I sat riveted in that lecture hall listening to nationally known hoarding expert Randy Frost, fascinated to learn about the saving and acquiring patterns of the 6 to 15% percent of Americans exhibiting these behaviors.
Fascinated up to a point, that is, because when he said that one of the marks of certain hoarders was the number of unusable appliances they owned all I could think was:
Is my mate a hoarder? It’s true that he still insists on keeping not one but two broken CD players on the closet shelf. (Against what? The day when CDs make a comeback and there’s a CD-player repair shop on every corner?)
And what about me? It’s also true that I still have every note I passed in 12th grade English class, with Ilona Wisniewski’s clever remarks sandwiched in between mine. Also: recipes on brittle brown index cards from an early 80s cooking group and a set of Harvest Gold sheets from the Laugh-In era.
And that’s before we even get to the appliances.
OK sure, some of them are borderline usable but isn’t that even a little normal? I think back to the double-doored refrigerator of my childhood, one of whose doors stopped shutting properly years before we got a new one. We just threaded a wooden fungo bat behind both handles and presto! the bad door followed the example of the good one and shut nicely too.
Anyway, our appliances DO work – as long as you tweak them a little.
Like the toilet in the downstairs bathroom which will cause the water to rush like Niagara Falls itself and for hours on end – unless you remember to jiggle the handle some 60 seconds in. Like the one on the third floor whose flusher you have to hold down for the count of 20 if you expect it to work at all. or take the clothes drier – please! – which will only dry if you set its indicator to one very specific place on the dial. (There’s no choosing between ‘Delicate’ and ‘Sturdy’ in this house. You want dry laundry, you set the indicator on ‘Sahara’ and come back in an hour and a half.)
But these appliances keep us on our toes, along with the various other gizmos we own:
I think of the left front burner on the stove that won’t turn on at all unless you first light the left rear burner and blow hard on the one in front. I think of the toaster which, if you fail to dial it back to ‘Barely Warm’, will get a death grip on your bread and keep it for four solid minutes before spitting out a virtual roof-shingle that’s as black as tar and twice as hard.
Once upon a time your TV set lived at least partly in the physical world, in that when the picture started to flip you could just get up and give it a good smack. Now if your TV goes rogue you get a message from some communications pod in another galaxy and you have to call up and talk to a robot.
They say the day fast approaches when our machines will be smarter than we are. Soon we ‘masters’ will be the ones bleeping and jamming and praying that they show us some mercy.
Maybe the sensing of that day’s approach is what lies behind this need to cling to the familiar.
Anyway it’s such a dear doomed impulse, all this saving and keeping we humans do; how can we not smile at it? Smile and THEN go get ourselves new toasters!