Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Day one hundred and fifty one ... Thinking inside the box.

I got a new laptop last week.

It's a fantastic machine: small, powerful, and elegant. 

And as with most products we buy today, it came with some pretty fancy packaging.

I, of course, have saved almost every scrap of it, just in case. Because, if something goes wrong with my new baby, I might very well have to return it and I'm going to need that packaging, right?

I wonder how long I'll keep the stuff around. Knowing me, probably for a long, long, time.

It's an interesting habit. I have plenty of boxes from various other pieces of electronic and/or musical gear collecting dust in my closet. Some of them I have filled with papers or miscellaneous gewgaws. Some still have the Styrofoam that held the precious cargo safe on its journey from the factory to the shelves to my grubby mitts. 

I don't really know what I'm saving them for. I don't plan on moving anytime soon, and I'm sure most of the products that came in said boxes are well past warranty, but I hold onto them anyway, just in case. 

There is a proper life-cycle with my boxes. They usually stay upstairs for a year or two. Then, when too many of them build up, I move a few to the basement. There they'll sit and slowly, gradually develop a musty odor. Over time, their resilience will dissipate and they become fragile. If I let them stay long enough they will weaken at the corners, essentially losing their purpose. Then I have to start all over again with a fresh one from upstairs.

It is a slow, monotonous, cycle.

After I stopped drinking, it took me a long time to get rid of the empty cans in my closet.

It wasn't  just because I was without a car. It wasn't just because I was holding on to them for the day I knew would come when I needed the extra couple of dollars. It was because I knew that when they left--if I was successful in my attempt to get sober--I would never see them in my house again. 

They represented so much of what my life had become. From the cookouts at friend's places, to rehearsal with my band, to a baseball game, to reading the newspaper, I always had a bottle of something in my hand. Much like when I smoked, it gave me something to do with my fingers--a way to feel less awkward. I'm sure that falling down drunk on the ground at public events was a much better tack. 

But, it still amazed me how long I kept those damn empties in my closet. "I'm not through yet" I could hear my subconscious mind say. "It's not over until I say it's over" was another lingering desperate thought. And since I hadn't put much space between myself and my vices, it seemed plausible. I had less to lose. 

Those empties were a badge of dishonor, worn with pride.

I can only see this now, but I always had a feeling the big clean-up was an eventuality.

Similarly, I know that someday the time will come to throw away those old boxes, especially the ones with the custom-formed Styrofoam, made to fit one particular item. I have always valued those above the plain, empty ones. I felt that if I find out a specialty box's item is broken, I may still have time to send it back to get fixed but I'll have to prepare it as it came. I just can't predict when, or if it will indeed break, so for now, I'll keep in over here.

It's interesting to me to see how some people harbor these vestiges of insanity in their perimeter, as if to say, "I might need this somewhere down the road. It's not taking up too much space. Why not keep it?" And the paraphernalia sits silently behind a closet door, or in the basement along with the old boxes proclaiming on the outside what used to be contained on the inside. We so rarely let on what motives drive us to our destinations. Much like the gas that propels cream from a canister, it could kill you if it came at you too quickly. But, in the right proportion, it will make that strawberry shortcake to die for. 

The way I see it, the warranty on one's sanity is only valid if we keep up with the recommended maintenance. This, of course, differs from person to person. But, if we abandon the idea that we have to fit into the packaging that we came in, we give ourselves more options. If we forgo the idea of a form-fitting protective casing, and instead leave ourselves open to the idea of using a roomier box, stuffed with an alternative like packing peanuts, then we increase our odds of success. We cannot accurately predict the day in which we will break, or if we even will. But when, and if that day comes, the service centers ultimately need only the object that is broken, not the protective shell that is intact. 

For a price, almost anything can be repaired.

Our contents are changing shape on a daily basis. Some shrink, others expand, others still shift in almost imperceptible increments; like a friend on a successful diet who we see on a daily basis. The change is minute and we may not notice it until someone else points it out. It is then that we can't believe we hadn't said something. It is the spirit and energy we recognize, the shell merely allows form and function to exist.

So now, as I write, the box my new laptop came in is staring at me from the corner of the room. It's almost as if it's saying, "I know what you're writing. That laptop used to be inside me and it was perfectly happy. I'm too pretty to throw away and you might need me for something else."

Hmm ... maybe I'll give tech support a ring. See if they ever had problems with talking boxes. It is from California ... I suppose anything's possible.

Thanks for reading.


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