Jan 27 2006
What is it about the human species that we feel the need to collect garbage?
I was thinking about this while running the other night. I had passed a house with the garage door open and what looked like a vast mountain range of cardboard boxes that rivaled the Rockies. While it was pretty dark, I could clearly see that this concentration of “stuff” was causing a sink hole to develop beneath it.
“What could they possibly be keeping in there?” I wondered. “They’ll never use all that crap again?”
But I the hypocrite. Here I was criticizing these people for a garage that looked like a mega-container ship, and just a week before I spent an entire day weeding out a closet in my house and the shed, all to keep the Health Department from condemning them both. I filled seven large garbage cans, kicked up an African-sized dust storm and effectively stopped the sink hole that had begun forming in MY yard. What were these things that I had once deemed so worthy of saving? Used file folders in the closet. Old wobbly crutches that looked more likely to cause an injury than help heal one. Course notes from college. I couldn’t read my handwriting in school. Why did I think I’d be able to in the future?
I had broken cameras wrapped neatly in plastic bags, as if I expected one day science would allow me to bring them back to life. This reminded me of an article I read in the Wall Street Journal about cryonics, which is when people have themselves frozen after death so that in the future, when medicine is far more advanced, they can be brought back to life.
Some are even setting up million-dollar trust funds, which I think is crazy considering their millions won’t by them a Slurpee in the future, and they’ll have to bum a ride straight to the homeless shelter.
I thought about this, saw the irony and then pitched my broken cameras, along with the broken phone, the broken frame and the two tons of other broken stuff stashed in there.
My shed was no better. In there was all manner of junk I would never use again.
A sampling of what I found when I started digging in and weeding out:
• Nubs of wood with rusty nails sticking out — none a size that was usable. What was I saving them for? Did I plan to one day build a miniature house? Or stake vampires?
• Numerous lengths of electrical wiring, although not a one longer than three feet. What was I gonna’ do, link them all together with pigtails and re-wire my house?
• Enough lawn fertilizer to take care of a golf course.
• Electrical outlets that looked like they had survived from the Spanish period. • Bird houses that only a drunk bird would consider going in.
• An old broom without any straw. No straw? That, by definition, is no longer a broom. That’s a stick! Throw it out.
• A bag of solidified concrete. That’s handy.
• Tons of electrical boxes, and every single one missing the same critical screw. How did I lose the same screw on all those electrical boxes?
We humans are little more than pack rats, accumulators of things we can’t let go of. The less the value, the more we covet it. Forget that we will never be able to use it again. We box it, wrap it, stuff it in a corner of a closet or shed and envision ourselves one day putting it to good use. Think of all the uses for a straw-less broom!
One day brave scientists will bring it all back to life. They will re-animate the crap in my shed! Won’t it be wonderful?
Well, not me. Not anymore. I’m breaking with the pack. It’s all gone now, and my closet and shed have never looked better, never cleaner, never more empty, and just waiting for me stuff a new load of who-knows-what in there so the ground below it can start sagging again.