Do you own a backpack? Do you wear it, on your back, in public? Here are a few helpful reminders about the nature of your backpack and your role as a member of the human species.

  • Objects that you put into your backpack possess mass and volume. This is why you put them into your backpack, most likely, because they added up to a mass and/or volume that was inconvenient for you to grasp and carry in your hands.
  • Those objects do not lose their mass or volume by being put into your backpack. Your backpack is not an magical extradimensional portal. It is a simple layer of fabric or leather that surrounds the existing objects, as they are.
  • When you put these objects behind you, by strapping your backpack to your back, they continue to exist, even though they are no longer in your own field of vision. The notion that objects moved out of view cease to exist—this is a fallacy associated with small dumb children and animals.

If you do not account for these facts, your mental self-map, by which you understand your own size, shape, and position in the world, will be incorrect. Or incomplete.

Here are some circumstances under which this will matter:

  • If you step aboard a subway car and stop, leaving a little bit of room for the people behind you, your backpack will leave less than a little bit of room. (That is: no room.)
  • If you stop just clear of the foot of a stairway or escalator to collect your bearings, your backpack will be not quite clear of the foot of the stairway or escalator.
  • If you pause while walking on the sidewalk—say, to look at a storefront or to consult the map on your phone—and you turn to move slightly out of the middle of the sidewalk, your backpack will be in the middle of the sidewalk.
  • Etc.!

What these scenarios all have in common is this: You think you are out of other people's way, but your backpack is still in other people's way. This is profoundly annoying to other people.

Get your backpack out of everyone else's way.

[Images by Jim Cooke, who says he just says "Excuse me" and shoves past backpacks]