It's cleanup week in my town. A truck will soon come to haul my junk away.|
And I've got a lot of junk. This is because I always prepare for cleanup week the Midwestern way: I go through everything.
To"go through" things is, essentially, to look at them while enjoying fond memories of where they came from, when you got them and whom you screwed in a trade to get your hands on them. When you're done going through things, you feel like you've accomplished a mighty task.
But you haven't. "Going through" the hall closet isn't "cleaning" the hall closet or "throwing out the crap" in the hall closet. "Going through" things is spending an hour at the kitchen table examining letters from your old boyfriends, Vlasic Pickle jars full of drill bits, shoeboxes jammed with faded black and white photographs with question marks written on the back with a fountain pen because even 50 years ago, nobody still alive knew the names of the woman with the beehive hairdo holding a cake that says "Happy Anniversary Essie and Dwight" and the bald man sporting an eight-inch-wide necktie featuring a repetitive pattern of smiling catfish and terrified worms.
When your hour of going through things has elapsed, you want recognition for your hard work. You say to the person you live with:
You: You know that refrigerator carton full of old Christmas lights out in the garage?
Person: Oh, how well I do.
You: I got tired of them cluttering up the place, so I decided to go through them.
By the way, the person you live with is not an idiot. He or she knows that "deciding" to do something is not the same as actually "doing" something. For example, compare "hitting a home run" with "deciding to hit a home run." One gets you carried around the infield of Busch Stadium on the shoulders of champions; the other won't get you a Snickers bar at an exhibition game between the St. Boniface Tigers and the Dave's Auto Parts Dodgers.
Beware telling the person you live with that you have "decided" to do something. It raises suspicions.
Person: Really? You finally decided to go through the Christmas lights?
You: (with a smile that would stretch from Lake Michigan to Omaha, Neb.) Yes, I did.
Person: We've known each other a number of years now, so I have to ask: Was this "decision" only mental, or did you physically go through the lights?
You: (with a smaller smile, one that would barely span the Mississippi River.) I went through the lights.
Get ready to jump -- your horse is about to be shot out from underneath you.
You: And what?
Person: And what did you accomplish?
You: (with a smile that wouldn't reach the driveway) Well, I went through the lights.
Person: Tell me: What's different now that you've finished this major project? Is there more space in the garage? Is there a box of broken lights sitting out by the road?
You: (with a smile the size of the nail file on a Swiss Army knife): I went through the lights.
"Deciding" to do things and "going through" things are like riding an exercise bicycle: you wear yourself out going nowhere. I could expound much more on this, but I can hear the truck coming and I have to hurry. I have a bunch of old cassette tapes to throw out, but I have to go through them first.
Frank Mullen III of Aledo is a former Navy band leader.
Moline, IL Details
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