For a nation of citizens who pride themselves on individuality, it's hard to figure out why so many of us own black suitcases.
It doesn't matter where we're going or where we're from, chances are we're dragging a wheeled black suitcase behind us.
The little black bag is to the airline traveler what the little black dress is to the cocktail hour.
The black suitcase may be the one thing that unites us with near unanimity. Too bad we can't run one for office.
I recently was on a full flight and had to leave my bag at the end of the jetway. I left it in a heap of - count 'em - 13 black suitcases.
Naturally, those 13 black suitcases would be among 2,000 black suitcases circling the carousel in the baggage claim area two hours later.
As each black suitcase spilled onto the carousel, a large mob stampeded forward. The mob shifted left, then right.
Eventually, one person grabbed the bag and emerged victorious. The mob took two steps back.
Another black suitcase tumbled onto the carousel and the mob surged forward again. Surge and retreat, surge and retreat, until only four travelers were left with sick looks on their faces. They trotted over to the baggage claim office and filled out a form.
Question: What color is your bag?
It's like all our luggage had a meeting on what to wear and agreed on funeral attire.
There's something disturbing about such mass conformity. Mao's people had their Little Red Books, we have our little black bags.
Oh, you have your rebel red or forest green and the maverick floral tapestry now and then, but for the most part they're black.
Some try to set their black bags apart with a piece of curling ribbon, a strand of yarn or a bumper sticker. Others use duct tape for that personal touch. And now there are bag bands you can buy in neon colors to wrap around your suitcase to distinguish it from the masses.
My favorites are the colorful luggage tags with sayings like, "Keep looking, I think yours may be in Denver," "Take my luggage, do my laundry," and "Don't make me chase you."
The only other travel accessory that comes close to rivaling the popularity of the black bag would be the cell phone. Nobody is as deeply bonded and strongly attached to the cell phone as the airline traveler. We might as well be sucking on pacifiers.
The plane touches down, the flight attendant gives the OK for electronic devices and 200 people flip open cell phones to say, "We touched down."
I've never understood the necessity of that call. I always assume the plane will touch down and if it doesn't touch down, it will be on the news.
The touch-down call is followed by the getting-off-the-plane call and the I'm-waiting-for-my-bag call. My black bag.
The black bag is here to stay. It is a popular choice across the board.
Two years ago Mexican soldiers seized more than 5 tons of cocaine worth $100 million from a commercial airliner arriving from Venezuela. And what do you think they used to transport the drugs?
One hundred and twenty-eight black suitcases.