Service of Conversation Starters

February 14th, 2022

Categories: Accessories, Communications, Gifts, Pandemic

Not since my broken foot was in a boot ages ago has something attracted as much attention as my Kusama tote bag [photo above and right]. Then, strangers stopped to ask me how I broke it and to share their story. At the time I thought I should lend it to friends who wanted to make new acquaintances.


Now, when I carry the bright yellow bag it receives a compliment several times a week. Sometimes people recognize that it came from the New York Botanical Garden gift store because the pattern features the sculptor’s trademark polka dots. Her sculptures enhanced the garden last summer. Other times they simply say “nice bag.” It’s happened on the bus, in stores and at cash registers.

What’s extraordinary is that in NYC women carry tote bags everywhere. I have for years. None of my others have attracted as much attention.

The bag has a history. On a warm winter day I walked from home to Bryant Park and halfway there I realized the tote was no longer on my arm. It is feather light and dropped off the arm of my slippery leather jacket without my noticing. My heart sank. I ran halfway home retracing my steps and couldn’t find it.

I returned to the park and the Christmas shops to distract myself from the sinking feeling I get when I’ve lost something I love. I stopped on the street to try to buy one on my phone from the garden shop website but there were none left. In addition to liking the tote, a good friend who knows I love polka dots, bright colors and that I had enjoyed Kusama’s sculptures gave it to me. Another friend, following the same intel, gave me a pair of Kusama-inspired socks! Am I lucky for having such caring and observant friends–or what?

Not enjoying myself in the park I soon went back home. As I reached Lexington Avenue and 41st Street I saw a bright yellow bag on the sidewalk. It was mine–my Christmas gift to do list was inside. The Pandemic saved it for me: there weren’t many people on the street that day and the few who walked by didn’t want to touch a stranger’s bag.

Does something you wear or carry attract cheery conversation?

16 Responses to “Service of Conversation Starters”

  1. Helen Said:

    My conversation starter is a pocketbook. Has a scene of Paris made of individual pieces of leather. Colorful and fun and definitely not boring. Women stop me a lot. I tell where and explain the website and how to best use it. It’s fun and I’ve gotten to talk to really lovely ladies.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Aren’t fun accessories the best!? They are often found at craft shows and in museum shops.

  3. Hank Goldman Said:

    Great photos.

    I think people like to chat. And look for a good reason. Try walking a dog sometime…You will meet lots and lots of people!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    GOSH, I forgot. Yes, Hank, it’s been so long since I walked my wonderful pooches in NYC. And today many are better dressed than the people walking them!

    I admit to speaking to many of the dogs I pass on the street…though because they sport earbuds with blaring music or simply don’t like to speak with strangers, many who are walking them keep walking without a “thanks” or even a nod when I compliment a fabulous dog sweater, coat, cute boots or darling four legged companion.

  5. ASK Said:

    I have a tote bag that looks like it’s made from a kilim rug in shades of camel and rust with touches of black and tan-leather trim…It always attracts comments, but I haven’t carried it in quite some time. I try to avoid totes; my handbag is heavy enough!

  6. B.C. Said:

    I bought a purse years ago when we were visiting the Light house at St. Simons, Ga. It names the cities along the water in the southeast U. S. with nautical designs. Most everywhere new I go, women admire my purse and want to know where I bought it. The purse always generates swell conversation.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    For a long time at the start of the Pandemic I wore no handbag and carried only a tote–to hold milk, juice or whatever I would pick up on my way home–and my credit card and keys. I’m back to wearing a handbag but it’s light as two feathers as I learned I didn’t need all that other once essential stuff.

    Tote bags are crucial to carry groceries or shampoo etc. since we’re no longer given bags at grocery and drug stores. My Kusama bag fits in my small handbag. How great is that? I am not always running errands but I might end up buying something on my way home from a walk or coffee with a friend.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Yet another example of how a shy, yet friendly person might meet people at business or social events! None of the “how to network” workshops I attended in the day suggested this!

  9. ASK Said:

    The no-bag policy is not the case outside NY…

  10. Martha T. Takayama Said:

    Of all the things I have carried or worn I think anything with any version of “Hello Kitty” is the most likely to evoke positive comments, enthusiasm, pleasant exchanges even with total strangers of all ages as well as camaraderie. I think that “Hello Kitty” transcends linguistic and ethnic differences and is and radiates humor and good will. This may make me sound very silly, but I will take that risk!

  11. Anonymous Said:

    Many years ago I had used a Liberty tote bag that printed out “Liberty”–the shop in London. I had it when a friend wearing it, who was a friend of a travel agent. She was about understanding why she had used “Liberty” name instead of the name of her travel agent. Gently, I escaped it was not “Liberty Travel” but the London fabric and accessory store.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I had a Liberty of London store bag–purple made of what looked like oilcloth. Really pretty. Funny that someone thought you should have sported one from Liberty Travel–if there was such a bag!

  13. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Lucky indeed to have such thoughtful friends.

  14. Nancie Steinberg Said:

    Nancie on Facebook: You wear them well!

  15. Lucrezia Said:

    A chartreuse top festooned w/brown Dachshunds continues to attract favorable attention throughout 30+ years of ownership. I’ve been stopped countless times and asked where I bought it. Sadly, the store is long gone. Such episodes are always fun. It’s also a wonder how certain styles never die.

  16. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You make a great point: Some classics or pieces of clothing that are wonderful will remain great to wear or carry as long as they remain intact. Long live the chartreuse top with Dachshunds!

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