ITS Tactical’s Discreet Messenger Bag

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Discreet Messenger Bag

A messenger bag, Tom? Really? Yep. Let me tell you about it. I had an earlier iteration of ITS Tactical‘s Discreet Messenger Bag and carried it every working day of my previous career. And it was my full “Get Home Bag”, along with off-body carry pistol. I had everything from my full size pistol, to a medical blow out kit, to the “basics”.

This article is not to open the debate of “on body” versus “off body” carry (and for what it is worth, I also carried a small backup in either a pocket holster or ankle holster). Suffice to say the concept of a “discreet messenger bag” was the best “off body” carry option I found for the business environment I was working in at the time. A backpack covered in PALS webbing would have stood out, and not in a good way.

Construction

This version of the ITS Discreet Messenger Bag is the result of feedback, trial and error, and design decisions since the first version five years ago. It is much more modular and standardized than any of the previous versions.

The outer material is Martexin Weather Resistant Waxed Canvas and does a great job of keeping water out (I did run it under the sink, and water just beads off the surface).

It has a large main compartment capable of holding a laptop, Kel-tec Sub2k, or a Grease Gun (you know, if you happen to have one laying around). The main compartment is fully lined with loop fasteners which means you can mount nearly anything to the inside.

Huge main compartment...

Huge main compartment…

It can hold a folded Kel-tec Sub2k (assuming you have one or can find one)...

It can hold a folded Kel-tec Sub2k (assuming you have one or can find one)…

Thanks to BMC Tactical for letting me try out the bag with their grease gun...

Thanks to BMC Tactical for letting me try out the bag with their grease gun…

There are four external pockets. One on either end and two under the main flap. They are dubbed (and trademarked) as SnapPockets because they have little snaps at the top to cinch the neck down.

Snaps. Because SnapPockets.

Snaps. Because SnapPockets.

The Zip Bags are small zippered pouches with loops on the top and bottom.

Front of the zip bag. Loop field for labeling...

Front of the zip bag. Loop field for labeling…

Back of the Zip Bag

Back of the Zip Bag

The ITS Tech Sleeve is a padded insert for a laptop or tablet or other sensitive gear. It is hook lined on the outside and VERY firmly attaches to the inside of the main compartment. It has some adjustments that can be used to adjust it’s shape.

Simple padded sleeve to protect your laptop.

Simple padded sleeve to protect your laptop.

You can adjust the size of the sleeve.

You can adjust the size of the sleeve.

Elastic loops for holding pens, pencils, small rectangularish thingies, and Red Swingline Model 747 staplers.

Elastic loops for holding pens, pencils, small rectangularish thingies, and Red Swingline Model 747 staplers.

A couple of other accessories are the ITS Holster Insert (which will accommodate a sidearm and backup magazine) and the ITS Shock Cord Insert (which is a sort of “ladder” that you can attach any number of things to; I used to use one for medical gear).

Shock cord insert. Super versatile.

Shock cord insert. Super versatile.

Simple hook and loop based holster for a sidearm and a magazine.

Simple hook and loop based holster for a sidearm and a magazine.

The lid contains a hidden pocket, concealed by a front flap (which can be tucked back into the hidden pocket). Underneath the front flap is a run of loop fastener for patches.

Closed front flap

Closed front flap

Exposed loop field. Front flap is tucked in the "hidden" compartment

Exposed loop field. Front flap is tucked in the “hidden” compartment

Hidden compartment runs the full size of the messenger bag lid.

Hidden compartment runs the full size of the messenger bag lid.

Each bag is handmade in Texas using 100% U.S. Materials.

