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Plontik | The Bleat.

Previously I’ve tried to clean stuff out, and thought: no. I never know when I’ll need it. But now and then a great gust moves through your life, and you realize I need but food and shelter and the love of my family. So this hex wrench of unknown origin can probably go. Not like I don’t have six others.

As for those six . . .

. . . and then something snaps, and the purge begins.

It’s astonishing how much you can accomplish when you’re not doing the things you should be doing. Accomplishment breeds its own momentum, gives off a virtuous glow – and since wives generally have a list of things you should be doing that’s different than your own sorry guilty list, well, you’re also doing things that should be done, so everyone’s a winner.

It began Friday night with the usual background tasks – transferring video from tape to digital, crunching down raw footage, getting a warm glow when a 126 GB folder drops to 25 GB, writing a few backup programs to send things to network servers in the dark of the night. Hard-core Friday night. At midnight I went to the kitchen table and wrote some novel, the chapter where the protagonists go to Cleveland to interview Joe Ohio’s dad. When I could write no more I watched “Source Code,” which was good enough, although I’d have to post a spoiler warning to indicate what really annoyed about it. The movie concerns terrorism. You can guess. When I woke on Saturday I thought:

Today is the day I finish the sink.

First, Target. Easy enough. When it was my turn I smiled the clerk and said “Paper, please.”

She looked at me and said – and I quote – “Plontik?”

By now I was squatting down to get the soda; I looked up at her and said “Excuse me?”

“Plontik?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said.

“Plastic?” she said.

I said no, paper. Thinking: plontik? What the hell? Her entire performance was peculiar – she moved as if she was underwater, asked questions like “would you like the meat in a plastic bag,” even though I had already put it in a plastic bag, and besides, no, put it in a plontik bag. Obviously she could say “plastic.” Why had I heard plontik? She gave me the receipt and said thank you, and I pretended to study it while listening to her greet the next customer.

“Plontik okay?” she said.

“What?” the customer said. Okay. Not just me.

I returned the sink to Home Depot, got a faucet that fit (the one I bought, of course, did not) and returned home to Make It So. Having attached the faucet and put the sink back, I got out the flexible pipes that always remind me of the tentacles waving off the squidees in the Matrix. Discovered that I’d gotten the wrong kind. Of course. Put them in a bag with the receipt, went upstairs, grabbed my keys, went back down, got the bag, drove to the hardware store, and said I need to return these. Looked in the bag: a can of wood stain. Grabbed the wrong bag. Amazing. This project has been fraught with error and misery from start to finish, and the Fates can’t resist one last kick in the yarbles. Got the right tubes, went home, hooked everything up, turned on the water . . .

It doesn’t leak. This is all I ask from life at this point.

Thus emboldened, I decided to tackle the garage on Sunday. That’s what you do with large projects, specifically garages: you tackle them. Cleaned out years of junk, including – sniff – some beach implements from toddlerhood, molds for sandcastles, plastic shovels. Sigh. Some old kiddie fishing poles, one of which I remember buying to fish at Centennial Lakes. I remember that day because A) we caught nothing, and B) that night I went in to get a boil lanced. Ah, memories. Cleaned out a box of old satellite receivers they apparently don’t want, since years have passed. Replaced a few lightbulbs. Stood back: it was good.

But this was just the beginning. Somehow I got going on a drawer, and that led to anger over a collection of mysterious keys, so I ran around the house figuring out which went where, and threw away those that failed to converse with any lock. Must get more of the ones that fit! In triplicate! Labeled! Moved to the utility room; cleaned out two drawers, then looked at the closet with a contemptuous glance: how long has it been since you were brought to heel? Ruthlessness. Order imposed. Did the second closet, which holds foodstuffs. Hello: Costco Balsamic Vinegrette Dressing from 2007. Begone. Moved to the furnace room; tossed this, straightened that, put up some hooks for mops, cleaned out the bin that holds the dog’s food.

That’s it. I’m done. Go shower. While waiting for the water to get hot I straightened some stacks of sweaters and shirts, thought “never let a manic phase go to waste,” turned off the water, performed grim and unsentimental triage on shirts and sweaters, set aside a pile for charity, rearranged the shirts according to color, then said: now. I am done.

