Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Slow War

Inanimate objects hate us.

This should be apparent to everyone, and the reasons should be obvious.  We go by too fast for them.  We use them, misuse them, and discard them without a word of regret.  Extended families of cheap silverware huddle in our landfills, frightening little teaspoons with tales of knives used as screwdrivers, forks with their tines splayed out like sea anemones, tarnish left untreated, tablespoons pressed into service and blackened by the lighters of desperate junkies.

As for the lighters, they have have their own sad tales.  Bright, shiny, proud of their fresh colors, they're admired, used, remembered for a few days, then: fini.  Sent to the dry cleaners in a suit coat or backed over in some driveway.  And don't get me started on the way the driveway feels.

When your shoestring breaks, when your keys and glasses hide from you, when the door to your house locks itself while you're outside, when your computer continually turns on the CAPS LOCK key all by itself just as the words begin to come, when the door of your car closes on your finger--these are not isolated incidents.  They're acts of war.

All wars have foot soldiers, those more numerous and more poorly informed advance troops, the grunts whose job is to kill and maim and get killed and maimed while the colonels and generals remain well offscreen, oozing malice by remote control in the hope that they won't be tried as war criminals if their side loses.  While high-ranking inanimate objects act out only occasionally and when they think they can get away with it, the Slow World has designated its foot soldiers and commanded them to attack at every opportunity.

The foot soldiers are (no surprise) those little shards of hell called coat hangers.

All I have to do to give my blood pressure a workout is get within six feet of my closet.  If I want to hang something up or take something out, nine hundred and ninety-seven times out of a thousand, it turns into war.

If I'm putting something in, the hanger snags on another one and drags it toward the back of the closet with it, and then refuses to go any further. In the meantime, whatever is on the hanger I'm snagged on – and it's always something I don't want to wrinkle – slides down and wrinkles. When I try to remove the hanger I was putting into the closet in the first place, it tows the other one along with it, and whatever was on that hanger slides the rest of the way off and hits the floor.

If I'm taking something out of the closet, the hanger I'm trying to remove will slip its hook beneath five or six others, and either simply refuse to come out at all, or – more likely – it will come out easily and cooperatively, bringing all the others with it. All of those hit the floor. And then, as I stand there, looking down at the the destruction of my dry-cleaner's most expensive efforts, the hanger in my hand – the one I was originally trying to get – gracefully shrugs its shoulders, allowing my shirt to float to the floor.

At this point, I do what any mature, reasonable adult would do. I grab the coat-hanger by its elbows, tie it into a knot, drop it on the floor, and jump on it. Then I tote it to the trash. There. I'm done with it. We're even.

But this morning I had a cataclysmic insight. This is what the coat-hanger wants me to do.

No piece of metal wants to be a coat-hanger. Coat-hangerdom is the bottom step on the karmic stairway for metal. In order to come back as a coat-hanger-- as cannon fodder in the war of the inanimates--a piece of metal has to have been really bad in its previous incarnation. It was a bullet used in a drive-by shooting. A dental filling that didn't fit. A low-rider's flick-knife. A tongue-stud that caused an infection. A rusty nail that gave someone tetanus. One of Danielle Steele's fountain pens.

In its incarnation as a hanger, it's sent into battle on behalf of the toaster ovens and hair dryers of the world.  It entangles itself, gets snarled with its colleagues, and drops my clothes on the floor specifically because it wants to be tied into a knot, jumped on, and dumped into the trash. Then it wants to be recycled and sent to Detroit, where it will become part of a Corvette and take revenge on a much broader and more photogenic scale.
Well, I'm not having any of that. From this point forward, any coat-hanger that crosses me will be carefully removed from my closet and put into a box. (You can get a lot of coat-hangers into a good-size box.) Then it will have a wet towel thrown on top of it to encourage rust. I will buy the biggest dog in the world, give it quarts of water, and train it to pee in the box, adding a nice amount of ammonia to the mix. For the next twenty or thirty years, if the dog and I live that long, those hangers will stay in that box, being peed on several times daily and joined from time to time by new coat-hangers and new wet towels. By the time I finally depart this vale of woe, the people who prowl my personal effects will find several boxes of crumpled towels and rust. In my will, I'm going to specify that the rust should be pulverized and scattered over the nearest reeking, malarial body of stagnant water.

