A friend and I were recently having a typical, inane discussion at work for, what I can only assume, was the 7th or 8th such digression that particular day. Truth be told, I love these digressions. They are what makes work tolerable. I can’t tell you how excited I get to walk into someone’s office or have someone come to mine to waste 3 to 5 minutes waxing poetic about the stupidest shit imaginable. Things like:
“Should guys frost their tips after they turn 21?”
“Can masturbation at work technically be considered sexual harassment against yourself?”
“Now that Sam Cassell is retired from basketball, who is the ugliest man in professional sports?”
“Do you get as annoyed as I do with people who say, ‘Anyways…’?”
“Should I be more alarmed that our boss creepily commented on someone’s breasts or that he actually described them as ‘nice cans’?”
“How is it possible that the alien ship that Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith infected with a computer virus in Independence Day was actually using a Windows-compatible PC?”
I wish I could record these daily digressions because they are priceless pieces of business. Lunchtime, when the proper crew is all present and accounted for, is an hour straight of this stuff. I just need to set up some audio equipment and we’d have ourselves a killer podcast. Anyways…
Our discussion started innocently enough and admittedly, it was a bit nerdy. I’ve become a bit of a tech geek over the past few years. Not that I have an exorbitant amount of money to spend on techie things, but I like to follow the latest and greatest when it comes to the web, computers, video cameras, and anything else that arouses my inner nerd. I’m still not sure if I just grew into this over the past few years or if I’ve always been a bit of a nerd and am just now starting to embrace it. For example, I love testing out the newest online productivity tools. There’s so many cool web-based tools to make certain parts of your day easier. I know, I can hear people yawning as I’m writing this, but I’m getting to my point. I had recommended an online tool to my friend to make email and file search easier. I’ve become a fan of this tool, thought he might like it, and I wanted to hear his assessment. Interestingly enough, and without a hint of sarcasm, he said he liked it, but felt like he was cheating on his current tool of choice, which he’s used for quite a while. I completely understood what he was saying on the surface, but his answer got me thinking about the deeper meaning behind his answer. Why do people think inanimate objects, like a piece of software, have feelings? And why is it that we humans develop intimate relationships with these objects to the point where we actually consider it cheating if we use something else?
Honestly, we are all guilty of this. Everyone on the planet, at times in their life, feels a deep, personal connection to some object, like a cell phone or a comfortable chair or a pair of sunglasses or a tattered blanket, that truly has no fucking clue about…anything. These objects not only don’t know about feelings, they have no conscious thought, they have nothing. Nothing. Yet we all fall in love with objects that can’t return love in the traditional sense. And it kills us emotionally when something happens and suddenly the object is no more. We feel a sense of loss similar to death. Just think about Wilson, the volleyball from Cast Away with Tom Hanks. How fucking devastated was he when that volleyball broke loose from his makeshift raft and drifted out of his reach. We were devastated, too, as we watched Tom Hanks’ character have his heart ripped out, because we all know the feeling.
These feelings start when you’re a kid. Think about that first stuffed animal you had or that first doll. I don’t remember a hell of a lot from when I was very young, but I do remember a stuffed dog that I couldn’t go to bed without until I was about 7. I think it was light brown with dark brown spots and looked a bit like Snoopy, but I forgot its name. Yet I needed that stuffed dog, both physically and emotionally, in order to fall asleep comfortably. Soon enough, it was gone, replaced by baseball gloves, footballs, and my younger brother. Once I got him, I didn’t need a stuffed animal anymore as I was too busy tending to my brother’s sleepwalking and unsuccessful attempts at finding the bedroom door so he could go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The little bastard would jump up and down on his bed screaming for me to help him take a piss. Sometimes I would help, sometimes I wouldn’t. My brother had a stuffed bear that he called “Betta Betta Bear.” Where he came up with that name is beyond me, but he had that thing with him every night, just like I had my dog. Looking back, I should have been more buddy-buddy with Betta Betta Bear. I would have told that damn bear that my brother was now his nighttime responsibility, not mine. I unintentionally got my brother back a few years later. While sleepwalking one summer night, I went into his room, opened his window and urinated through his screen window like it was the most normal thing in the world to do. My mom saw all of this, screamed at me while I was in mid-stream, and I, still under the spell of the Sandman, looked at her like, “Yeah, what’s your problem, babe?”
I grew up in the heyday of the Star Wars-era, but I wasn’t a big action figure collector. Those toys didn’t really blow my hair back. I was never really that kid who had the desire to set out a whole battalion of action figures on the bedroom floor, giving each character a name and personality, as an elaborate battle would ensue. Actually, I was never a big collector of anything, except sports equipment and music. I had friends growing up who had absolutely amazing Star Wars action figure collections. You know, those kids who had the huge Millennium Falcon set-up and the Death Star cutaway sets. I was always a bit jealous of them, but, looking back, I know I would have played with them for about three days and then would have been outside playing with other shit. That whole Star Wars action figure thing is all a bit strange now looking back. The only one I would have wanted would have been Princess Leia. I watched Return of the Jedi recently with my 6-year-old son and, I must admit, it gave me a renewed appreciation for early 1980’s-era Carrie Fisher. Looking at her sitting at the lap of Jabba the Hut in that sexy little bikini is still slightly arousing. Then, I inevitably think of her today as she more closely resembles Jabba the Hut than Princess Leia. Cocaine is bad for you, kids.
I had other things as I grew up that I had a close relationship with, like my sneakers. I think that’s a big thing for most males as they grow up. With every new pair of sneakers, I would develop a close, personal bond. They would guide me through countless games of wiffle ball, basketball, Rambo (or Manhunt, whichever you prefer, but I’m sticking with Rambo), kill-the-guy-with-the ball, and on and on. With each day of play, they would become more and more comfortable, molding perfectly around my feet. But eventually, they would wear down and I’d have to replace them. I would always get excited about buying new sneakers to make me run faster and jump higher, but I always felt bad for the old pair. I’d place them in my closet and vow that I’d be back to play again, but it would never happen. Soon they would find their way to a cardboard box or a yard sale, never to be loved again like they were during our time together.
As you get older, it’s funny how certain specific relationships with inanimate objects can eerily resemble specific relationships in real life. Take the toilet bowl and the one-night stand, for instance. We have a very utilitarian relationship with the toilet bowl 99% of the time. It has a simple function. It quickly and efficiently collects and disposes of our human waste so we don’t have to deal with it. We don’t really think about its function because we simply don’t want to talk about it or acknowledge it. We piss in it, we shit in it, we throw dead gold fish in it, we press the plunger and it disappears. But picture this…