Friday, March 09, 2007

Little Boxes Made of Ticky Tacky

Damn that brown box. Damn it to Hades.

I am going on a service trip to El Salvador tomorrow for the next week. I am super super excited about this opportunity (who wouldn't be, right?); in addition to helping build a health clinic in one village and a senior center in another, the group I am going with is bringing loads of stuff to donate to the people, which is amazingly cool!

I come from a large family of pack rats (let's just say that my CMDD is nothing compared to my father's), but we recognize it about ourselves. Though all of us have bursting wardrobes, I think there is a general effort to keep it at bay through regular runs to Goodwill or Salvation Army. This means that at any given time, there are several boxes and bags full of second-hand clothing in the upstairs hallway.

Yesterday, I had the idea to go through the assorted boxes and bags and try to find summer clothing to bring with me to El Salvador. All was going well until I got to the last box. It was a simple, run-of-the-mill brown box, medium size. All I wanted to do was open, extricate the appropriate clothing, and go on my merry way.

And the box would not stay open.

Every time I lofted one of those blasted flaps, it would stubbornly return to the closed position, often with a cheeky scratch on my arm.

Every. damn. time.

I tried to maintain my typically demure demeanor, but this was a particularly ornery box. It wasn't long until I was kicking and punching it and screaming obscenities at it, the tendons in my neck almost to the breaking point with the strain.

I hated that box.

Finally, I viciously wrestled the clothing from its interior and stormed into my room and slammed the door. Yes. I slammed the door at a brown cardboard box.

Today, the box was still in the hall. It is located right outside my door, and every time I passed it, I glared at it. I leered. I grumbled angrily in its direction. I held a grudge against a box.

Just a few moments ago, my mom asked me to empty the box into a green garbage bag so that the box could be used to pack old dishes (another attempt to combat our communal pack rat tendencies). Nothing gave me more pleasure than to roughly grab the box and shake it upside-down, robbing it of its only dignity, the ability to contain things.

And I laughed cruelly.

It was at this moment that I realized two things.

First of all, it is just a box.

Second of all, no box deserves this kind of emotional exertion.

I was reminded of one of the many books I like to pretend I have read, C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. As I recall from hearing other people talk who had actually read the book, Screwtape, the nephew of Satan, is a devil in training. He is advised not to target people to become evil, but to target the people around them to become annoying, and the person will become evil on their own.

What if Screwtape was targeting the box in order to turn me evil? Am I that easy a target? Gosh, he doesn't even have to use animate objects to get to me! I just about lost it over a box!

That's a humbling experience.

I hope they don't have corrugated cardboard in Central America.

Monday, March 05, 2007

It Was Like Touching The Shroud of Turin

I think I have Chronic Messy-Desk Disorder (CMDD).

I have been dealing with this tribulation for sometime. There was a time when I only had one desk to worry about, so it felt contained. Now, I have two rather large desks (well, the in my bedroom is rather large, the one in my office is a monstrosity), and the disorder has caught me in a vice-like grip. It's a trial, but I am going to carry on the good fight and try to live with it. We all have our crosses to bear, right?

My Ecuadorian room mate is, naturally, as neat as a pin. (I am not saying that as a generalization of all Ecuadorians, but more as an ironic foil to my own person).

She never says anything about the epic mountain of papers and knick knacks that are rumored to house a desk sitting right there in the room.
She never demands that I clean up my crap before she goes berserk with the chaos of it all.

She never points out that all of the mess is mine and not hers-- well, actually, she does do that. She points that out on a daily basis, but she never makes me feel bad about it.

The point is that she is out of town this weekend, and I thought that to be nice, I would clean off my desk as a surprise for her return. And you would not believe the treasures that I have recovered in the process!

I found three sticks of half-used deodorant. Three. That means that I lost and replaced two different sticks of deodorant. And they were both on my desk, where I spend at least 8 hours a day.

I found a box that housed at least 75 tootsie roll wrappers with the white edges neatly trimmed off. I dimly recall doing this, mindlessly wielding scissors (which I also found!) while watching every episode of Heroes and The Office that I could find online. But if I had a reason for it, it has long been forgotten.

I found 5 pairs of sunglasses. Ok, technically my everyday-pair were never missing; they always have a spot of reverence on top of any heap that develops on the desk. This girl never makes a move without her sunglasses. The other 4 offer a lot of variety in ocular protection:

Exhibit A: plain black, but they only cost a dollar!

Exhibit B: metallic blue with a kind of wanna-be-Oakley feel about them. The rubber on the arms and nose bit is a little bit of overkill, but I'm pretty sure they were free. Or dirt cheap.

Exhibit C: sparkling burgundy felt with red lenses. The frames extend up past the eyes for a wonderful feathered-wing effect. I wore them all day long on Mardi Gras.

Exhibit D: bright orange frames, approx. 1 foot across the front. But what really makes them eye-catching (HA! no pun intended! that's fantastic! eye-catching!!!) are the diminutive yellow stars at the corners of the lenses.

I found a brochure from the "John Adams Unbound" display at the Boston Public Library. That was an amazing experience. I actually saw his handwritten notes in the margins of the books that made up his impressive personal library. I would be lying if I said that I didn't shed a tear at the wonder of it. Actually, I would be lying if I said that I didn't spend the entire hour and a half at the exhibit trying (with limited success) to choke back tears. I love John Adams.

I found the Bhagavad-Gita. Not the original, of course (that would have been weird, huh?), but a good translation. I think that more people should find that one. It's pretty powerful, even today, 2000 years after it was composed.

So, maybe I should try with more vigor to combat my CMDD. If nothing else, it supplies me with good blog fodder, right?