Friday, March 04, 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Slovenly

As part of my continuing dubious public service, I hearby present March's edition of Last Laugh, my column in Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine:

Springtime is almost upon us, a time during which my thoughts invariably turn to spring cleaning. Notice I say “my thoughts”, as opposed to, say, my actions. I think about cleaning a lot. As for the act of cleaning, well, I’d just as soon read Finnegan’s Wake.

I’ve never been what you’d call a neat person. Go back to my high school days and I was routinely late for class – not for any nefarious reasons, but because it took me that long to dig through my locker to find the right books for the next period. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t one of those guys that was finding old tuna fish sandwiches from freshman year and confusing them with my biology project. I was a slob, but a sanitary slob. Rather, I was one of those guys who went looking for his math homework and confused it with the standings from his Rotisserie baseball league.

The weekend after my college graduation, while my classmates were all getting drunk and embarking on their actual lives, my roommate, Mike Fox, and I spent the better part of 36 hours dealing with an entire year’s worth of newspapers that had rendered our recycling bin too heavy to move. (I knew we should have subscribed to the microfiche edition.)

The worst day of my journalism career – even worse than the time I had to emcee the Winneshiek County Fair Queen Pageant while everyone in the crowd was waiting for the stock car races to begin – was the day I came to work and my boss had cleaned my desk.

Not cleaned out my desk, implying that I was fired. I could have dealt with that. It would have saved the time of packing my things. No, he had come in over the weekend and filed everything in manila folders and drawers and cabinets and cubbyholes and OHMYGODTHEWASTEBASKET! And without even considering the idea that I might someday need that 10-month old press release from the local 4-H chapter. He claimed to have committed the neatness because he was worried what our Congressman would think if he ever walked in the newsroom. I’ve always figured he did it because he was a neatnik. Or our Congressman was a neatnik.

And that’s why I think I fit nicely into northern Arizona. It’s not necessarily a neat place. Sure, there are people that keep their homes, or their offices, neat. But the elements work against it. Head down to Sedona and come back with a car (and shoes) full of red dirt. Here in Flagstaff, my nine-month old daughter will never have to worry about sliding on our floor, since all the cinders that were formerly on San Francisco Street are now in our living room.

But I’m hereby resolving to change my slovenly ways. This year, I’m actually going to do some real-live Spring Cleaning. As soon as I hit the end of this column I’m going to go take a bath.

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