I’ve been rummaging through my father’s papers, notes and scribblings again for no other reason than a little spring cleaning. I came across the following bit he typed up on his Olympic typewriter on those sheets we called “onion paper.” (Best for making carbon copies. Remember those?)
This little essay is quintessentially Pops:
Standing on my desk, amid the genteel clutter of various things I have accumulated over the years, and cannot bear to part with, is one object which should promptly have gone into the garbage can: It is an empty bottle of a popular seltzer water.
What prevented me from aimlessly casting it away is a admonition on its label, NO REFILL–PLEASE DISPOSE OF THOUGHTFULLY.
As instructed, I have earnestly been thinking about that for the past several days. That bottle has no place on my desk. But every time I reach to pluck it out of the midst of the pens and folders and boxes and dried bits of plants and small Mexican fertility gods and goddesses* that collectively provide me with solace at times when inspiration eludes me, I am forced to pause. Will what I am about to do be done Thoughtfully? It is at this point that frustration and fantasy conjoin.
I visualize myself naked, sitting on a rock, brooding like Rodin’s “Thinker.” Or as Hamlet contemplating “poor Yorick’s” skull. I wonder how to dispose of the bottle Thoughtfully. I think funereal thoughts. What if I was on my way to the cemetery with a tag attached to my toe which read, NO REFILL–PLEASE DISPOSE OF THOUGHTFULLY.
I know the author of that daunting legend on the label had no intention of causing me this kind of existential angst. But, if he did, why didn’t he instead admonish me to dispose of the bottle gently, or considerately, surreptitiously, cleverly, or, at least, quietly? Inconspicuously?
Maybe he was simply trying to instill imagination into the prosaic art of disposing of things (which is not, of course, an art, nor will it be, unless someone decides that there exists a state-of-the-art in the disposal of things, as in every endeavor these days, except maybe using the restroom, or putting on one’s trousers). Maybe–just maybe–what he had in mind was total avoidance of the ordinary. You know: open the garbage can, drop the bottle in, close the garbage can.
I’m sure what he was hoping for was that, stimulated by Thoughtfulness, I would wait until my bridge partner trumped my good ace, at which point I would shatter the bottle on his head. As I write this, I think that not only qualifies as a Thoughtful Disposal, it would also Thoughtfully rid myself of a bad bridge partner. Or, while driving through the verdant countryside, toss the bottle, full of gasoline and fixed with a lighted wick, onto the dry grass, thus saving the state the considerable cost of mowing along the verge.
Well, maybe not the latter, but disposing of the bottle could have a certain social value. For instance, one could invite friends and neighbors to a Bottle Burying Party, especially fun in the summer, amidst barbeques and pool parties. The fun part would be a contest, with the guests challenged to suggest the most unusual way to bury the bottle. Folks could bring their own bottle, giving a new meaning to “BYOB.” Undoubtedly, the whole party will discover that there is a state-of-the-art in the Thoughtfully disposed bottle. It would start a trend, written up in women’s magazines for the Thoughtful hostess looking for something special to make her party a real hit with the neighbors, to say nothing of the opportunity it would present for amateur composers of ceremonial music.
Leaving the Alice in Wonderland world of fantastic Thoughtfulness, I come to the ultimate conclusion that the only way I can get rid of the bottle is Whimsically.
As for the subject of disposal itself, I must Thoughtfully conclude this column, however un-artfully.
*My parents travelled often to Mexico. Over the years they collected quite the menagerie of clay figurines.