But. There’s the bathroom drawers. Samples of shaving cream, old potions, crimped tubes of expired unguent: gone. A few items could go in the medicine drawer, but Oh My God, Expired Unused Nyquil. And Dayquil. Check the dates on EVERYTHING.

There. Now I am done.

Took a shower, made a cup of coffee, sat outside in the gazebo with a small cigar and updated EVERY APP ON MY IPHONE.

Then we went down the block to the fall party – a neighbor has a cookout, everyone comes, we eat and drink and chat. Sometimes it’s warm. Sometimes it’s drizzly. Today it was drizzly. Saw a guy I didn’t remember wearing an Elvis Costello T-shirt, and I said “That’s . . . somewhere between ‘Taking Liberties’ and ‘Trust,’ isn’t it?” It was. We had a chat on the career of Elvis, and I went into such nerdy fanboy detail that he eventually excused himself – said, more or less, “I have to go stand over here now.” Fine; sorry; never get the chance. Talked with some others while daughter played with friends at the margins of the party; kids at a certain age gravitate to the shadows, the perimeter, practicing the necessity of being apart. Saturday she rode her bike to a friend’s house, first time alone for that distance. Wife was a bit nervous; I wasn’t. Usually the other way around.

“Take your cell phone and call me when you get there,” I said.

“Uuuuuhhhgggh. It’ll fall out of my pocket. I’ll call from their house.”

Fine. I’m thinking: you can use it to call me if someone tracks you in the wooded trails, or if you’re abducted it’ll be handy, but that’s just silly.

So off she goes. And of course the phone doesn’t ring. Call the friend’s cellphone. No answer. Call their house. The mom says she came, and they’ve already gone to the block party. Whew. Then irritation. You go from fearing her neck was wrung to wanting to wring her neck.

Dusk comes and the party unravels and everyone walks back to their homes in the damp drizzle, another good night in the good place. September stage; October mood. I’m relaxed and happy. I’ve done things. But I could do more. Drive to Walgreens to get fresh Nyquil and Dayquil.

Because you never know when you’ll need it.

 

44 Responses to Plontik

  1. Wramblin' Wreck says:

    Yaarrr! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!

  2. RPD says:

    Nooooooooooooooooo! Avast that kind of talk matey!

  3. Mr Tall says:

    I get those manias for cleaning and straightening and purging myself. They always make me think of a line from a poem by Wallace Stevens:

    “Oh! Blessed rage for order . . .”

    Stevens was never my favorite, but that about sums it up.

  4. chrisbcritter says:

    Reminds me of an old Peanuts strip in which Linus is struggling to build a snowman; the last panel shows about a half-dozen snowmen, and Lucy commenting to Charlie, “Burst of nervous energy!” That phrase always comes to mind when I dive into some such project and actually get it done, especially if there wasn’t any logical reason to do it in the first place…

  5. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – i see you/ve the ship’s wheel stuck on your belt buckle

    “yar! it’s driving me nuts”

  6. hpoulter says:

    @Mr Tall – That is my favorite Stevens poem because I could tell what is was about. No blue guitars.

  7. Jeff says:

    Recent tongue piercing, perhaps? Plastic, with a sore spot and hunk of alloy in the middle of your vocal modulator would produce “plontik.” That, or a really bad code in da nosed.

  8. wiredog says:

    “Making Meth Work For You!”

    Not that OGH is OCD or anything like that…

    I do those clean-outs when I move. Or every 2 years, whichever comes first.

  9. hpoulter says:

    “…anyone can do any amount of work,
    provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment” – Robert Benchley How To Get Things Done, 1930

    “It’s astonishing how much you can accomplish when you’re not doing the things you should be doing” – James Lileks The Bleat, 2011

  10. Mt Child Bride and our ten year old were off to a Girl Scout Camp Out at South Lake Tahoe Saturday morning. Filled the Honda Odyssey with a handful of giggling ten year olds and off they went. In their wake, a garage and shed torn asunder from the provisioning of camping supplies. Spent 90 minutes putting everything back in it’s rightful place.

    They returned Sunday evening. Camping supplies litter the garage. Other camping supplies dropped in the middle of the shed.

    sigh.

  11. rbj says:

    Plontik?

    Me thinks we has a new intertubes meme to use. Avast ye mateys, have at it!

