Thursday, July 22, 2004

Hard to discard

  Remember the scene in When Harry Met Sally when Harry and Sally bumped into Harry’s ex around the Karaoke machine while shopping at The Sharper Image? 
     Sally: I don’t know, I’ve never seen her before. 
     Harry: Trust me, she looked weird. Her legs looked heavy. Really, she must be retaining   water.
     Sally: Harry…
     Harry: Believe me. The woman saved everything.
     I get it.
     I can’t throw things away either.
     I mean, of course I can throw away garbage and recycling stuff and everything, and if I should ever come into possession of vials of either commemorative water collected from Princess Diana’s fountain in London (put up for sale on ebay) or even Christina Aguilera’s dirty bath water (ditto ebay) I feel fairly certain I could part with them. 
     I wouldn’t keep a petrified penis even if it did come from Rasputin, or Napoleon or John Dillinger… though there are those who would – and did. And do. Eww...
     But a nice clean piece of cardboard? That’s a little harder.
      Faithful readers may recall me describing how the seeds for the end of a committed relationship were once bitterly sown during an argument about a piece of cardboard (a nice clean piece of cardboard!) which I wanted to keep for some deeply important eventual use, and the b.f. shortsightedly wanted to consign to the recycling bin. There was more of course, but I think that at that moment each of us sized up the other in some profound kind of way that forever precluded, well, ‘forever’.
     Cardboard? Present and accounted for. Boyfriend? Not so much. (Possibly time to consign ‘not so much’ to the linguistic recycling bin, but until the freshness totally fades, I’m keeping it.)
     But it’s weird – I know it; so I’m always comforted when I discover I’m not alone in my strange little pack-ratty behaviour. 
     Did you hear about the little old man who got lost on holiday in Germany because he was using a 90 year old guidebook for reference? True story. 
     The 79 year old American tourist had kept the book – purchased by his father back in the day – practicing the German phrases and imagining all the lovely attractions he’d see when he finally visited ‘Beautiful Bayreuth’.  Sadly, all he got was lost.  The locals were disappointed for him – though pleased they’d manage to rescue him from the isolated cart track he’d gotten himself lost and his car stuck in for two whole days - but said they hoped he’d still enjoy a tour round their altered town. It may have changed completely since 1914 (a coupla wars and all don’t you know) but in their opinion it was still very nice.
     I’d laugh, but I currently have in my possession a couple of ancient Fodor’s and two Frommer’s (‘Ireland on $25’ a Day and ‘The 1985 Guide to London’) as well as the 1972 edition of the British Automobile Association map and guidebook, all of which I’m loathe to throw out.  Though I know London has changed a little (!) in the past 20 to 30 years, I figure SOME of it must still be accurate… perhaps I could save a few bucks and just pencil in the changes myself. As for ‘Ireland on $25 a Day’, I have to admit that ship may have sailed.
     I am my father’s daughter.
     The man who would not throw out a box of crackers if even one stale Wheat Thin remained. When he died I found half a bag of Oreos and a packet of Cream Crackers moldering away with best before dates stamped well over a year before his death.
     The man who saved the little twist ties he didn’t use that were included in the package of GLAD garbage bags. Terrified he might one day be caught short, he had a drawer in the kitchen full to bursting with little green wire twists; what he didn’t have were the garbage bags we needed to throw them away.
     The man who wouldn’t use his turn signal. “There are only so many clicks,” he’d say. “There are a finite number - you can't argue with that. The problem is we don't know what that number is, so I'm not taking any chances.” It turned out he was right: I couldn’t argue with him. He was adamant - and his turns remained clickless until he stopped turning altogether.      
     (No word on whether he’s spinning in his grave at the thought of me mentioning all this now; not that it was a secret, as at least half a dozen bent fenders bore mute, though crumpled testimony.)
     But let me repeat what I’ve written before: I am not some nut living in a home stacked to the ceiling with ancient newspapers, dodging down the narrow corridors created by my collection of creepy detritus – old headless babydolls and empty tin cans and broken three-legged chairs piled cheek by jowl next to boxes filled with mismatched shoes, yellowing love letters and rusting cookie cutters.     
     But when I find myself identifying with an ancient befuddled European tourist without the sense God gave a goose, it gives me pause.
     It’s one thing to collect cardboard – but to bounce a boyfriend over it smacks of values gone astray and priorities misplaced. 
     But like any habit – it’s really hard to discard.

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