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Stephen Hawking: I Need a New Law of Physics

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Where's Stephen Hawking when I need him, because there aughta be a new law of physics.

A law of physics that makes the scrap heap of electrical cords, antennae, screws, nuts, stick'em-ons, widgets, instruction booklets and whatevers that came with all the electronics, appliances, televisions, telephones and kits of all kinds disappear...evaporate...vanish...go poof in a magical puff of smoke whenever the item goes kaplooey or we replace it.

While going through the horrors of remodeling the original kitchen in my house, a story for another time, I was trying to thin out years of clutter. Scattered in various drawers and cupboards that were being packed for storage until the work was done, I ran into what seemed like hundreds of bits and pieces of "what are these?," "what do they belong tos?," and "do I need to save 'ems?"

As the years of hording this flotsam and jetsam passed, I got smarter about throwing them in a drawer. Before doing so, I put them in zip bags, and with my trusty fine-point marker pen, wrote out what they belonged to. This proved to be quite helpful, up to a point.

The point of "even though I know I got rid of whatever it belonged to long ago," will I still need parts of this stuff in the future? That is, if I can remember that I saved it or where I stashed it.

Just about everybody knows what I'm talking about. We all have "junk" drawers stuffed like Christmas turkeys with "what are these?" and "just in case" save'ems. You know, the extras that came with the curtain rod; the big fat square plug that probably came with an answering machine; or the hoses, screws, nuts, bolts, washers, springs and Allen wrenches that tagged along with a new bathroom faucet.

The Allen wrench is a definite keeper. It gets thrown in the tool-saver, because I figure that after saving enough of them, over the years I will have an entire set of Allen wrenches and not have to buy one. Too bad that I didn't save them all in the same place. Sets should be kept together; that's why they call them "sets."

It's always fun to solve the mystery of "what is it?" Such was the case of a diamond-shaped doodad, slightly raised in the middle and affixed to a nail. After scrutinizing it from every angle for several minutes I recognized it as a decorative nail called a clavos that I had dug out of an old piece of furniture.

Clavos. A funny word not to be found in my dictionary, but I typed it into my computer and came with 159,086 results to search through.

Of course, there is the category of not only "what is it?", but "where the heck did it come from?" Did I buy this? And if so, why? If I bought it, what was I thinking?" Perhaps it didn't come from anything I purchased, but was left by pixilated pixies just to vex me.

"Okay, pixies. Where's the extra chain for the light fixture that hung over the kitchen table that's now going into another room?"

Then there's the opposite of "what is it and where did it come from?" It's all that stuff in the "where did it go?" category. It's the things we put away that have disappeared into a black hole of nothingness. It's not things like socks. We know where the socks went; the washer ate them. It's the other stuff.

While looking for a "couldn't find," I imagined an army of evil, one-eyed space aliens sneaking into the house in the middle of the night and hauling off all those bits and pieces of "stuff" to build an otherworldly Rube Goldberg contraption. Someday our astronauts will find them on the strange planet of This Looks Familiar in the galaxy of So That's Where It Went.

Now, most of the time we would be well-served to throw out all of the "extras" from the get-go. But, we don't, because of that one in a thousand time when "we just might need it" pays off.

One example. When the cable company installed cable in my kitchen they poked a hole in the wall, shoved the cable through and attached the cord to the wall with a plastic "doobee" that was forever falling out of its hole.

When the new electrical wiring was installed in the kitchen, the contractor put in a telephone/cable combo box. Super! A twofer all self-contained and guaranteed not to fall off the wall. Suddenly, not so super, because now I had to buy a short cable hook up with two male ends; one end for the TV and the other to plug into the twofer box in the wall.

Wait a minute! Not to worry. Somewhere, lurking in the back of my mind was just such a gismo that I though I had seen recently. Human memory -- the original computer -- led me to a box in an upstairs closet, and when I reach in the double-male cable hook-up thingy was the second thing I pulled out of the box.

I think the moral of the story is if you recognize it, save it, and save all the "recognizables" in the same place, because someday you just might need them. Really!
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Sandy Sand began her writing career while raising three children and doing public relations work for Women's American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training). That led to a job as a reporter for the San Fernando Valley Chronicle, a (more...)

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