As I normally have to fight against the arms of Morpheus for several more minutes, I gave her startling message little thought. Nearly an hour later she brought the subject up again. Turns out she had read an article in one of the local free papers about people who hoard, to such an extent that it impacts on their lives, their neighbors, and their health. Loners who live surrounded by stacks of newspapers, second-hand tyres, empty cans neatly rinsed (or not), and accumulated detritus that they do not wish to throw away ever. Broken refrigerators filled with screws, nails, and coils of wire. Boxes of colour-coded belly-button lint. Scrappaper of enchanting hue that means things to them alone.
It's a real illness, recognized by mental-health professionals, and a widespread problem in San Francisco.
Savage Kitten had helpfully brought the article home for me to read and recognize myself.
I honestly have no clue what she is thinking.
Just because I have enough pipe-tobacco stashed away to last for over two decades (more like 26 years and counting) does NOT mean I'm hoarding.
Many more books than necessary shelf-space? That is perfectly normal.
A wall of cheap paperbacks precariously balanced in the middle of the room? I'm still reading those, that's why they're there.
Stacks of paper everywhere? Yeah, yeah, I'm probably not going to read those articles again, just let me sort through it all and you can throw them away dear.
I think I know why she's got this bug up her bonnet - she's a neat-freak. It's a rejection of certain elements in her past. Elements she associates with eccentric elderly Toishanese in Chinatown. Such as her parents. And their friends.
It's a Chinese thing.
In Chinese dwellings all over San Francisco you will find the following: Thousands of newspapers neatly stacked. Clear plastic covers for everything that isn't going to be moved around. A collection of Danish butter-cookie tins, emptied and cleaned (so useful!). Half-finished sewing or repair projects from two decades ago, that will be finished just as soon as Ah-Bong or Ah-Sook finds the time! Underwear still in its sealed plastic package bought from Sears on Geary street during the Reagan era. Never opened tubes of Darky Brand toothpaste - hasn't been made in nearly twenty five years, the contents have probably gelled into cement by now, the image on the box has faded to fuzzy illegibility. Packaged food with expiration dates in the Kennedy years. Condiments that no-one in the household even likes, but because it was never opened it may NOT be thrown away. Unopened bottles with colourful labels, and giftwrapped crisposnack, tins of generic insta-bev, and informational brochures for companies that no longer exist. Because, of course, these are all useful.
Well, that just ain't me.
There are no newspapers, no Danish butter cookie tins (though I do have half-a-dozen empty eggroll cookie tins - they're cheery red and stackably square, you see).
If I don't finish a project, I throw it out before you notice. I wear my underwear, I do not save it up for a rainy day. If the food didn't get eaten, I throw it out; though there are quite a number of things in the kitchen that she brought into the house, which have been there for YEARS, which I would happily toss, but she insists on keeping, don't ask me why, it's a Chinese thing..........
I do not resemble that at all. Not in the slightest.
What really started her on this suspicion was when I was still running a hot-sauce factory in the kitchen. Raw inventory was a bit of a problem - I kept excellent track of whatever could go bad, but simply overstocked on the stuff that could keep. Such as vinegar, salt, sugar.
You should also know that the kitchen is very small and cramped. There were trays of drying chili peppers, large bags of spices, plus olive oil, limes, vinegars, salt, and sugar, in several different places. For quite a while I kept a vat of Habanero vinegar under my chair in the teevee room, along with several large jars of fermenting peppers. Eventually, everything was used up, I gave up on trying to find a stable source of Rocoto chilies, and the factory wound down (meaning that I lost interest).
The venture was profitable and fun while it lasted - you would be surprised how much flaming hotsauce software geeks go through - but with all the condimental competition out there, it never would've paid the rent.
Several weeks after I stopped manufacturing hotsauce, she discovered four bags of sugar in the teevee room. A month later, she found another five pound bag under the bed. Shortly after that, two more in a bookshelf.
All in all, over the next two years, she found an average of one five pound bag of sugar every five or six weeks.
It made one hell of an impression on her.
That was over ten years ago.
I'm still hearing about it.