Features

  • Genuine Martexin Weather Resistant Waxed Canvas
  • Hidden Pocket for Tuck-Away Cover and Concealed Front Loop Panel
  • AustriAlpin Cobra Buckles for Rugged Durability
  • Pass Through Zipper for Quick Access to Bag Interior Via Right or Left Hand Paracord Pull
  • Four Expandable Interior SnapPockets™, Lined for Increased Visibility
  • Modularity with Optional ITS Zip Bags in Matching Canvas Colorways
  • Loop Lined Bag Interior for Attachment of Optional Hook-Backed Accessories
    • ITS Tech Sleeve
    • ITS Holster Insert
    • ITS Shock Cord Insert
  • Continuous 2″ Shoulder Strap with Hidden Independent Side Adjustments
  • Grab Handle for Off-Body Carry
  • Removable and Adjustable Waist Strap for Added Stability During Movement or Luggage Attachment
  • Available in Surplus Green and Midnight Black Colorways
  • Measures 15″ wide x 11″ tall x 4″ deep (average dimensions, bag will expand/contract)
  • Weighs 3 lbs. Naked
  • Carry On Approved (fits under seats)
  • Made in Texas with 100% U.S. Materials

And here is a product video where Bryan explains the pack:

Observations

This past year at ITS Tactical’s annual “training retreat” (a.k.a Muster) we had a class in bag/pack load outs from each of the instructors (all of whom came from different perspectives). The biggest take away for a lot of us was that your system needs to be compact, configurable, and correct (it wasn’t said exactly like that, and I am stealing that from somewhere else in my history, but it is still applicable).

For me, “correct” means that I will have a firearm readily available (along with everything I need to run it) as well as a small medical kit. The configuration comes in as I can easily swap out the “ITS Zip Bags”. If I am going to remote work at a coffee shop, I may have a couple of pouches with tech gear (battery pack, cell phone booster, cables, etc). If I am going to the range, I can yank those “tech” pouches out and swap with ones preloaded with a cleaning kit/tools, eyes and ears, additional magazines, and some “lickies and chewies”.

I have used (and still use) my original discreet messenger bag as a vehicle bag for road travel. As comfortable as my IWB holster is, sitting with it in a car for eight to ten hours on the road starts to suck after a while. I can have the bag sitting on the seat next to me, or down on the floor beneath my legs, and have secure and ready access to my pistol (as well as other “grab and go” gear). Another benefit is that I don’t have to mount anything in my car (rental companies also tend to frown on that).

Carry strap, and off-body carry handle

Carry strap, and off-body carry handle

I asked my wife to carry the bag for a few days to her job and give me her observations (she was unable to carry it “hot” due to policies at her workplace). The Discreet Messenger bag is quite a bit bigger than the purse she normally carries but is smaller (volume-wise) than the pack that hauls her larger items.  Overall the total volume was a wash, and with some repacking and reorganization she could probably fit all of her EDC into the Discreet Messenger Bag. In terms of styling the bag worked very well in her environment. She liked the look and feel of the material, and the extensibility of the organization was the best feature in her opinion. She found the strap to be a bit too wide and a little uncomfortable for her (but she noted that she has made the same observation of all messenger style bags we’ve had in the house). She likes the security of the buckles and ease of getting into the bag from the top without having to fully open it. Another observation she made is that the material won’t really look bad as it is used and aged–the distressing will just add more character to it.

Cobra buckles. Definitely an upgrade from side releases.

Cobra buckles. Definitely an upgrade from side releases.

During my review of this new version, I was able to contain everything I needed for a Ballistic Gel Ammo Test (the next in the series we are doing). I had my laptop, charging cable, two pistols (“two is one and one is none”), magazines, ammo, eyes and ears, two GoPro cameras and mounts, extra batteries, mini tripod, and a medical kit… I was able to swap this over from the configuration my wife had set up by yanking out the pouches she had loaded up (swapping with the ones I had loaded and ready to go) and adding in a couple of hook and loop holsters with the guns. Basically a couple of minutes to go from a business casual messenger bag carried by a professional lady, to a bag of doom ready to support my efforts to slay some evil ballistic gels.

Loaded for bear... Or ballistic gel...

Loaded for bear… Or ballistic gel…  Even fully loaded the SnapPockets are slim lined and pretty secure.

I was initially concerned about the SnapPockets as they don’t fully seal at the top. That ended up not being a problem though. They work really well with the Zip Bags, and if the main flap is down things are pretty secure. That said, I wouldn’t store small things in there (like paperclips, pens, etc) without the use of a Zip Bag. The SnapPockets are capable of holding a full sized Nalgene bottle (or liberty bottle).

