Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
The newest show on the A&E network, “Hoarders,” in which people on the verge of breakdowns because of their inability to part with their belongings are showcased, has proved to be a bona fide ratings success. However, if the show ever decides to spotlight the upside of mass accumulation (as it is more commonly referred to among healthier hoarders), they should give me a call.After three-plus decades of saving stuff, my hoarding finally paid off last month. (For the record, though, I don’t collect nearly as much as my family accuses me of – for instance, they’re totally exaggerating when they say that I have an amassment of string. I only hold on to the little bits of thread that come with the extra buttons on shirts and jackets. I gave up my twine collection months ago.)My husband rode my bicycle to work one morning and left it unlocked, as usual, at a well-populated Main Street intersection. Later that evening he called me at home. “The bike is gone,” he said miserably. “I’m looking all over for it, but it’s just gone.”It was annoying, to say the least. It wasn’t an expensive or fancy bike. I bought it five years ago so I’d have something to ride around town. It weighed a ton, and I never got used to the uncomfortable seat. But it was mine, and someone stole it.It felt like the time I was walking to work in Manhattan and couldn’t get inside my office without fighting the Friday morning crowds outside the “Today” show in Rockefeller Plaza who were there watching The Neville Brothers perform live. “Stupid tourists,” I muttered to myself as I bobbed and weaved for 10 minutes just to make it the half block to the building’s entrance.When I stepped inside the revolving doors and took off my little Coach backpack to get my wallet so I could buy some coffee, I discovered it was already open and the wallet was gone. The thief, who must have been preying on the stupid tourists, robbed a stupid local instead (and fared quite well, I might add, making off with a two-dollar bill my mom had once given me, plus my cash, credit cards and a blank check, all of which was used to take a trip to Florida). Last month a different thief preyed on a different local who optimistically trusted that he lived in a town where bike locks weren’t necessary. This time, however, the last laugh was at the thief’s expense. Literally. About two weeks after the bike was stolen, my husband called me as he walked home from work. “I just found it!” he said excitedly.The bicycle was chained to a fence two blocks from his office. Since it had never been registered, we hadn’t bothered calling the police to file a report when it was stolen. So we figured we had no recourse to call the cops and say it had been found. Until I remembered I still had the receipt.”I know exactly where it is,” I said, bounding up the stairs to our bedroom. And there it was. Under the stack of gift ideas torn out from magazines and next to a collection of about 75 pens (it could happen that 74 will run out of ink simultaneously) in an envelope with other receipts, like the one from the downpayment I made on my car six years ago and the Target receipt from August 2008 for a bottle of moisturizer, a light bulb and a bag of cotton balls.Not only did I have the credit card receipt, but I also had the receipt from the store with the bike’s serial number. It was enough proof that the kind officers from the Aspen Police Department brought out a huge pair of clippers that looked like they were tough enough to prune the hedges along the Great Wall of China and clipped the lock (which was so heavy duty it could have been used to secure Rikers Island the next time the guards go on strike). The thief was kind, too – upgrading the bike with new tires and disc brakes. In fact, the thief put more money into the bike than I paid for it five years ago. (Who says crime doesn’t pay?)I felt like Cagney and Lacy, Magnum P.I. and Jessica Fletcher all wrapped into one, only instead of useful, crime-solving information stored in my head, I have it all stuffed into envelopes and boxes in my closet, night table and storage unit. It’s only a matter of time before all the used Kleenex my dad claims I’ve saved comes in handy, too.
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