My Stuff of Dubious Origin


My wife caught me stuffing muffins into a big plastic bowl.

“Don’t you dare!” she cried.

We were headed for a potluck and since she works and I am retired, I had foolishly promised to take care of our contribution – which resulted in a last minute mad dash to the Quickie-Mart.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

I expected her to say something about Quickie-Mart muffins – but she didn’t.

“It’s the bowl,” she explained.

It wasn’t much of one, just a soft yellow Tupperware container with a lid so faded that it was no longer transparent. I couldn’t see what the big deal was.

“It’s not ours.,” she continued, “and I have no idea whose it is.”

It used to be that people put their names on things when they went to potlucks. Now, no one does. Probably because everything comes from the Quickie-Mart. But I understood what she was getting at with the bowl. All kinds of things wander into our house – often unescorted and that creates ticklish problems.

Did we walk off with something?

Was it left here?

Have we forgotten to return it?

Was our place used as a stash by my buddy Stan and if so, are the police looking for it?

These are all questions best avoided.

But the bigger problem is that we have too much stuff. We have closets bulging with stuff. We have storage rooms stacked to the ceiling with precarious piles of unidentifiable objects. We have a shed we are too scared to enter because of what might lurk in there.

We have so many things that we have come to have doubts about the origins of most of it.

I blame it all on the tyranny of abundance.

There is so much stuff in the world that people are losing track of what is theirs and what is not. We have long since shifted from a society that defended its possessions to one that must defend itself against accumulating possessions.

And while we live in the looming shadow of embarrassment due to having something we should not, others live under the threat that we might return whatever it was they dumped on us.

“How about this one?” I asked, pulling another container off the shelf.

“No way,” she said, “we got that at the last potluck. It held leftovers that everyone hated. I have no idea who tossed into our backseat – but I do not want anyone thinking it is ours.”

“Or this one?”

She shook her head, no.

“Or this?”


“Then what are we going to do?” I asked.

“Go back to Quickie-Mart and buy a new container – and for God-sake, this time let’s put our name on it.”

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