The two inboard SnapPockets have some elastic loops that interestingly enough holds AR magazines with enough space to still put in Zip Bags.  I had a small concern with the elastic as it seems “lower quality” than the rest of the materials, and I have had elastic bands wear out in the past.  I’m not saying this is the same type (or that it will wear out the same way), but given the rest of the construction of this bag it seemed to be the lightest material used.

The internal hook and loop is VERY strong, and it can make reconfiguring the Tech Sleeve a pain if you want to change it around a lot.

Accessing the pistol is super easy and quick via the zipper in the lid. It takes a little bit of tweaking to get the holster in the right location for your preferred carry, but once it is set, it is very natural to reach in the bag and extract your sidearm. It is arguably faster to deploy than from an on body holster and is a little reminiscent of a drop leg holster.

Simple reach and grab for the pistol.

Simple reach and grab for the pistol.

Opened a bit wider for better visualization.

Opened a bit wider for better visualization.

Conclusion

Is the bag pricey?  It depends on what you are willing to pay for a quality bag you will have for years.  To me, the $299 price tag is something I am willing to pay. Especially for something made in the U.S. and as well constructed as this bag is. I paid $350(ish) for my original bag, and it doesn’t really show any wear and tear despite pretty much daily usage (and even some of my trademarked “enhanced usage”). This new version is arguably even more rugged.

It is important to note that the “ITS Zip Bags, Tech Sleeve, Holster Insert and Shock Cord are available to purchase separately and do not come included with the purchase of an ITS Discreet Messenger Bag”. Configuration of this bag is going to be a very personal thing. Personally I would rather see it come with a couple of the Zip Bags or at least have the option to purchase in a couple of preset configurations: “The Nerd Bag” (tech sleeve, a shock cord and a couple of Zip Bags), “Bag of Doom” (holster insert, zip bags for all of the external SnapPockets, and a Medical kit), etc.  I’d also like to see some beefier elastic, though I am being nit picky there.  Other than that I can’t think of anything I would change.  I love the original bag.  This version is a great upgrade for the product line.

I pride myself on being a bag/pack connoisseur and would not give props to something I wouldn’t buy and carry. This bag is worthy in my opinion and something I will be purchasing in the near future.

If you are interested in such a bag you can find them on the ITS Store at: https://store.itstactical.com/nylon-gear/its-discreet-messenger-bag.html



Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


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  • stephen

    A little known fact: during the initial product pre-release the price was only $59.95.

    Then they added the words “tactical” and “discreet”. As a result of those words the price jumped to $299.

    No thanks – spending that amount of money on a man-purse is stupid IMHO.

    • Great comment Stephen, it’s very clear that you understand our product and have a grasp on effective communication and the price per word that went into our title.

      I do often carry tissues in my man-purse, but more to hand out during a case of the internet sniffles or when I encounter severe cases of butt hurt, like I seem to be detecting within this comment thread.

      Thanks again,
      Bryan Black, Editor-in-Chief, ITS Tactical

      • notalima

        Not sure if stephan is thinking of the ‘Man-Pac’ (sharktank) which was $59 (and still is for the GenI) or just being a big meanie 😀

        I thought that this was a branded next gen Man-Pac at first myself, but it is not.

      • kevinp2

        Dude, regardless of the price and quality of your product, it is a bad idea to insult customers.

        • Right, so it’s cool to just let customers insult my company and our products. Got it, you should probably start your own business, you have CEO written all over you. This is from one CEO to another too.

          • RocketScientist

            I’m with Kevinp2. I actually really like the product, and am in the market for something like it. As such I’m going to be doing some research and may very well end up purchasing one. That being said, seeing a company rep getting snarky and defensive because a troll left a critical comment about their product on the internet, really looks bad. It comes off as childish. I’ve seen company reps in your exact situation (or reacting to even worse accusations or criticisms) on this same website. And when they respond with “Well, in fact X,Y and Z is not the case, in reality its A,B and C. I’m sorry to hear you have this problem with our product/company, but I guess its not for everyone” or something similarly mature and level-headed, they come off as professional and someone I would like to do business with. Getting defensive and sarcastic and borderline insulting (even if it may be deserved) looks really childish and unprofessional. I start to wonder how your customer service is, how you’ll handle warranty claims, etc. It makes you sound like someone I do NOT want to do business with. Take that for what its worth (presumably not much in your estimation). Best of luck with your bags, as I said above, they DO look pretty sweet.