  12. Jennifer says:

    I’ve got nothing re: plontik. Except she might just be doing a sociology experiment for school. Or she’s bored. A cousin of mine used to always say nonsense words to try and confuse people–so maybe she’s just killing time confusing customers.

  13. Bob Lipton says:

    Maybe plotnik is what pirates use instead of plastic.

  14. Cory says:

    If I remember, Plontik was one of the immortals of 43- man squamish in the 1960′s. So good, that like Pele or Renaldo in soccer, he was known by only a single name.

  15. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – yarggh! you be wantin’ the plontik or will ye be walkin’ tha plankton?

  16. fizzbin says:

    shesnailie..Buh-da-BOOM :)

  17. pieces o’ eight be the treasure you seek me mateys, now back to Glenn Beck, arrrr

  18. GardenStater says:

    @juanito: “Mt Child Bride…”

    They named a mountain after your wife? Cool.

    I had a similar experience to OGH a few years back. Pulled up to the drive-thru at a local Wendy’s. Female voice with thick South-Asian accent comes through the speaker, takes my order, then says

    “Ketchup ready?”

    “Um, what?”

    “Ketchup ready?”

    “Uh, no, I don’t want ketchup, thanks.”

    “No, ketchup ready?”

    At this point I just say screw it, and drive up to the window, where I could see the person’s face and perhaps derive some sense out of the phrase.

    She wanted to know if I was paying in “cash or credit.”

    (sigh…)

  19. hpoulter says:

    I had a (Chinese) waitress in Thailand who asked the table if we wanted “ramen juice”. We were all nonplussed, and had her repeat it numerous times until we realized she meant “lemon juice” (lemonade). She was not amused, but we were.

    BTW, there was a fancy Chinese restaurant in Bangkok 15 years ago called “The Laurel”. Our Chinese/Thai local boss couldn’t even say it. He sounded like Scooby-Doo or Astro trying to pronounce it, to our silent amusement (“Roh-roh”).

  20. Charlie Young says:

    Anybody else having issues with the dots in the margins? They seem to move and jitter when I look at them. Also, they seem to have the ability to scroll slower than the text. Any explanations for these effects?

  21. Dave in Pgh. says:

    I had a few tongue-tied customers come to me for help when I was a book-slinger at Borders about twenty years ago. Once lady asked where we had the “Big Brent Books”. We asked if Big Brent was a cowboy, whereupon she started to simmer. Finally a co-worker came over and figured out that she was asking for “big print books”, which are properly called Large Print.

    Then there was the lady who asked if we had any books about “mouth tricks”. Three of us stood at the information desk nervously pondering the meaning of “mouth tricks”…until she grew frustrated with our apparent incompetence and quite clearly exclaimed “MATH TRICKS!” She was quickly guided to the Children’s math section instead of the human sexuality section.

    Before all of this, when the store first opened, I misheard an exchange between a co-worker and his customer. The clerk had just completed a sale, bagged the books, and handed the merchandise across the counter while saying “DOOP DOOP DEE DOOP”. When the customer was gone, I walked over to my colleague and asked if he had just said “DOOP DOOP DEE DOOP” to that man.
    “No, I said ‘Thank you and have a nice day.’ Why do you –”
    “Uh…nothing! Forget it!”
    After that, whenever he was finished waiting on someone and he saw me nearby, he would turn in my direction, smile and say “DOOP DOOP DEE DOOP”.

  22. wiredog says:

    @Charlie Young
    DT’s?

  23. GardenStater says:

    @hpoulter: Good one.

    There’s a Thai restaurant near my house that’s named “Khao Tip.”

    I wonder if the owners had any idea…

  24. hpoulter says:

    I thought the same thing. What dots?

  25. lohwoman says:

    Charlie, I see dashes on the left edge. Maybe we could get together and do some Morse coding.

  26. Terry Fitz says:

    Could the check-out person have been deaf? I have a couple of deaf friends who will sometimes drop a “plontik” despite decades of practice. It’s usually when they are tired that you get a “plontik” or something like it. Just a thought.

  27. Ed says:

    Well, the number one and two search results via Google for “plontik” are this page. And it keeps trying to correct me and search for plotnik instead.

    No soup, Radio.

