April 29, 2008

Hoarding Correction Tape and Other Deadly Sins

Why is it that my favorite pens and office supplies are always the ones that disappear? No one ever steals my rusty scissors or dried-up glue stick. There's got to be a secret vault somewhere that contains all of the world's best gel pens, hi-lighters and staplers. Maybe there's a Post-It Note goblin who is somehow related to the sock monster of laundry-theft fame.

In order to combat the nagging phenomenon of missing white-out, I have learned to ration my office supplies and
only open a new correction tape dispenser when I'm absolutely certain that the previous one is long gone. I even keep a separate drawer of new supplies so that I don't confuse them with the ones that are currently "in use." I was looking for my white-out / correction tape dispenser today when a co-worker asked if he could borrow it. I told him that I couldn't find it and but it always seems to be missing. I was fully aware that there were two more in the supply drawer, but I didn't want to tell him about my secret stash. So, after shuffling some papers around in a fruitless search, I just told him I'd keep looking around for the missing correction tape dispenser. A little while later, I finally caved in and opened up a new dispenser from my stash for him to borrow. I'm not sure what bothers me more, the guilt from trying to hide my secret stash from a trustworthy co-worker or the fact that my secret stash is down to just one precious correction tape dispenser! You are now free to picture me cradling and stroking it like Gollum with the ring of power.

So when did I become such a hoarder?

I supposed I've always been reluctant to share my toys- going all the way back to my Legos, Matchbox cars, Construx, baseball cards and cassette tapes. My most prized tapes where the "originals"
which were to be clearly distinguished from mix tapes and those TDK / Maxell / Memorex duplicate tapes that were just not as cool. Whatever I cherished, I would make sure it stayed mine. I still remember when my dad once had to settle a dispute between my sister and me about who could own a newspaper photo of Magic Johnson that we were fighting over. This was shortly after Johnson's announcement regarding the HIV virus and I still remember my dad scolding us for wanting a picture of someone with such a "promiscuous lifestyle."

After the news began reporting last week on the food shortage in poor countries overseas, people in this country were lining up to buy more rice than they've ever purchased before. Suddenly,
consumers at Costco and Sam's Club were panicking about the limit of three 20-pound bags per visit! The demand went up, the supply shrunk and the prices have skyrocketed. It's (not so) funny how we seem to get hungrier when we hear about people starving. Our reaction is not to give away more or consume less, but to hoard and stockpile so that it won't happen to us. Forget about the fact that the food shortage being reported on does not even affect the U.S. supply! As usual, we in the west get first dibs.

Yes, we are a nation of hoarders and so I fit right in. Even so, I'm still saddened by last week's news story about two families in Hawaii that are on the brink of going to court to settle their sons' fight over a David Beckham jersey. The story has gotten national attention from media outlets including CNN, ESPN and USA Today. If you haven't heard about it, here's an article from the Honolulu Advertiser.

Essentially, these are two boys, ages 9 and 10, who had been best friends and soccer club teammates for 3 years. Along with their families, they attended a soccer game (what the rest of the world refers to as a football match) at Aloha Stadium on February 22 whose star attraction was David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Throughout the game, both boys screamed for Beckham's attention from the front row while holding up signs saying
"Go Beckham" and "Aloha Beckham." In what must have been one of the most enthralling moments of their lives, Beckham trotted over and rewarded them with his jersey after the game ended. The only question is, who gets the jersey?

Video replays of the event seem to show Beckham pointing to the boy holding the sign and attempting to give the jersey him, although it was the other boy who ended up with initial possession of it (sounds like a fumble recovery or something). One family says it's theirs because their boy got it first. The other family, whose mom made one sign for each of the boys to hold, says they should get it because only their son held his sign aloft the entire game which was the reason Beckham came over to their section of the crowd.

So who's right? The results of the dispute have gotten ugly. Both families are not speaking to each other, lawyers have been retained, lawsuits have been threatened and angry letters have been sent back and forth. Sports columnist Mike Wilbon of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption blames David Beckham's PR team for not having the savvy to just give both kids autographed jerseys to settle the dispute. By not commenting, it appears that Beckham does not want to set a precedent by getting involved in fan's disputes. Alexi Lalas, the former soccer star and current General Manager of the Galaxy, took a page from King Solomon's book saying this: "My suggestion is that the judge get a pair of scissors, cut the thing in half and give half to each," adding that "even David Beckham isn't worth ruining a friendship that could possibly last a lifetime."

Everyone can see that the situation has gotten out of hand, but I'm guessing the problem has more to do with the childish greed and pride of the parents, not their boys. I understand that it's never easy to take something away from your child when they really want it, but every parent has had to grapple with this. Sure, I would
want that Beckham jersey for my son too, but whose pride would it really be about if I couldn't tell my son to let his friend take it home? What would I be teaching my son if I sued his best friend's parents? Win at all costs? Fight to the death? Things are more important than people? Friends come and go, but sports memorabilia lasts forever? (I actually kind of like that one).

I guess things haven't changed much since Ahab wanted Naboth's vineyard, David wanted Uriah's wife, Jacob wanted Esau's birthright, Sarah wanted Hagar's fertility and Cain wanted Abel's blessing. The inability of grown adults to let go of their greed has plagued humanity since the dawn of time. The roots of pride run deep in all of us and no amount of autographed, authentic, officially licensed, limited edition, gold-plated, one-of-a-kind David Beckham jerseys will cure it.

At least no one will be suing me for my precious correction tape dispensers.


Linda said...

I guess I've been hoarding for so long I don't even realize I'm doing it. I bought 1 bag of rice at Costco only because I heard there was a shortage. You're right about being the one who wants first dibs on the goods. I struggle w/ reconciling what Shane Claiborne advocates w/ financial planning.

Cheryl said...

Heavens, I think this is my favorite of your postings! You seamlessly wove together the likes of:
-correction tape
-toys from the 80s,
-the Beckham jersey drama, -"original" tapes
-and a delightful image of Gollum caressing his favorite office supplies..

...into a very entertainingly coherent whole! Nice work!

Oh, and I definitely remember the Magic Johnson scolding.

The Common Loon said...

Thanks Cheryl for your kind words. I'm glad you were entertained.

Did Dad end up destroying the Magic Johnson picture or did he cut it up and give each of us a half? I can't remember which eye/ear I got, although Magic's million-dollar smile was certainly big enough for both of us.

Cheryl said...

As I recall, neither of us was gutsy enough to admit that we still wanted it after that scolding. I think Dad must've thrown it away.