June 13, 2012 Leave a comment
We are all collectors, whether we admit to it or not. Men usually collect tools, fishing gear, old shoes and bent nails, because you never know when you’ll need one. Women typically collect cosmetics, kitchen utensils, safety pins and scraps of soap. Kids are famous for amassing toys, bugs, bottle caps and uneaten portions of dinners past (usually hidden underneath cushions and behind heavy furniture). Even our pets accumulate stuff, like bones, hairballs and valuables we humans leave within their grasp. This reminds me of a friend who collected dog poop in his back yard. Every time he’d invite us over for a barbeque I felt like I was in a Vietnamese mine field, and I wasn’t even in that war.
Actually, we oftentimes use the word ‘collector’ when we really mean ‘hoarder’. There’s a show on cable that documents the worst of us, and even supplies a psychoanalyst to help throw stuff away. Serious hoarders are nothing to laugh at, even though there’s a part of us that want to. There are some who are compulsive buyers and then can’t get up the nerve to return the things they didn’t need to begin with. Usually, though, the professional hoarder is just a sophisticated pack rat, using the same logic guys have for collecting bent nails. If society regresses into anarchy, these people will rule the roost.
There are the garden variety collectors, who save things like state quarters, Happy Meal toys and trading cards. This is not unlike playing the stock market. Joe Shmo may have an autographed baseball card from some unknown backup outfielder, but if that player’s team wins the World Series, and the unknown backup outfielder happened to catch the game winning fly ball, that card may be worth something. Chances are, the outfielder will become famous, which will go to his head, and he’ll end up blowing all his money on bling and end up in jail for trying to get his autographed cards back. Then the card’s value will soar. Such is the irony of life.
You’ve heard the old saying “You are what you eat”. The same holds true regarding what we collect. If you collect stuffed animals, you’re fluffy, cuddly and stuffed. If you collect stamps, you tend to be small and raggedy around the edges, avoid lines whenever possible, and secretly wish you were an upside down Wright brother’s plane. If you’re a comic book collector, you’re colorful, graphic and have balloons coming out your mouth when you talk. Look around you and you’ll see it’s true.
Of course, I don’t want to know the personality of some collectors. Consider Steve Silberberg from Hull, Massachusetts, who has over 1,600 air sickness bags and is, ironically, single. Makes me wonder how he is as a cook. “Ok, here’s your dinner and, just in case . . .” Then there’s Steve Salcedo from Indiana who collects street signs and traffic lights. Next time I get pulled over for speeding, I blame him for taking the sign. How about Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum in Alamo Heights, Texas? Chances are he’s got a potty mouth. He even has one with the Egyptian Pyramids on it. Now that’s a toilet seat only a mummy could love.
You remember earlier when I said women collect soap scraps? Carol Vaughn from Birmingham, England has amassed over 5,000 bars of soap. Whatever you do, don’t cuss around her unless you like the taste of soap. A Mr. Graham Barker from Australia holds the Guiness Book of World Record’s largest collection of navel fluff, and as weird as this sounds, I’m jealous. My father used to keep his in a naval jelly jar tucked away in his sock drawer and tried to get the rest of us to add to it, much to my mother’s protests. How I wish I had that jar now. Probably the most unusual collection belongs to Deb Conant from Massachusetts (must be in the water up there) who is curator and primary contributor of the one and only Burnt Food Museum. She even tours the country exhibiting this assortment of crispy desserts and overcooked dinners. She became hooked when, in 1980, she forgot a pan of hot apple cider on the stove and found it was able to stand on its own. My wife says I could burn water, so perhaps I should contact this lady and see if she needs some to add to her exhibits.
Me? I collect words. If we are what we collect, that means I’m informative, entertaining and best of all, free. What are you?