  28. ScottG says:

    Those little apparent motions of the dotted background is known as a plontik effect….

  29. S.T. Mum says:

    Re second closet, “Costco Balsamic Vinegrette Dressing from 2007″
    At least I am ‘good’ there with flotsam. Twice a year the mail carriers pick up for the Food Bank, and at Thanksgiving “everyone” is collecting for the Bank. I will go thru the pantry at these times. Anything near its ‘use by’ date is an automatic choice. In addition, a nearby market and the Goodwills have a perpetual Food Bank box. Few things don’t have a use by/best by these days, but I’ve become diligent about putting a bought-on date on these. The few that have no use by/bought on date go bye-bye unless I have a clear memory of buying them and can update them.

  30. Terry Fitz says:

    Has anyone else had to explain to a spouse that once you open the container (as in a jar of pasta sauce) the “use by” date is moot? My wife is Swedish AND Norwegian (read: cheap and cheaper) and does not like throwing out food. I am a profligate Irishman who would rather not have to go to the ER over two bucks’ worth of Prego.

  31. Cambias says:

    They don’t have bags made of plontik in Minneapolis? How retro. Everything around here is made of plontik. Even the people.

  32. I don’t think it is nice to give outdated food to food banks IMHO.

  33. Al Federber says:

    Wow. I’m glad that’s over with.

  34. DryOwlTacos says:

    OGH is seriously OCD, IMHO.
    OTOH, he’s welcome to come tackle my workbench and flotsam drawers.

  35. CaliforniaJeff says:

    Good flotsam management, James. It’s freeing to de-hoardify, doesn’t it?

    Don’t know how I’d not sit down and cry over the old beach toys, though, and I’m not even a parent.

    Someone should write a story about old toys that don’t get played with anymore now that the kid is growin… oh, nevermind.

  36. S.T. Mum says:

    Whoops, didn’t mean to imply I give the outdated/bad items to the food bank, only those that, say, expire in 2 or 3 months and I know I have backup. By bye-bye I meant that big garbage can in the sky. I feel a twinge of guilt every time I have to do that, but I’m like the previous Irishman wanting to avoid the ER. At least I’m not like a previous neighbor, who must be who they’ve made those “just throw 25% or so in the trash” commercials about. You could have fed a small town on what they threw out every month.

  37. bgbear says:

    do the dots only show up on Mac, I didn’t see them until I got home to my macbook.

  38. bgbear says:

    @st mom, I think I knew what you meant, I do not know the turn over time for food banks, 2 to 3 months sounds safe to me. I should consider asking what the local food banks policy is in throwing stuff out.

    I feel better donating new canned stuff from Costco and super market sales.

  39. fizzbin says:

    Do not worry about turn over time for food bank donations. The stuff is given out in a few days or so. Sadly, it’s getting to the point that the food banks are giving out stuff they haven’t yet received.

  40. MJBirch says:

    Plontik — I go with the tongue piercing theory.

    because…

    As a relatively new employee of Tarjay (setting up the new store in Lititz, PA, aka Warwick Township as the uninitiated are afraid to attempt to pronounce “Lititz*” in public) I noted with approval that Target cheerfully employs the pierced, the tattooed, and the elderly. (Me for the last description.) There’s a nice young chap here who is tattooed like a Maori warrior, rich lines and dots on his face, blue plastic tusks in his nostrils, coaster-sized implants in his earlobes, a ring through his eyebrow and the most gorgeous patterns and colors on his arms!

    *We open October 9! Come see us! and Lititz is pronounced (locally) Lidditdz. No particular emphasis on either syllable.

  41. swschrad says:

    I, on the other hand, sat with the cat in my lap all afternoon. keeping him from rolling over on my sore knee,

    looks like a first-year med student drew the pentagram on my knee with surgical marker. so it only feels sorta-evil.

  42. Charlie Young says:

    Dots are gone today. Might have to try a different hooch.

  43. Doc says:

    I get the objection, but damn, that was a good movie. So was “Moon”. I’ll be keeping an eye out for movies by Son of Bowie.

  44. Fred says:

    Am I the only one that cleans up the garage, heaves a sigh of relief in a job well done only to turn around 10 minutes later and find that the wife and child (grown) have filled it right back up again and all my access is once again restricted?

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