          • I appreciate your comment and I can see your point. I guess I’m in a damage control mood right now with our new product launch. I do truly value honest feedback and while the comments from this website don’t appear that way, I’ve been answering comments on many websites that have graciously picked up our new product today. I’m very thankful as well to Tom for covering it here in such detail for TFB.

            To provide a bit more context, they’re not necessarily critical comments in my opinion, they’re more comments that I feel don’t necessarily add value to the conversation, so I did go with the snarky reply. I typically don’t do that, but I guess I’m just over those today. Thanks for the rational discussion and in regard to our customer service, it’s second to none. I’d be honored to put that to the test as well if you wind up deciding to purchase something from our store.

            Thanks again and I’m glad you dig the bag!

          • Swarf

            Damage control? Not likely.

            I didn’t have an opinion one way or another about your products before reading your thin-skinned little diatribes.

            I definitely have an opinion now.

          • Cymond

            Reminds me a bit of the incidents of the CEOs of Robinson Armaments and Maxpedition going of on their own customer bases.

          • Edeco

            “don’t necessarily add value to the conversation”? Wow, it’s kind of you to be concerned with the quality of discussion here.

          • Core

            Bryan, don’t fall for the trolling click-bait. When you represent a business to some capacity, it’s best to disregard the angry couch troll types trolling the web. Mommy coddled them too much and they go out into the world with the impression that it’s up to others to make them happy. They haven’t learned to be content with themselves, some never will.

          • Mike Lashewitz

            I guess I am a troll too? And here I cannot help but think of those decades of experience living all things tactical.

          • kevinp2

            Actually, I have run my own company for the last fifteen years, and a small part of the success has been due to projecting a professional air, and avoiding insulting customers. If you are so touchy, you should not be in any line of work when you have to encounter any customers.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Having a sense of humor goes a long way around here dude.

      • Chris

        I love your response, actually. If people don’t like your product or your response to trolls, they can, of course, choose not to buy. Not like any of the whiners were going to buy, anyway. Anyone putting up this much of a stink over a business guy smacking down a troll probably isn’t your customer. They’re just pretenders, as if you magically lost their business over an internet comeback.

        The commenters getting offended on behalf of a troll (which I find amazing) are strolling right into SJW territory. The troll doesn’t need defending. If he can dish out but not take it, he’s going to find the internet a rough place.

      • Mike Lashewitz

        Might as well get on the band wagon. The fact you used the words “butt hurt” when you are actually acting as if you are, is laughable. Silence too can be a marketing tool.
        The sad thing is. if Stephen is correct, it places your views of the product on the same level as Under Armor. They also think their products are all that and a bag of chips. Which is why I will choose not blow my hard earned cash on their products.
        This makes me think back to Tommy Hilfiger and his racist attitude meanwhile the majority of his customers were black. You know, kind of like blacks voting for Democrats for decades and life just never got any better…
        Realistically though at $59.95 I would have considered your product. At a Jewish $300 I would not consider it and instead buy another 1000 rounds of ammo.
        Being military and having to carry around USAF B4 CASF bags and Navy sea bags which appear to be of the same material, well those did not last they did not hold up to abrasion and their stitching degraded before the material surfaces allowing zippers to pull away from the bags themselves. Yep waxed canvas is not that good for much of anything.
        I cannot help but remember all those hot green waxed canvas tents that leaked all over us in combat zones.
        The plus I will give about the bag is external appearance, it just does not reek with that Coach, “steal me” Gucci impression. It is just a little more attractive than a military tool bag. Kudos. Definitely discreet.
        My daughter in law qualified it is a murse, perhaps for mursenaries?

        • Core

          Wow. I made the mistake of reading your post, now my head hurts. .

  • Anonymoose

    But can you fit an AK pistol in there?

    • It all depends on the length, but my Krink does fit 🙂 The bag measures 15″ wide x 11″ tall x 4″ deep. These are average dimensions though and the bag will expand/contract with use. Hope that helps!

