Which of your possessions reveals most about you and why?

University of Washington



"Observe, Watson."

An unfamiliar voice caused me to stop dead in my tracks as I was coming back to my table. Surreptitiously glancing through the foliage, I noticed two men pointing at something. Hesitant to announce my presence, I was very perplexed by the fact that the object they were staring at was my backpack! I was studying in the park and walked off to get a drink of water, and when I came back, whom should I find examining my worldly possessions but the great detective and his chronicler! Maybe I should tell him to mind his own business...on the other hand, I would like to see Mr. Sherlock Holmes struggle to find clues to my identity.

Meanwhile, Holmes and Watson were engrossed in their usual exercise in deduction, with no feelings of professional integrity to preclude them from viewing the contents of my backpack.

"What can you gather from this mundane article, Watson?"

Watson dutifully furrowed his brow and attempted to employ his ingenious friend's methods. "Aside from noting its battered appearance and its distorted shape, which, no doubt, results from transporting great weights, I can produce no inferences about its owner. You, I should imagine, feel like you have known him all your life?"

"Her, Watson, her. I conclude that the possessor of this book bag is a young lady of a scholarly nature, most likely a teenager, a student of various academic disciplines. Her eyesight is most likely poor, and it seems that she is very erratic, but tries to make up for her shortcomings. She obviously prefers to perform simple tasks in exciting, unusual ways, likes a good discussion, and is not afraid to reveal her opinions. Self-conscious of her mistakes, she likes to straighten them out at the first opportunity, and is well equipped to fight boredom. And this is my perfunctory opinion. Had I met the girl, I would be able to tell you more."

Letting out his traditional gasp of awe, Watson exclaimed, "Once again, my dear Holmes, you have outdone yourself! Pray tell me, how do you deduce all this from such scarce clues?"

"It is simplicity itself. First of all, note the writing in green puff paint. 'Omnia mea mecum porto'--Latin for "I carry all my possessions with me." A person who chooses to identify him or herself with such a phrase must be prepared to thoroughly explain and discuss it with any curious passersby. Then direct your attention to the contents of this bag. Your "great weights" are textbooks, and their diverse titles demonstrate our young lady's studiousness--Engineering Physics, Calculus, Exploring Language--hence my conclusion that she is diligent in many fields of learning. Other miscellaneous objects have enabled me to evaluate her personality and age. A "Star Wars" key chain, a case for eye glasses, white-out, nail polish--all these tell me that the possessor of this article is a teenager, a girl, with poor eyesight, and the white-out means she spots her own mistakes and tries to rectify them immediately. Having detected only one eating utensil--this pair of chopsticks, I assume that the simple process of nutrition has been promoted by this girl to the status of entertainment. The Swiss Army knife, the stapler, the flashlight, the bottle of aspirin all witness that she tries to be prepared for all situations. Interfering with these best of intentions is her forgetfulness--the knife is dull, the stapler is empty, as is the aspirin bottle. Finally, some poetry hastily scrawled on random sheets of paper tells me that she devotes her free time to productive activities."

"Holmes, you are indeed a genius. But let's continue our walk."

The two carried off their lively conversation elsewhere. Crawling out of the bushes, I resented the infringement of my privacy but also nurtured a vengeful thought: for someone as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes, you would think he'd notice toilet paper trailing behind his shoes.