thing is that you just never know what you are going to need or
when you will need it. Thatís the problem. Suppose you are fixing
the car. You find that all you need is six inches of wire. You donít
have it and so you will have to go and buy some. Except that your
car is not running. Because it needs some wire. Which you donít
If, however, you are a packrat you will have the wire. You will
have little bits of wire of many different lengths and many different
gauges. You will also have string and nuts and bolts and mason jars
and bread ties and coffee cans and clock radios whose electronics
have been removed and the cardboard tubes from 19 years worth of
Christmas wrapping paper because they really look like they would
be good for something.
started with the car and garage scenario in a desperate attempt
to sound superior, to make it sound like a masculine malady. But
there are just as many female packrats as male, and I guess I am
one of them. I have thought about this subject a lot, every time
I walk into our garage as a matter of fact, and have decided that
there are two kinds of packrats: optimists and pessimists.
My husband is an optimistic packrat. He is not a packrat because
he cannot bear to throw anything away. No. He is a packrat because
he is able to look at some little bit or piece of something which
is apparent trash and see potential. He knows that things break
and he knows that he can fix them. He knows that to do this he will
often need just a little bit or piece of something. He also believes
in the future and thinks that someday we might go camping again
or want to build a kite or that he will finally and at last have
time to compose a wonderful tune on the Moog synthesizer he has
been toting about since 1972.
I am the pessimistic
variety of packrat. I know that things will be ticking along just
fine in life and then something will happen. You just never know
what it will be or when it will come or what you will need when
it does happen. I have a drawer in the linen cabinet which is brim
full of things that might come in handy. There are ponytail holders
even though I have not had hair long enough to use them for a decade.
You never know. You might need a ponytail holder for a little tiny
tourniquet or something. There are about 35 bottles and tubes which
each contain a teaspoon or two of some type of cream or lotion or
sun screen. Because you just never know.
It gets more embarrassing. I have two underwear drawers. I have
a drawer full of underwear which I would not be ashamed to be seen
in if I ended up in an emergency room or was at the bank and a robber
made us all strip down to our skivvies. Because you never know when
something like that might happen. And then I have a drawer full
of underwear which I would certainly not like to be seen in, but
which actually still have some wear in them if you are not too particular.
My mother used to use old underwear for dust rags. Not me. I keep
it safe and sound in itís very own drawer. I donít know why. I mean,
you might keep that old, worn and stained pair of jeans to wear
when painting or refinishing furniture, but in my entire life I
have never done any job which involved such a mess that it ruined
my underpants. But someday I might. You just never know.
I canít explain this compulsion of mine to hang on to the rag tag
ends of used up and worn out things. But I do know that if some
catastrophe strikes the lotion manufacturers of the world and puts
them all out of business, I wonít look so kooky then, hmmm? Or if
there is a big disaster and someone hollers at me to get a handful
of clean soft rags, Iíll be glad then, wonít I? And even though
I am mostly the pessimistic variety of packrat, I canít help thinking
that the day might come when my doorbell will ring and I will open
the door to find Monty Hall there offering me ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS
for every pair of raggedy old underpants I own. Hope he brings his
© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's
Theory of Everything"
March 6, 2008 Column
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