June 14, 2021

The Things We Carry

everydaycarryA long time ago I read the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It is an eloquent and evocative account of the Southeast Asian War and how soldiers coped with a hell they could neither understand nor survive unscathed — if they lived at all.

Today I am not writing about anything nearly as dramatic and horrific as that. Rather, I want to touch on the fact that Tim O’Brien called out for special attention the things that a soldier chose to put in a pack and hump along a trail in the jungle as being indicative of who they were.

The point is that when you carry something around with you every day there is a reason. It doesn’t need to be a practical reason at all — but there is a reason. And by inspecting the objects and the meaning they hold for an individual you can gain an insight — however slight — into what makes them tick.

So today I put my cards (well, not cards, actually) on the table. In other circles, this is called your “everyday carry”. Although there can be a distinct tinge of survivalism to those who are into “everyday carry”, and pictures often show weapons, I’m more into a pacifist style of carry. I put things in my pockets that can help myself or others in a jam. I’m not out to kill anyone.

My “everyday carry” includes:

  • A Leatherman multi-tool.
  • A Swiss Army knife (which has things the Leatherman tool does not, such as tweezers and the absolutely essential corkscrew).
  • A flashlight.
  • 20 feet of paracord.
  • A 4GB USB drive.
  • A lighter.
  • A handkerchief and comb.
  • A cash wallet and a plastic card wallet.
  • A pen.
  • Breath freshening strips. Because.

What this might say about me I will leave up to your interpretation. Suffice it to say I’ve developed this over the years as being the things I need to feel prepared for what life might throw at me or those around me. Keep in mind that I live in earthquake country, where you never know when you might have to dig yourself or others out of the rubble.

Let me know in the comments what your “everyday carry” consists of, and why.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.