      • Anonymoose

        Do you have a full-size 10″ AKS-74U or a Mini Draco? From those specs, a Mini Draco looks like it would fit for sure.

        I really dig those buckles, by the way.

        • Actually, I’m mistaken about my Krink and corrected the post above. Even sideways it doesn’t fit the dimensions. It’s an AKS-74U that measures 19.5″ in length when folded.

    • Doc Rader

      They didn’t have one at the shop or I would have had more weapon photos.

  • Vitsaus

    Tactical Messenger Bag: A purse for men (hipsters more likely than not) in a color that is considered masculine.

    • Want a job writing our product descriptions? We could use a hand, seriously.

      • Devil_Doc

        Now THAT’S how you deal with snark.

    • Anonymoose

      Classier than a backpack when you need to carry things around and wear a blazer, though.

      • Doc Rader

        Yeah, there are places that a backpack is just not appropriate. This bag helps “gray man” much more effectively while still allowing for carry of whatever your EDC dictates.

      • USMC03Vet

        When I operate as a undercover sportscaster I go with the classic MP5k briefcase. It’s my go to choice when operating on Throwback Thursdays.

  • James

    The Tactical Messenger Bag: The perfect gift for mall-ninja weeaboos.

    • Anonymoose

      Replace the ITS skull with a Bleach skull patch and it would be perfect.

    • Sounds fishy James, I’m thinking that you might be the one sneaking around malls in blacked out clothing and a balaclava.

    • USMC03Vet

      Every day carry of manga can be a thing now.

    • Seriously though walking through an airport this would be much better than a mutli-cam backpack or most any backpack. I like to stay low key when traveling.

      • Mike

        My Timbuk2 messenger bag “made in far east” has handles that are coming apart, broken buckles. It is tactical black though. All this bag does is transport my lunch, and a multi tool and flashlight, no guns at work.
        Is a Yeti or Pelican cooler worth the price? I have not seen this bag, but at least they are making it in America, good luck to them.
        If you don’t like it, then don’t buy it.

        • Gun Owner

          The Pelican is. No comment on the other.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Is that my stapler?

    • NotoriousAPP

      Do we have the same internet mother?

    • Doc Rader

      I’m glad someone recognized the easter egg…

    • Core

      lol I had no idea how screwed up we were on this forum until I started reading other people’s paragraph length posts, thanks for keeping it light..

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Ive had a Manhattan Portage messenger bag for 7 years that doesnt have all the compartments and pockets but works great if you just want to carry a pistol, school books and a laptop at half the price.

  • Rob

    A simple guys view with no dog in the fight is as follows:

    Looks. Looks good to my eye, and having a way to cover the hook&loop is very nice once you are out of your twenties.

    Pockets. Nice that they can expand a bit. Seems to have had some thought put into them.

    Cool guy buckles. Honestly not sold on them, I’d rather have a more common buckle, with the option to upgrade when ordering.

    Size. It may make sense to size these bags with the more popular SBR’s in mind.

    Price. No, its a bag, that price is crazy…if it came with all the extras, its would still feel a bit overboard, but wouldn’t leave you thinking someone was laughing at you while they filled your order.

    Oh, having some photos of the bag on a person would help.

    • Here ya go

    • KestrelBike

      Those buckles add a lot of the price to the bag (at Least $20) and although they definitely look good, they also contribute a bit to the bag’s appearance of “I’m expensive as all get out and my contents are probably worth even more, please try to steal me”.

  • Bob

    No anti cut cable through the straps?

    • Vitsaus

      Best comment all day.

  • kevinp2

    Having carried IWB for many years, it does start to get old after a while. This kind of bag does seem attractive. But how to secure the firearm in case life happens and you have to leave the immediate vicinity of the bag, e.g. to go to the restroom? Ideas?

    • I do use off body carry from time to time and it’s a good option to have, product aside. I always just have to deal with taking my bag to the restroom anyway, but I see how that might be awkward at parties.

  • Mrninjatoes

    Ja….hmmmmm. Ein Mann Tasche!

