Monday, July 06, 2009

The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects

I went someplace today and needed to take my laptop. I unplugged it and carefully rolled up the cord and power block, then put the computer in one pocket of my briefcase and the cord in another. When I reached my destination, the computer came out of the bag just as I had put it in. The cord, on the other hand, was literally tied in knots. What was it doing all by itself in its own private pocket in a leather bag in the back of my car that a perfectly coiled cord would emerge, less than half an hour later, literally tied into knots? I shudder to think.

Then there are wire coat hangers, the kind you get from the dry cleaners. I have ceased to allow those beasts in my house. They multiply in my dark closets like rabbits, going from a couple of hangers to a horde ready to attack anyone unwitting enough to stick a hand in there, hoping to withdraw a single garment. They have been banished to a box in the garage where they seem to still be multiplying, albeit at a slower rate than in the closet. I am afraid to even contemplate what they might be eating…

And speaking of eating…beware of washing machines, especially the top loading kind. I once had to have the bearing at the bottom of my washer replaced and when the repairman lifted out the tub, the remains of a half dozen or more socks…primarily children’s socks…were found. One quails to think of what had already been digested by the machine, leaving no telltale traces behind.

Clothes dryers aren’t much better. Have you never wondered where the lint in the lint trap comes from? That dryer is slowly, agonizingly torturing your clothes, unhurriedly stripping them down, infinitesimal layer by infinitesimal layer, for its own pleasure and amusement. The lint is the dryer’s digestion by-products.

I once had a dishwasher that ate forks and disposal that mesmerized spoons into jumping down its maw, there to be mangled beyond use or repair. Then there was the fax machine that would refuse to function when I approached: it would happily disgorge a 60 page fax for one of my co-workers but let me try to feed one paltry page into its feeble little memory and it would snort, growl and display an unintelligible error message. It would often join forces with the copy machine and the two of them would gleefully malinger together for the bulk of the day.

I used to drive an English sports car. It was the most fun I ever had on wheels and I loved the car so much, I drove it for more than 15 years. But owning that car was not without its perils. I often wondered what The Little Green Beast got up to during the night while I was asleep that it was just too tired to start up in the morning. The car that had started with a merry roar in the parking lot at work and jauntily carried me home would be a lethargic slugabed in the morning, unwilling to give more than a token crank until I rolled it backwards down the driveway and popped the clutch to force it to start. What was it up to while I innocently slept?

And vacuum cleaners! Lives there a household doesn’t have at least one greedy vacuum brooding in a closet, a victim of its own gluttony? After years of blaming owners and operators for not changing the bags frequently enough, bagless machines came along and put the lie to rest: in my closet there moulders a bagless machine, its cup empty but its feeding tube packed tight at the bend, the machine obstinately refusing to disgorge its prey.

Then there is my spice cupboard…I swear they hold parties in there, behind closed doors! I open the cupboard to find the bottles and little tins moved about, and sometimes there are spices missing…and other times duplicates of things I didn’t even know I had. And they are like mean girls, too, inviting only the popular to their revels. I can tell because all the little bottles and tins shift around like dancers at a cotillion while the big, lumbering, ponderous jars never move a centimetre…they just squat in their accustomed spots like the stolid lumps they are, wallflowers in their own domain.

When was the last time you looked behind your entertainment centre? If it has been a while, you might be amazed to find that those neatly connected cords, those connections you carefully made and left neatly draped, are now a seething, jumbled mass more than double its original size. Fed by dust and energized by solitude, the mass may have spawned additional cords or perhaps attracted them from other parts of the house with their irresistible siren song. Can’t find your phone charger? Check to see if it forgot to come home from the orgy behind the stereo system…

I think jewellery, particularly neck chains, might be related to electrical cords, at least way back in their evolutionary history. I postulate this based on their proclivity for embracing each other until they, too, form that same sinuous, twisted mass as the cords, just smaller and more flexible. Their fine, supple lengths entwine more easily, rather like lithe acrobats than the stiffer, more unwieldy cords…and they are devilishly more challenging to disentangle.

I have some possessions that are obsessed with playing hide-and-seek. I think that propensity is part of the DNA of remotes and is so well-known in cordless phones that base stations actually have beepers built in to flush the little buggers out of hiding. My cell phone is fairly tractable and seldom goes missing, but my glasses are a whole other story. Like my cell phone, my prescription sunglasses tend to stay put…perhaps they like their leather Brooks Brothers clamshell case…but my regular daily wear blended bifocals are not so well-behaved. They can migrate from the front of my face to the top of my head to destinations unknown in a matter of seconds and because I am decidedly nearsighted, finding them can be quite a mission. While I sleep. they oftentimes trade places with one of my pairs of reading glasses. I am sure they consider it a great practical joke, but if they’d care to take a closer look, they would see that I’m not laughing!

But the worst offender of all are keys. Nothing can do a disappearing act around here faster than keys. Now, you must understand that I am an almost compulsively organized person. My dresser drawers are neat. My kitchen cupboards are tidy. My shoes are in clear plastic boxes, neatly lined up in their own cupboard. I even have a rack near the back door with hooks for the keys. And yet, on any given day, you will hear someone in this house asking where one set of keys or another has gotten off to. It is so bad that Thandiswe, my darling maid, will catch them when they’ve wandered off and hang them safely back on their hooks in the kitchen…not that they stay there once our backs are turned! I’ve even given them their own specific pocket in my handbag, naively believing that they would happily stay there rather than migrate to the absolute lowest depths of my purse…no such luck!

I have considered borrowing a video camera to tape their antics in my absence, but then it occurred to me that it would probably join ranks with the keys and the spices and everybody else…or they would recognize it for the spy it is and play dead in its presence. It seems I can’t win…

Anybody want some wire hangers? That box in my garage is getting a bit overloaded…

Photo by viewoftheworld, Flickr


  1. I do not publish gratuitously rude comments.

    I do publish critical comments, but only those that support the criticism with reason and logic.

    "You stink. Sorry. Just my opinion," will not be published.

    "You stink. I have met you face-to-face and you smelled like you forgot your deodorant," will be published.

  2. This is beautifully written, although I am of the opinion that inanimate objects are truly inanimate. Thinking the contrary would make me have terrible frights at night.

  3. So, it might have been my blender that turn itself on, on my birthday, on not my ghost? :(

  4. I have had weird things happen to me but mostly theyre toy cars and my sisters mp3 player. I guess its how much attention they get when you first get them and after you leave them alone they feel abandoned and want to strike.


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