Climb that karmic stairway, mo-fo.

Tim -- Sundays


  1. Tim, as a friend, let me make a suggestion: Start folding your clothes.

    You're amazing.

  2. You forgot to mention how those damnable hangers start breeding more of their own every time you close the closet door. Shut the door on 30 hangers, wake up the next day and there are 50.

  3. This, Tim, is why (as Jeff suggested) all of my clothes are folded and placed in drawers (well, except for the tiny, infinitesibly small 80% of them that end up just stacked on top of the dresser or on the floor). The only thing I hang up is my winter coat... and that's on a nice big fat plastic coat hanger. It knows better than to cause problems, because I can set it on fire and in seconds reduce it to a smelly puddle of oxidized hydrocarbons.

    Now, MY personal hell is hoses, power cords and ropes. I'll probably be found one morning, hanging from a rafter with a power cord around my neck, a rope around my wrists and about 300 feet of garden hose tangled about my legs.

    And don't get me started on shoe strings.

  4. This really made me laugh! Brilliant read on a Sunday afternoon.
    Hell to me comes in jars. I nearly always manage to knock one off the shelf when I am searching for something else. Especially if it is full of honey or chocolate spread, something messy and sticky. Of course,according to your theory, it's not me knocking it off its perch, but the jar quietly planning its vicious attack for the next time I open the cupboard door...

  5. Excellent! I am going to be really careful going into my closet next time-they could be plotting as I addition to all the power chords under the my desk and boxes of seasonings on my shelf.

  6. Tell everyone!!! Tell everyone!!!! They're going to . . . . aaaarrrrggggghhhhhhhhhh.

    The rest is silence.

    Old Shakespeare really comes in handy. Lil, they whisper together all night, their voices like rats' feet over broken glass in my dry cellar, or whatever the Eliot quote is. And you and Everett are spot-on about the power cords.

    Thanks Marina Sofia. Made me laugh, too, when I wasn't quaking in fear. "Hell comes to me in jars" is an AMAZING line, one of the best I've heard in years. We should start a contest for the best 1-2 page story beginning with that line. See how persuasive the Inanimates are? You almost bought the idea that YOU were responsible for them hitting the floor and spreading treacle, whatever treacle actually is, everywhere.

    Everett, how come, if we can do everything up to and including transporting large animals from place to place using Bluetooth and the other remote technologies, how come we still need a cord for electricity? This is the next great tech fortune, and I share it with you in exchange for only 51 percent of all revenues in perpetuity. Just work on the details for a bit, and we'll be fat and happy,

    Ohmigod, Naomi, how COULD I have? They multiply faster than viruses. See, this is what happens when you realize at nine PM that you're supposed to put a blog up at ten -- you leave out the most telling piece of evidence. In the unlikely event that I ever revisit this, that'll be the lead paragraph.

    Jeff, who has time to fold clothes? I barely have time to put them on and take them off. But now that you mention it . . .

    1. Tim, now that's a thought to frighten--or make--all things inanimate.

  7. Well, any of us who saw Mommie Dearest know that Joan Crawford knew the evil incarnate that called itself 'wire hangers'. Any of us who actually own them knows it all too well.

    This totally cracked me up--I needed that today. Thanks for this!

  8. Each wire hanger recycled at a local cleaners has helped fund a facility here for those with mental retardation for the past 20 years. Just suggesting.

  9. Liz, it's clearly a public relations ploy to rescue the image of the wire hanger. Not saying that no money goes to the fund, but that this might be a sinister step forward as wire hangers assume semihuman form and begin to buy businesses and retain press agents. Be very afraid.

  10. Tim,
    OMG, the plot for a new book--fiction, one hopes.