  • Thing is most non gun people wouldn’t likely know about the buckles. Really I don’t see how it would scream gun?

    • Bob

      There are a lot of military themed stuff today to confuse the issue. My sister got an olive drab military style messenger bag from a friend that she really likes, and neither of them have ever even fired a gun. Note that the bag is made and advertised as a military styled purse/bag. It is not intended to carry firearms in, but is merely a fashion statement.

  • Doc Rader

    Actually one of the selling points for my wife was the buckles. She liked the way they looked and how securely they latched. And she is faaaar from “tactical”.

  • Mmmtacos

    I definitely dig the bag. +1 (a piece) for Texas, US materials, being utilitarian, not having PALS webbing all over it, a good style and Cobra buckles (such a satisfying click on those). A bit pricier than what I expected, but I don’t mind paying a higher price for something I won’t have to replace in a few years unless by choice.

    I am looking to invest in something like this for EDC, mostly for work and elsewhere. I am always torn between my desire for the efficiency of modern construction and materials and my sentimentalities on the more classic, sophisticated, expensive and equally Texan option of Saddleback Leather’s thin front-pocket briefcase. This is the same internal struggle I face when favoring my VP9 versus the more classic and (in my opinion at least) attractive Beretta 92FS for carry.

    Ultimately, I went with the VP9… but I am staking a lot more on my carry pistol than I am any bag.

    Either way I go, this is so far the only bag I’ve seen that’s made me think twice about my original decision.

  • John

    Hmm.

    Everything else aside, a genuine waterproof laptop bag for $300 isn’t a bad price. Perhaps a tad expensive for me, but I think worth the purchase if you live in a constantly rainy or humid area like Seattle.

    • Devil_Doc

      Hello from Seattle. Waterproof isn’t necessarily the only concern, it’s the mold. And hipsters.

  • Devil_Doc

    Yeah, but with Filson, you’re buying a well known name from a company with a track record of over the top great customer service and warranty coverage. That Filson bag , or in my case Filson half chaps, is truly a lifetime purchase. The price makes sense knowing that it’s the last time you’ll ever buy that particular item. I started this article thinking that i’ve been looking for a really rugged bag for my daily train commute, and it would be nice if it was designed to hold a handgun without looking like mil-surp. The comments from the owner have changed what was a “maybe”, into a firm “no effin way”. YMMV…

  • BrandonAKsALot

    I carry a messenger bag to and from work everyday and mostly for the fact that it helps me remember to bring things home/to work. I end up forgetting anything I don’t put in it. I started keeping small tools and a variety of other stuff in there that’s come in handy. I like the idea of keeping some sort of firearm in it as it’s always close enough to me that I could grab it quickly. This thing looks pretty nice and may be something I suggest to my wife as a nice birthday gift.

  • Siks

    Mr. Black as it seems to be your first day on the internet I would like to welcome you to the world wide web. being a douche in front of potential customers has been a bad Idea here since AOL dial up in the mid 90’s

    I was going to buy one since I like the idea. until I see the company rep being snarky. There are way to many companies selling similar products. Sorry to the people at ITS who know how the internet works and that being cocky and thin skinned in public is a bad Idea. I will take my $300 and any future purchases I might have made elsewhere. Probably won’t matter as I am sure you are reading this during your nightly treasure bath.

    • Edeco

      Yep. If the bag is good, competitive and all, it should be easy to give a civil response. If not, the complainers are right and the rude response even more uncalled-for. Either way I’m getting bad vibes.

  • Anomanom

    USD300 for a messenger bag? It better be a Bag of Holding or have an Undetectable Extension charm on it.

  • SM

    $300 for a messenger bag? Since it is a premium product, I would call $200 a fair price if it came with all the accessories. As is, it’s way to pricey.

  • Mike Lashewitz

    You do realize “tactical and covert” today should look like an old hippies knapsack that nobody would want to steal and also make people on a bus want to sit in other seats… If it looks like it is carrying old dirty underwear and a half eaten sub sandwich where only the homeless would want to steal it, then it would be pretty good to carry weapons or valuables…
    But then I am also the guy that people lock their car doors and hold their children close when I walk past. But everyone who knows me loves me…