Upstairs, on the seldom-visited second floor of our condominium, is “the cold room.” We call it that because it’s freezing in winter, and moderately cold in summer … a great place when a heat wave hits. In that room, which is poorly lit and jammed with the flotsam and jetsam of life, is a closet where we stash our luggage. We open that closet periodically, but not nearly as often as we used to, now that travel is more a hassle and less a joy. But just before a recent weekend when we were leaving town, I went up there to seek an overnight bag. Something small and simple. The same bag we’ve always toted along on minor expeditions. I dragged everything out of that closet. I searched its deepest canyons with a flashlight. No overnight bag. Instead of giving up, I started calling the prime suspects who might have borrowed it. Three daughters and a sister insisted that no way did they have that gray leather piece. With just a couple of days until departure, I finally resigned myself to chalking this up to “Items That Disappear,” and set out to find a bargain bag at one of the discount stores that are bigger than several football fields, where my husband and I stop in for a few items and end up dragging home a warehouse full of household goods. I was steered to luggage — and stopped, stunned, in my tracks. There was more luggage in those two aisles than might be found on the Queen Mary. Luggage in all sizes and shapes. Luggage in plaids, solids, canvas, leather, nylon, parachute material, and one behemoth that weighed about what our youngest granddaughter does. Little did I know that in the land of luggage, nothing has stayed the same. Suddenly, there is a language and a culture I entered as a lost immigrant. “May I help you?” asked a young man who must have seen my look of desperation. Just to be offered help in this self-service warehouse store was bliss. I explained that I wanted to buy a small overnight case. But that, it turned out, is no longer the term of art. There were, he intoned, “nested sets,” “trolley duffels,” “garment bags” and “suiter trolleys.” There were even gizmos called “trolley totes.” But overnight cases evidently belonged back in the era of black-and-white TV and movies without ratings. So we began our journey (such a fine metaphor, after all) to luggage wisdom, with a tour guide who clearly knew his “nested sets” from his “trolley totes.” One hour and 15 minutes later, I was on the phone with my husband after testing zippers and locks on equipment that looked more suited to combat than to recreational travel. I was describing recessed handles that would allow us to steer our trolley tote through airports with panache and style. All I wanted to know was that our overnight bag would land wherever we did. And if it was small enough to qualify as “hand luggage,” a term I do know, that would be easier to arrange. The all-too-familiar disparity of our landing in Denver, and our bags landing in Dallas, was the background cautionary tale. Finally, we got to the small issue of price. As in “prohibitive,” “unconscionable,” “unbelievable.” Suddenly (or was it?), a small suitcase with some plain interior pockets seemed to cost as much as our first trip to California did. All those extra zeroes. After agonizing about print vs. plaid, funky vs. discreet, zipper vs. some impressive clamps that clicked into place like mousetraps, I left carrying a boring black suitcase with cute wheels that magically retracted when you didn’t need them. And I got home just in time to find out that daughter Nancy had left a message — turned out she DID have our old overnight case — she’d borrowed it for her college reunion last spring. I told her to hold onto it in a safe place. And not to lend it out to anyone. Given what I now know, I figure it will have heirloom/high-end antique status soon.