Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
CLUTTER IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
Many people hate clutter. A disorganized room drives them nuts. But there’s another side to the story. One person’s clutter can be another person’s comfort.
Take my home, for instance. I love it when stacks of newspapers, magazines, and books are piled all around the room. Sure it can be a bit hazardous—a magazine on top of carpeting is as slippery as a banana peel—but it relaxes me to know all kinds of exciting reading materials are within arm’s reach no matter where I sit down. (Or no matter where I fall down after slipping on a magazine. “Wow, here’s the front page story of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon! I’ll read this while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.”)
However, another member of the household, who shall remain nameless (I’ve received a lot of static for discussing details about my family in this column, so I’ll henceforth refrain from identifying certain individuals), constantly says to me, “You’re such a slob! I don’t know why I married you!”
This unidentified person can’t stand clutter. For example, the moment each family member has had an opportunity to scan the morning newspaper, this person gathers up each section, folds them neatly, and packs the whole thing away in a bag to be set out for the recycling truck. Sometimes this occurs by 8:15 a.m.
Occasionally I’ll get up from the table and walk across the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee, and when I return, no more than 30 seconds later, the Sports section has simply vanished. “Where’s the Sports page?” I’ll say. “It was right here a moment ago.”
“Oh, the Sports page?” this other person will reply. “Well, the Yankees won and the Red Sox lost—no news there—and, uh, nothing else interesting happened. Drink your coffee.”
Additionally, this other person feels that books always should be on book shelves—even while being read—and any magazine that has been in the house for more than two days has overstayed its welcome and should be sent out to the blue plastic bin with the newspapers.
But I really don’t want to pick on this particular person, even though the chances this person will recognize himself or herself in this column are zero because of the deft manner in which I’ve masked his or her identity. What I want to discuss is the issue of discrimination.
In our intolerant, prejudiced society, it is a sad fact that sloppy people are considered lazy and morally substandard—as if the urge to take out the trash automatically makes a person virtuous. Let’s not forget that Charles Manson liked to organize his file folders and Ted Bundy had neat handwriting. Being tidy did not exactly put these two fellows into the Character Hall of Fame.
On the other hand, St. Francis of Assisi always threw his robe on the floor instead of in the hamper and Mother Teresa often misplaced her bowling shoes. Being sloppy did not hinder their saintly lives.
Discrimination against those of us who are neatness-impaired is most prevalent in the corporate workplace. I’ve seen people get promoted for no other reason than their offices are clean. So what if Johnson knew exactly where to find the 1997 budget report? Is that any reason to make him a regional vice-president? I could have located that same report, too—if the boss had simply given me a 30-minute head start and a snow shovel. The report was right there in my office, probably amid my “stuff stack,” the floor-to-ceiling pile of newspapers, computer printouts, magazines, email jokes, and empty Chinese take-out cartons.
So Johnson gets promoted just because he’s neat?! Well, unlike Johnson, at least I know what the 1997 budget report means—because I wrote it! And now that anal-retentive stuffed suit with the I.Q. of a hamster is my new boss?! Ugh! IT’S ENOUGH TO MAKE A GUY—
Oh, excuse me. I didn’t mean to vent. It’s just that this irrational prejudice against sloppy folks is so frustrating and unfair. Congress ought to pass a law, say, the Americans with Sloppiness Act, which would prohibit discrimination against those of us who are not obsessive-compulsive neat freaks.
I can feel my blood pressure rising. I need to relax. I think I’ll take my clam rake and dig for something fun to read. I’m sure there’s a humor magazine in one of the piles in the den. Now where did I put my rake?
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