ever noticed how people on a bus line shift nervously, sigh audibly, or roll their eyes expressively as some unfortunate female is feverishly trying to excavate the ever illusive bus ticket or appropriate change? `Mortified' is understated. Likewise, whenever one has to return or exchange an item, the necessary receipt that has been surfacing three times per day is now among the missing in action.
Then there are the too memorable ocasions when one is flushed, rushed and forced to beseech assistance, while taking inventory in the overpacked [pandora] pocketbook. One turns to a perfect stranger (well, perhaps not perfection personified, but pretty close) with a peculiar request. "Would you please be kind enough to hold my keys, photos, eyeglasses, bills, pills, wedding invitations, receipts - while I try to find my telephone card? I'm sure I came across it - two weeks ago."
There must be other interesting ways to widen your list of acquaintances or win a popularity poll. I still recall, with a rapid heartbeat, one especially difficult experience when I had to start raising funds at a checkout line of a busy store when the cashier's realistic total far exceeded my own fanciful financial misfigure. The alternative was to start choosing between the essentials to be paid for and those that had to be returned. At that point, I was just too emotionally drained and felt I had already taken up far too much of the other customers' time. The items had been rung up. The cashier was unsuccessfully trying to make eye contact with me while I was completely focused on emptying my foolishly fashionable bag. When the checkbook was not forthcoming, total strangers raised the necessary funds to settle the account, since elimination from the cash register would have taken too much of a time toll.
Someone else assembled names and addresses of those who would have to be compensated. I could but offer profuse apologies.
In the unlikely circumstance that I should find time to correspond with pen pals, the aforementioned would be appropriate candidates (if I found the list with their addresses). And for the readers' information, and somewhat to my lost credit and credibility, the checkbook WAS later found at the very bottom of the pocketbook, just like I thought! As they say in the vernacular, it's enough to make one plotz!
Should anyone deliberately purchase an extra large bag, almost like a traveling case, theoretically, there will now be room for essentials and non. Everything in its place and a place for everything. Sounds great. Well, it doesn't work. If Murphy were around, I'd ask him to coin the law for it. Nature abhors a vacuum. If there's an empty zippered compartment - and one can realistically expect it to be unoccupied on purchase - within several minutes it will be crammed to capacity. Now one begins to transport sandwiches, fruit, compact umbrellas, plus a small diary to keep track of appointments and phone numbers. There's lots of room, after all. That's why you bought it. I mean, there WAS all that empty space being wasted.
Why are there so many sentimental items that must be kept close at hand? The 1/2 price tickets of the children's fun trip to the zoo, obsolete pre-simcha shopping lists (milk, eggs, washing machine, gold watch, raisins, apartment, linen, disposable cups...), telephone numbers, underlined and circled, without even a hint of a name.
Try to avoid, at all costs, those attractive, smartly decorated ones that are not divided into sections. (Divide and conquer.) The inside will eventually resemble a disorganized, depressing `dump-all'. With compartments, there is a remote chance of some semblance of order.
Keys, whether for home, car, work or mailbox (or Swiss vaults) should never be flung haphazardly into these complicated catch-alls. They have been known to surface only after a reluctant locksmith has been summoned, quickly done his work and has been, rightfully, reimbursed for his effort. Meanwhile, you have provided free entertainment for a crowd of onlookers.
For some strange reason, handbags are reluctant to produce what has been entrusted to them by their owners - even in difficult circumstantes: screaming baby and elusive pacifier hiding in a stunning, patent leather what's- his-name-designer handbag. Time has quickly proven it to be as devoted to devouring essentials as its outdated predecessors.
Then there is the ever so elegant tiny evening bag whose capacity will hold no more than a single key and a one-ply tissue. In this (happy) event, wear clothing with pockets for emergency storage.
If a woman, after noticing a definite shoulder slope due to constantly carting around some weighty possessions [and seen that the other shoulder is not the same], should decide to purchase a small, sensible purse, not only won't there be room for nonsense, but there won't even be room for anything else, thereby remaining conveniently lightweight and impractical.
Business-like women can be seen carrying monogrammed attache cases, presumably to meetings, but rumors are rampant that they contain sandwiches, fruit and calorie counters.
High on the list of "Things to Do" for Pesach cleaning is reorganizing the aforementioned. The easy part is that cookie crumbs can be fed to the birds [if you are stupid enough to do this project on impulse on a park bench]. The more trying task is that one has to concentrate on the contents when one's mind (whatever is functioning at that point in the pre-Pesach preparation) is elsewhere. Discarding [dis-card-ing] can be tedious and time-consuming. And one always seems to be transporting paraphernalia from one place to another: watches that need batteries, keys to be duplicated, documents to be photocopied, a pocket Tehillim with a current (?) list of sick people and shidduch-desperate eligibles, things to be exchanged, lists of all kinds, etc. And a plastic spoon, should you succumb to an ice cream crisis [or the faint feeling that will send you to the nearest grocery for a chocolate prigurt].
So next time you consider investing in a handbag, don't do it lightly. Consider your lifestyle - student, young mother, career woman, grandmother, Klall community-person etc. Whatever stage of life you find yourself at, there's just the right handbag for you - the one that will fill all your needs. Don't be discouraged. It does exist. Somewhere... At the destined time, [maybe even at a local clothing gemach], you will meet, with G-d's help. Don't give up the search.
[Editor's comment: The search to begin all searches...]