The Over-Gathering Instinct
by Mad Dog
One of the things we were always encouraged
to do while growing upbesides eat our vegetables, keep quiet, and not stuff out
sister down the garbage disposalwas to collect things. What you collected
wasnt important. Stamps were good. Coins were good. And sports trading cards were
even better because they ended up increasing in value faster than the Dallas Cowboys can
be arrested, if you can imagine such a thing. The point was, and is, that you decide on
something to collect and horde it.
The reason behind being pushed to collect
things may be tradition. Your parents were taught to do it ,so you were taught to do it,
so you inflict it on your kids because, well, revenge is a strong motivation. More likely
though, it was a way for your parents to try to get you to sit in your room quietly while
they reminisced about how nice life was before having children.
Its also possible that collecting is
a genetic disposition handed down to us by our cave dwelling forefathers who spent their
leisure hours carving stone shelves on which to keep their collection of Cave Barbies,
which included Hair Dragging Barbie, Gatherer Barbie, and in the later, more enlightened
years, Hunter Barbie. After all, reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show hadnt been
invented yet. But I suspect the true reason parents get kids to methodically collect,
catalog, and search out things is that its supposed to teach them something. Like
being an anal retentive obsessive-compulsive has no redeeming social value.
People collect the strangest things. Just
go to any antique show or flea market and youll see people who collect salt and
pepper shakers, thimbles, spoons with enamel images of the Corn Palace on the handle,
Zippo lighters, and strange looks from those of us who dont even have silverware
that matches. On a recent weekend there were ads in the newspaper for the Rubber Stamp
Festival ("Ill trade you a 1932 Paid in Full for that 1917 Past Due and the
1940 Par Avion"), the Pen Fair ("How much do you want for that first edition BIC
with the teeth marks on the top?"), and the Music Collectors Expo
("Anybody seen the guy with the ABBA 8-tracks?"). My dryer lint collection is
starting to feel downright normal.
Animals are a popular collecting motif. How
many times have you walked into someones house and seen hundred of frogs
everywherecandy dishes, lamps, throw pillows, slippers, drink stirrers, and assorted
knickknacks, which is an interior decorators term for things that sit on shelves
cluttering up your house while serving no useful purpose other than to collect dust so it
all doesnt settle on the three microwave fondue pots you got for your wedding.
Unicorns, pigs, and mushrooms are common.
Cows are big right now, probably because people think having cheap plaster bookends that
look like Black Angus cows doing a Nixon imitation will give them an alibi when the Got
Milk police break down their door looking for people with dark colored moustaches.
For a while I collected pink flamingos.
Actually, collected is the wrong word. Amassed by proxy would be more like it. It started
when some friends put two plastic flamingos in front of my house as a birthday gag. Before
I knew it, everyone was giving me flamingo junk. Towels, ashtrays, pens, pins,
mirrorsyou name it, I got it for my birthday or Christmas. Did I tell them I loved
to have my house and office look like someone poured a bottle of Pepto Bismol all over
them? No. Did I ever once go out and buy something with a flamingo on it for myself? No.
This makes me wonder if other people collect things because they like them or end up with
them because other people think they like them.
There are exceptions to this rule. Some
people obviously collect things because they crave them. Michael Jackson collects exotic
animals. Rupert Murdoch collects newspapers, but not for recycling. Bill Gates collects
money but, unlike most collectors, he has no desire to trade with his friends. And Bill
Clinton is one of the biggest collectors around, amassing lawsuits, Senate hearings, and
Big Mac wrappers, though I have to wonder whether he collects frequent flier miles for all
those trips on Air Force One.
So far Ive gone through life without
any big passion for collecting, which is good. I have enough to do without searching
through piles of used stamps, cataloging first edition comic books, or figuring out how to
mount my collection of potato chips that look like world leaders. Besides, Id hate
to think all my work could go down the drain one day just because I needed to send a
postcard to my aunt, ran out of newspapers to start a fire, or got a case of the munchies.
But there is one thing I look forward to
collecting eventuallysocial security. Finally Ill have a hobby I really enjoy.
©1997 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
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