Saturday, May 5, 2001

Detritus, or Why I Didn't Write Anything Enlightening This Time

(Another ancient essay, originally published May 2001.)

Sunday night, 10:30 p.m., nearly two full days after the drop-dead deadline for Burning Phoenix.

I hope you didn't come to this page looking for something profound or interesting or even entertaining. In fact, this isn't really even an essay. It's more a litany of excuses, a grouping of guilt-tainted words that will attempt to explain why I didn't really write anything substantive for this issue.

It's because of my garage.

First things first -- for those who don't know, I live solo in a really ordinary suburban townhouse. I have about 1,300 square feet of room to maintain -- two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a loft, a living room / dining room morph and a quaint little kitchen with nice oak cabinetry. And because I live there by myself, if it's a mess I have no one to blame but me. Because of that, I've turned into a bit of a neatnik in my old age. While I'll never claim that my house is Virgin Mary spotless, as a matter of routine I do tend to keep it clean.
How routine? Well, thanks to my lack of a social life the vacuum has become my most reliable weekend companion. And that's not necessarily a bad thing -- for some reason, I seem to have my best thoughts while I'm vacuuming. I don't know if it's the whirr of the motor or the mindless repetition -- back and forth, forward and back across my tan carpet -- but something about vacuuming allows my mind to wander.

My other weekend pal is the feather duster. I'm always careful to spend time with the feather duster first, sweeping the week's formerly airborne detritus off my furniture and onto the carpet. Then the vacuum can collect everything dislodged and relegate it safely into temporary storage within an allergen-filtered Bissell "Type A" bag.

Despite the fact that I do occasionally cook, my kitchen tends to stay pretty clean. Thanks to an incident early in my solo home-ownership experience best described as "Empire of the Ants," I'm fairly maniacal about keeping the counters clean and the floor swept. I'm slightly less maniacal about mopping, mostly because it scares the cat.

Bedrooms are easy. Just dust the furniture, vacuum the carpet, wash the sheets, put things away and make the bed. Good as new and ready for guests. (Not that I ever have any, mind you. At least not in the bedroom, anyway.)

And my bathrooms? Not bad, thank you very much. While most bachelors seem terrified of donning gloves and letting the Janitor out of his Drum, I have no such fear. Hopefully that keeps any guests I may have from experiencing a different fear -- one involving needing an "Outbreak" suit and a machete to survive using a bachelor's bathroom.

(The excuse part? I'm getting to that.)

So my house is pretty clean. Never perfect, definitely "lived in," but never a disaster either. With one exception, that is.

You see, the one thing my townhouse lacks is any kind of serious storage room. And because of that, the one area in my house that escapes the scrutiny of my neatnikosis is my garage.

Last cleaned about a year ago (for me, that passes for "spring cleaning"), my garage really suffered this year, mostly from the effects of a severe winter. As such, it's piled high and deep with refuse and detritus collected inadvertently over the course of the last seven or eight months.

How bad is it, you ask? Well, it's a two-car garage, and the only car I have -- that still-new truck -- fits. Barely.

Or put another way: Putting my truck in the garage is a little like driving into a gaping maw full of bad teeth. Ewwwwww.

So what's in there? Storage boxes for my stereo, computer, printer and more. All of which still contain the original Styrofoam padding and bubble wrap that accompanied each item at purchase.

Three sets of golf clubs. One set I bought back in 1983, the other two I inherited from a retired, golf-addicted father who treats himself to new clubs every few years and leaves me his old ones as an in-advance bequest.

Two cheapo ceramic bowls filled with cigarette butts. I don't smoke, but on those occasions when I throw a house party, some of my guests will want to. I don't let them smoke in the house, so I'll usually set up the garage as a "smoking lounge" of sorts, complete with cheapo ceramic bowls for butts. Unfortunately the bowls are still out there and still full, even though my last party was in November.

A filled-to-the-brim recycling bin containing empty beer and wine bottles numbering in the high double digits. The empties are from that same November party, as is the empty and tattered Warsteiner 12-pack box that sits nearby, forlorn.

A lot of road sand, most of which entered the garage on the backs of those wintertime "fender boogers" that grow around your wheel wells during snowstorms.

A king-sized microwave oven that's sat unused since early 1997. I don't think anything's living in there, but to be quite honest I haven't checked, either. (If anyone out there wants to take this off my hands, just say the word. I may inadvertently throw in a house pet or two for you.)

A pile -- yes, a pile -- of mostly empty bags from every fast-food restaurant in the county. (So sue me -- when it's below zero and you're stuck in traffic for two hours, the two things in the world you'd want to do last are "cook at home" and "leave the warmth of your heated car to walk the empty bag to trash can.")
I could go on, but that's probably more information than you ever needed.

So why didn't I write anything profound this time? Like I said, it's because of the garage. I've been promising myself that I'd clean it out one of these weekends.

Even my boss at work is aware of this. Right after I landed in my cubicle last Monday morning, one of his first questions was, "Did you get your garage clean?" What could I tell him? Despite some gusty winds, that weekend was gorgeous -- highs in the 80s, lots of sun, perfect for outdoor activities -- so needless to say it didn't get done. Exactly the kind of weather you don't waste on cleaning the garage.

And what about this weekend? Cool, rainy, cloudy, perfect for staying in and being lazy. Or for housecleaning. But not for garage cleaning -- it was too cold and damp. Honest.

So once again, I failed to clean the garage. And somewhere deep within me, that little voice of guilt about leaving it in such a sorry state started to babble. Tim, it said, this garage is truly a pigsty. Clean it. Today. Now.

And what's the best way to handle the voice of guilt? Simple -- get the voice to stop by drowning it in multimedia. Rent some movies. Play a few games. Read a book. Blow off responsibility absolutely.

So that's my excuse. In the interest of silencing that voice of guilt, I was too busy watching "Dune" on DVD and playing Triple Play Baseball on the PlayStation 2 to possibly have time to clean the garage, let alone write an entertaining or enlightening essay.

So, my apologies. I hope you'll forgive me. And if you won't, please keep in mind that I'll surely be punished for this totally irresponsible behavior.

How? By having to clean the garage, of course. But that can wait until next weekend.