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Going on a junket

“What is this?” Mary Ellen asked me as she dangled a doodad in front of my face. It was small, white, plastic, oddly shaped, and had several grooves. “It looks like it goes to something,” she said.

“I don’t know what it is,” I responded, which I prayed would end the discussion, but I knew it wouldn’t, because my wife can’t leave a thingamajig alone. She has to know what it’s for.

“Put it somewhere in case we ever need it. It looks important,” she said.

“So you want me to keep it because we don’t know what it is for?”

“Exactly.”

“Of course, if we did know what it was for, we’d also keep it. So, I guess we keep everything,” I responded.

“Don’t be silly – some things don’t go to anything. We can throw those things away. We should only keep things that look important.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I have an entire drawer filled with things that look important. I just don’t know what they are important for.

Since we were doing some deep cleaning, I decided it was time to clear out the mess that had accumulated in my office over the years. Why not begin with the doodad Mary Ellen unearthed? I was 100 percent certain that nothing in our house required anything quite like that. But there was only one way to really be sure that it was not important, that it didn’t go to anything: I threw it away.

I tossed it in the wastebasket next to my desk and listened as it fell to the bottom and came to rest with an audible thud. I knew I had a small window of opportunity left to retrieve it if necessary. It would be two days before I emptied the office wastebasket in the garage receptacle, then another day before the sanitation department picked up all the week’s trash. That gave me some time to rescue the thing when the inevitable happened and I realized I had thrown away something that was a valuable part of something else.

A few days later, I heard the familiar sound of the garbage truck pulling away. Whatever that thing was, it was now gone forever. Just a matter of time now before I found out what it was for. In fact, it was the very next day.

“Dick, I need that attachment for my vacuum handle that the cord wraps around. Do you know where it is?

“Yes, on the far south side – at the city dump.”

“You threw that away? Didn’t you know that it went to something?”

“Yes, I knew it went to something. I just didn’t know what it went to.”

I headed upstairs. I removed the large drawer from my desk, flipped it over and emptied the entire contents into the wastebasket: wooden knobs, old keys, pen caps, dozens of multi-colored plastic thingies, metal gizmos in various shapes and a rubber whatchamacallit with a hole in the middle. Within days, I would know the purpose of each item.

“What’s going on up there?” screamed Mary Ellen when she heard the clatter.

“Nothing,” I said. “It’s not important…yet.”

Dick Wolfsie is a syndicated columnist and personality for WISH TV Indianapolis.