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Waste Not Want Not

I’m not good at throwing things away.

I once kept half a ham sandwich so long that when I finally opened the Tupperware container the entire sandwich made a hissing sound, bounced around for a few seconds like a Mexican jumping bean, and then self-disintegrated into a bunch of flakes that resembled a small, oddly-smelling snowstorm. A few seconds later the Tupperware container let out all its air and imploded into a plastic blob that looked kind of like Harry Truman, which I kept.

My office has every piece of scratch paper I’ve ever scratched on and every offer I’ve ever received. You never know when you might want to take advantage of a Popeil Pocket Fisherman with two free bass lures or ten percent off a prepaid cremation package. The other day I moved a stack of Look magazines and found a dry cleaning ticket for two disco shirts and a madras vest. I was really excited until I found out the dry cleaning establishment is now a parking structure.

I have tried to change. At one point after reading a frightening report on identity theft I ran to Office Depot and bought a paper shredder. When I got it home I immediately shredded a yellowed piece of paper on my desk, then spent the next three hours taping the thing back together to see what it had been. Turned out to be a note that said: “Buy paper shredder.”

Even my car, which was made in a previous century, has a glove compartment that contains every registration and insurance card update I received since I purchased it, oil change receipts and tire warrantees dating back to when they were filled out by hand with a pencil, and a pair of severely scratched “backup” sunglasses held together with red duct tape.

I have clothes in my closet that have gone from popular to outdated and back to popular again. My closet also contains several film cameras with half-finished rolls of film in them and a typewriter that has a sticker on it that says: “New! Electric model!”

So, when my computer started acting up because the hard drive was completely full of everything I have ever written, every graphic file I ever created, and every funny video email that anyone has ever sent me, I had to choose between throwing files in the trash or buying a new computer. After reading the printed instruction manual I randomly selected one file from one folder and dragged it to the trash. The second it disappeared I panicked, dragged it back out of the trash, and opened it to see what it was. It was a reminder: “Bring paper shredder back to Office Depot.”

Obviously, I couldn’t throw away enough stuff to make my current computer work so the only answer was to buy a new computer. But computers have changed. Did you know they don’t even use floppy disks anymore? I have an entire shelf of them, mostly unlabeled, so I can’t even tell what’s on them. But bellbottoms and tie-dye t-shirts are coming back -- maybe the floppy disk will too.

I went into the kitchen, pulled the wall phone out of its cradle, waited for the dial tone and dialed the number on an advertisement I found in my office. A robotic voice answered.

“Welcome to Macs-Are-King.”

“Hi, my name is Ernie and…”

“Please state your name.”

“Oh sorry, it’s Ernie and I’m calling about a new computer…”

“Please state what it is you would like to purchase.”

“Well I’m not exactly sure, do you have anything with a floppy disk drive…”

“Would you like to hear about our specials?”

“Yeah, sure that would be…”

“For a limited time only we have the 27-inch iMac with a 3.2 gigahertz i3 processor that comes with 4 gigabytes of RAM a one terra byte SuperDrive, Bluetooth 2.1 with 802.11n compatibility, a gigabit Ethernet and a wireless keyboard & mouse for only fourteen hundred dollars”

“Fourteen hundred dollars!”

“We are also offering ram upgrades, trackpads and specials on all the new software you will need. Which credit card would you like to use?”

At that point I hung up, put a Motown record on the turntable, took a deep breath and started dragging files to trash -- with my eyes closed, of course.

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When I worked for the phone

When I worked for the phone company about 15 years ago, we were officially a paperless office. Our central operations center was supposed to be a showcase of the modern paradigm of the uncluttered desktop. About once a year, we could expect a visit from the big brass. Whenever that happened, our boss would have uas all frantically clear all our desks, and carry every scrap of paper into the back room where nobody went. We'd all smile like happy robots when the brass showed up. When the coast was clear, we'd haul all our stuff out of the back room and anoint our deskcops with the proper paper clutter.

Eric