Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Too much stuff

I have too much stuff. Every morning, the trip from the shower to my car involves about 200 items: keys, name badge, ipod, phone, food, drink, wallet, books, turning on computers, turning off computers, checking the weather, checking my email, checking the traffic. My keychain has only seven keys, but it also has a keyless entry fob for my apartment, a key remote beepbeep thing for the Subaru, and an army of those little plastic things from grocery stores that you scan to save an extra dime. But the keychain is FULL because car keys are now so bulbous and coated in plastic-rubber and contain microchips, so there’s no room but there’s also a lot of room because of the space between the not-key things, and anyway my keychain barely fits in my pocket now.

Getting into my car takes forever, because I need to reassemble this environment every time I drive to work. I have to wear a coat, because it’s 30 out, but my garage is about 65 or 70 inside, and my car instantly heats up because it has an electric heater, and I can’t wear my coat driving because of that, so basically, I carry around a coat for the walk from my car to the inside of my office. I plug in the iPod, I set up the bag, I put the drinks in the holders, I put my food on the dash, and I realize astronauts do less when they climb into a space shuttle.

The iPod is the only real solution that does work for my situation. I used to carry around dozens of MiniDiscs (or, earlier, tapes) and I would spend between three and six hundred minutes a morning trying to decide what to bring with me, what five albums would fit in my pocket and keep me going for the day. Now, all of my music is on one device. Plus it holds podcasts, which is a new way to keep from going nuts on my drive. But it’s another thing to charge, to sync. I almost never use my phone, because it’s another device with a rechargable battery that is immensely useful, until a few hours later when it becomes a lifeless brick. I will spend a year of my life docking and undocking and charging and plugging in and changing batteries. Maybe I could get a power cord in the car, a power station, but I still need to sync the iPod. And all of that crap is basically like putting a “steal my shit” sign on top of my car. And yeah, some of you are saying “go get an iPhone”, but I would need twenty iPhones to hold all of my music, plus I’m too blind to read the display, plus here’s a little secret: I seldom if ever use a cell phone, let alone texting and paging and all of that shit.

I can’t get to my computer from work anymore. And I now use a mail program that doesn’t let me telnet home and read my mail. And using my mail from a central place is fucked for 28 other reasons. So now I send my mail to both my home and to gmail, so I can read mail during the day. The two are completely unsyncronized, so when I read 20 messages at work, I have to come home and mark 20 messages as read. And the little arrows that tell you when you’ve replied to a message are now useless, because maybe I replied on gmail, maybe at home. And I almost never get to sit down at my computer at home, because I’m either at work or don’t want to be in front of a computer. And the laptop is a portable, but it has an external drive, so when I go on vacation, I don’t have iPhoto, iTunes, or Time Machine backups. So I can’t sync my iPod when I’m on vacation – I have to bring an external charger to juice it up.

I have a laptop at work. Every night, I have to unplug everything (power, ethernet, external mouse, external keyboard), shut everything down, and lock it in a drawer. Every morning, I reverse the procedure. You could torture terrorists down at Guantanamo by forcing them to shut down and restart Windows a few times an hour. I’d rather leave it on my desk, powered up, forever. Plus my laptop doesn’t start the first time you start it – the BIOS thing goes to 70% and locks up, then you power it up again. This is the same laptop that, about once a week, locks so hard, I have to unplug it and remove the battery to restart. This typically happens 20 seconds before a meeting where I have to present something.

No problems with my car. It’s great. See the pictures. Also, I posted pictures of our honeymoon. Yes, I’m aware I look like a mongoloid in every single picture ever taken of me. I’m also aware of Flickr, and I know it would be neat and hip and Web 2.0 of me to post everything there, but it’s a pain in the ass, and so is my method, but it’s another one of those “too much shit” moments. Life would be easier if I took one picture a year, and just emailed the jpg to everyone else, but it doesn’t work that way.

I now have to maintain two wardrobes, and have twice as many clothes to wash. Granted I am not wearing a tuxedo and top hat to work every day – I think my best pair of pants, or at least best fitting, were bought from either Old Navy or Target – but I can’t wear jeans and t-shirt anymore, and I hate wearing dress clothes at night. Too much stuff – we now need to throw out or reogranize and get some more space so I can buy more clothes I don’t need.

There was a guy in my dorm in college who ran into some trouble with the bursar, and one day he threw open the door to his room and yelled “everything’s on sale!” and he meant it. People went in and were buying his tapes and clothes, and a friend of mine bought the watch off his arm for $20. And sometimes I think that’s a pretty noble thing to do. (And yes, I realize Larry has been preaching the “dump on eBay every god damned thing not screwed down” mantra for a long time, so credit where it’s due.) When we were in the Bahamas, when I was watching families gathered around the communal well (which was basically like a drinking fountain at the 44th Street Port Authority, but not as clean) with their plastic jugs so they could go home and mix up some stone soup and feed the goat in the back yard, and it just hit me that I have far too much shit. I have hundreds of books I’ve read once and will never read again. I have at least 15 items on my desktop that run on lithium ion batteries. I have at least 500 DVDs, and I watch an average of one every other month. I have a car that, when I pay it off in 2012, will be worth about $100. My land’s first contract had me making payments until 2022. (I got a shorter contract that ends in 2014, but I’ve been making higher payments for a while, so the debt is below four digits now.)

Comedian Lewis Black talks about the Enron/Tyco/Global Crossing crowd on one of his CDs I was listening to last week. He marvels at how these people stole billions of dollars, and used it all to do nothing more than buy crap. (I mean, if I had billions of stolen dollars, I would parlay it and buy Somalia, not a house with 200 gold-plated bathrooms. Instead of playing Halo on Xbox, you could start a real war with Ethiopia every weekend.) And I guess I think more and more about how stupid it is to play the “he who dies with the most Lord of the Rings commemorative glasses from Burger King wins” game. Some of it is that any time I’m in a store and see something that looks neato, I think “where the fuck would I put this?” and then I set it down. Like all of the baseball stuff – there’s suddenly an insane amount of worthless stuff available: commemorative chunks of plastic, car flags that say “NL Champions”, minted coin sets in display cases, and don’t forget the signed balls, bats, jerseys, hats, shoes, socks, gloves, jocks, bags, and luggage. If it can be made by sweatshop labor in China, it’s now available with a “2007 Wild Card” logo on it. Now if it’s something I can use for something, maybe I’ll get it. Like, I bought an NL champion t-shirt at Target last night for $9. I’ll wear it – I’d wear almost any t-shirt for $9. I’d even wear a Dallas Cowboys shirt if I was certain it wouldn’t feel like fiberglass insulation against my skin. But what use is a chunk of plastic molded into a three-inch tall likeness of Carlos Beltran? It’s six square inches of space in your house you will have to pay for but never have back.

I’ve babbled about this too much. I’ve started a new eBay pile, and I think I’m starting a new joint bank account that will be the “buy a house fund”, and I’ll see how much I can collect. I have at least a thousand dollars of computers I’m not using in this room, which is a start.

Of course, if you disagree with me and think it’s great to collect a lot of stuff, you’re always welcome to go buy a bunch of books.