Here’s one of my least popular columns from 2002. Lucky you!
Does it seem strange to you that the things you just can’t live without, frequently become things it’s hardest to live with? Let’s avoid talking about people, pets, and foods that give heartburn and consider things in the home. In every corner, closet and drawer of your average abode (not to imply that you’re average) there are gadgets, doodads, memorabilia, and whatnots. Of course there are other less descriptive names for them, junk, stuff, clutter, yard sale fodder. Personally, I like to call them figs.
You have a fruit bowl with oranges, apples, pears, bananas, grapes and figs. Days later, the grapes, pears, oranges, apples and bananas are gone and you have left a large bowl only partially filled with…. Yes, you guessed right, Aunt Hortence was right when she told us you were the bright one in the family.
Now, when does a fig go bad? These things were made for transporting across large deserts on the back of a camel;
do you really think they’re challenged by the air-conditioned comfort that is your over-large fruit bowl? You could put the figs in a smaller bowl and store them in the crisper of your refrigerator until a troupe of hungry Bedouin traders comes to visit. Of course, by storing these figs in the fridge, you’re making a statement. You’re saying that you actually want these figs and are taking steps in the care of them. You are, in a very real sense, making a commitment to the figs. Is that something you want to do? So you leave these figs in the overlarge bowl until someone either eats them or it becomes obvious that they have gone bad enough to justify throwing them out.”
There is now a ‘black hole’ in your living space. This space may never again be available to you because it is now the rightful habitation of an overlarge fruit bowl with 9 or 10 figs in the bottom.
So a fig, is really anything that clutters the home.
An insidious fig is the gadget fig. It looked so good on TV! Imagine if you ever need to poach an egg, while applying wallpaper and rolling pennies, you have the one gadget that can do it all at once! The hidden purpose of these figs is to fill the kitchen and workshop cupboards and workspaces until nothing can be fixed or repaired. I’m waiting for disclosure that “As seen on TV” is actually a cabal of home contractors and delivery restaurants.
The nagging fig is the whatnot that might be useful someday. The box and packing your computer, stereo, air conditioner and K-Tel poach, hang and roll came in. Then there are those three extra screws that came with your build-it-yourself entertainment center and the fifty-seven loose attachments that came with your flo-bee that you never use.
The ultimate figs fit in the memorabilia category. That bowling trophy you worked so hard to earn and were so proud to get and thrilled to display… for a day or two. Slowly, you realize how hideous it truly is. You put it in a spare bedroom or an office thinking that you’ll enjoy looking at it there.
Every time you see1 it, you realize that you can never have a guest stay over in your home because they’ll see how your bowling trophy makes your spare bedroom junky. Perhaps you put it in a box with many other figs (baby shoes, yearbooks, old letters) and place the box in your attic or garage. Of course, this virtually guarantees that you will never be able to move no matter how much you come to hate your house, job or neighborhood. You are entirely and completely figundated.
Finally, there’s the stealth fig, the most evil and useless of all figs. The stealth fig has no value, use or purpose. It mixes in with nagging, insidious, and ultimate figs and steals your storage space by mastering the art of camouflage. Stealth figs are broken gadgets, packing slips and indefinable oddments (What is that thing? I don’t know, better save it, we might need it someday) that secretly have developed into sentient creatures. They practice a mind control that only Martha Stewart, Jack LaLane, and Leona Helmsey can resist. You never actually hear them speak but you always hear the message.
“Don’t throw out those ticket stubs to ‘Any Which Way You Can!’ Yes the movie lacked that certain ‘je ne sais qua’ but it was your first date with ___ ___ ___ and if you see her again at some class reunion, she might ask you if you have them.”
What’s that you say? You don’t hear those voices? No, of course not, I don’t hear them either! Here, let me clear a space so you can sit down.
Quick! a video! Something funny, stat!