Thoughts On The Thrill Of Destroying A Box Of Stuff

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a twenty-something male is living on his own and is pretty bad when it comes to basic life skills like maintaining one’s files and/or opening mail. The mail all goes into a pile on the young man’s desk. When the desk starts to overflow, the mail (most of it unopened) all goes into a box that can be safely hidden away until a vague, unspecified future date when the young man “will get around to it.”

Hilarious, no?

The idea was that I needed a paper shredder because I was getting roughly a hundred pre-approved credit card applications a week and I knew that if I threw them out, anyone willing to root around in my trash could sign up for a shiny Capital One card with a low APR of only 23%. This might sound paranoid but for the fact that I have literally had to chase someone out of my trash bin who was rooting through my discarded stuff.

So all those Capital One offers went into the box. And I was also vaguely uncertain about how long I needed to store my pay stubs, so those all went into the box too. And since I wasn’t sorting my mail, it all went into the box. My bank statements went in as well, and the bills, and the student loan stuff . . .

And of course, I was paying my loans online and doing my banking online and paying the bills online, so there really wasn’t a need for any of that paper. I didn’t want to throw it out though, so into the box it went.

I asked for (and received!) a paper shredder for Christmas and armed with this fearsome tool of whirling blades and gnashing teeth, I resolved to finally get through my box. I hauled it out into the living room and proceeded to open and then shred roughly three years of statements, applications, and other junk.

I hauled away four full trash bags of shredded paper that day. My only regret is that I didn’t take a picture of the before and after.

Now? Now there is a trim little file folder on my desk. My important documents are in there. Everything else goes right into the shredder, instead of a box.

Is this what growing up feels like?

Politicians, Guns and Insanity

My general attitude towards my state’s particular politics oscillates from resigned disgust to abject horror. Resigned disgust is the default position and one that, under better circumstances, might more properly be called “cautious optimism” if not for the sobering comprehension that the largest voting bloc is filled with terrified, elderly white people who continually seem to loathe the very idea of social and technological progress. I live in a state whose voting majority seems to hate almost everything I value and has repeatedly demonstrated its capricious self-interest and overall incompetence seemingly at every turn.

The reality is that whenever I encounter people from other states, I feel a near-pathological desire to apologize for Arizona. “I’m sorry,” I say, “we’re not all racist, gun-loving psychopaths.” It’s sort of like when you’re in a restaurant with a senile grandparent who loudly speculates “there sure are a lot of Mexicans here, aren’t there? Why are there so many Mexicans?” All you can do is cringe and whisper that no, we don’t say things like that and hope that everybody else in the restaurant just will nod their heads and understand: right, right, senile, we understand. We don’t blame you.

Those are the good days, by the way. The bad days are when the local news informs you that:

PHOENIX – State senators voted Wednesday to allow a teacher, administrator, custodian or even a cafeteria worker at rural and some suburban schools to be armed.

Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said SB 1325 would improve student safety. He said while better mental-health screening and more police officers at schools are important, it is also necessary to provide schools with a “self-defense component.

What. The. Fuck.

Or, if you prefer a less salty exclamation of despairing disbelief in the failing cognitive faculties of the Arizona state legislature:

What Arbitrary Silliness.

This would boggle my mind even if it were just limited to rural schools. But some suburban schools? Really? I’m running through the names and faces of every teacher I’ve ever had, and you know what’s funny? Some of them were amazing teachers, most were mediocre, a few were terrible. And they all had one thing in common: I cannot, for the life of me, imagine a situation where giving those people guns is an improvement.

The fact that cafeteria workers are allowed to carry guns is only funny insofar as you find the idea of dead kids hilarious; recalling my childhood experience reminds me that at my schools, the only people the lunch ladies hated more than themselves were the little brats that they were forced to serve each day.

It’s funny; I play a lot of violent video games, so you’d think I’d be all in favor of giving people guns, right? Hilariously, if there’s one thing that video games have taught me about violence, it’s this: leave it to the FUCKING PROFESSIONALS. There’s a reason why the people that are allowed to have guns around civilians  are trained in their proper usage.

And if you think that this bill allowing Vice Principal Skinner to cowboy up and bring his wheelgun to campus will come with any kind of training more than a Power Point and a multiple-choice quiz, you seem to have forgotten we’re talking about a state whose primary school district just closed 11 schools. There’s no money to train teachers to be Junior Deputy Police Officers. There’s no money for teachers, period.

It’s not that I’m surprised that this is happening in Arizona. When I bought a gun for myself, I was actually surprised and more than a little disconcerted by how easy it was. I remember thinking that it can’t possibly be this easy when the clerk came back to the desk with my new .40 caliber pistol. It evidently only took five minutes to determine that I was worthy of the heavy burden of an instrument whose sole function is violence. Shit, it took more effort to open a checking account.

“Do you want any bullets with that?” the clerk helpfully asked.

“Um,” I said, still concerned by the implications. “No, I’m good. I, um… don’t need to use it yet?”

“No point in having a gun if you don’t have bullets,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s for when I’m hiking alone in the desert. You know. Not for, um, my car.”

And scene.

When I was a kid and learning about the Civil Rights Movement, I would often wonder about the people who lived in the South during the time of Dr. King and Rosa Parks. Surely not every white person in those states was a racist, I thought. I wondered what the non-racist people felt as their states became the icons of insanity, bigotry and backward thinking. Did they feel shame? Guilt by association? Did they worry endlessly about being perceived as supporting all of their home state’s intolerance, simply because they were there? After all, if they didn’t like it, they’d just move somewhere else, right? Anybody who stays must support the opinion of the majority, right?

I think I know now how those people felt.

There is no consolation prize to this news. The only other thing I can take away from this latest bit of madness is that I know now with cold certainty that Arizona is not a place I would want to raise a family. The fact that I may never raise a family of my own does not lessen the numbing potency of this realization. Take that as you will.