Saving for a non-rainy day
I painted some bookshelves over the weekend, and when I cleared the shelves I realized I had become a pack rat. There were books there I haven't looked at or read in years.
A 1994 AAA guide to Arizona. I like Arizona. So do a lot of other people. That's why a few gazillion people have moved there since 1994. And while I doubt that the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest have changed much in the geological snap of the fingers we call 12 years, I'll bet the hotel and restaurants sure have. There are probably even a few new roads. I'm an AAA member. They'll give me a new, up-to-date guide for free. Why am I holding on to this book as if it were some kind of good luck charm?
I pulled down a ratty, paperback copy of "Jaws." There was a strip of fading masking tape holding the spine together. The pages were yellow and brittle, the corners of the pages were hanging on like chads on a Florida ballot. Why am I keeping this? They printed 600 million copies of "Jaws." It's about as rare and valuable as a 2006 penny.
Am I every going to read it again? No. But I liked it and it got me to reading "Moby Dick."
In "Jaws" this crazy captain is searching for a great white shark, and in "Moby Dick" this crazy captain is searching for a great white whale. In "Jaws" the shark destroys the ship and kills almost everybody on board, in "Moby Dick" the whale destroys the ship and leaves one survivor. Why this Melville guy thought he could get away with ripping off Peter Benchley by changing a few words, I'll never know.
Here's a box of cassette tapes. My car stereo only takes CDs. Why am I saving these things? I doubt they are going to get better with age. If we live in a disposable society, why am I not disposing? Is there something wrong with me?
My last cassette player has been in the basement for seven years. I don't even want to think about what's in the basement. It's full of things that aren't worth fixing anymore. Computers, tuners, DVD players. If one breaks, it's cheaper to buy a new one than have the old one repaired.
I've got a box of wires and cables and connectors and adaptors for all the gadgets I've bought over the years. Like all that stuff that comes in the box with your new answering machine that lets you mount it on the wall. I've never seen or heard of anyone ever mounting their answering machine on the wall, but if you wanted to, here's the stuff to do it.
At first, I was very good about labeling all the wires and power cables with those boxy transformers on the end. I'd write the name of the gadget on a label and attach it to the cord. All the ink has faded. I don't know what goes with what. Will I ever throw them out? No.
But just when I thought I was bad, I heard about somebody that was worse. My friend Gene bought a new house, a fixer-upper that he was going to repair all by himself. I went to see him the other day and there was a trash dumpster on his front lawn, full to the brim.
"Wow, a whole dumpster. Who could believe there was so much junk in one little house?" I said.
Gene glared at me.
"This is the seventh dumpster," he said. "These people never threw anything away. Do you know what I found in there? Piles of old newspapers and paperbacks that haven't been touched in years. Wires for things that don't even exist anymore, magazines that time forgot. I had to walk through little tunnels of old newspapers in every room. One room was full of old, broken radios and stereos. What kind of person would live like that?"
There was only one thing I could say.
"It's a desperate cry for help, they must be deeply disturbed."
* Jim Mullen writes a weekly humor column for the Pilot-Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org