J.c. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

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July 21, 2014
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John Mattingly: Socratic Rancher 7-21-14

Getting on means that you find yourself hiding things from yourself. For example, it is handy to have a land line in the house to locate a lost cell phone, which has ended up in unexpected pockets, ledges, laundry tubs, behind seasonal plants, or, the all time favorite hiding place: somewhere in the slim chasms of vehicle seats which are exactly wide enough for wallets and cell phones and keys and other vital objects to fall and disappear, but too small for a normal human hand.

When you misplace something, a good rule of thumb is look for something else, which greatly increases your chances of finding what you were not looking for. While looking for, say, your keys, you will often find the long lost nut that fell off tan appliance, years ago.

Speaking of disappearance. I have taken important papers into my office and those papers have actually disappeared. Never found again. Years go by, and the paper does not show up. On one occasion I was tempted to write David Copperfield to ask him if there is a known technique for making paper disappear, and if it was possible that I had inadvertently mastered the technique. Had this happened, I could learn from a magician how to bring the paper back into the material world.

Though hiding things from yourself as you get older is a common frustration, the real frustration is with packaging. It seems that everything comes encased, protected, secured or bound in some sort of plastic. A gentlemen nearing his early 90s told me a story about getting into a bottle of vitamins that had all the elements of the situation.

He needed to open the lid on the bottle, which he did by applying excessive pressure downward at the same time as he rotated the lid. This is not particularly easy when you have a touch of arthritis, but most of us are used to this as a protection against children taking vitamins. But wait a minute: what is the great danger of a child taking a vitamin? Well, apparently there is a great concern about this, and the special lid addresses that concern, but at the expense of difficulty for those who are actually supposed to be taking the vitamins.

But that is not all. Once the cap is off, there is a stiff cardboard lid over the opening, with four wrap-around tabs sealing it to the male threads of the lid, with a fold up plastic tab to assist with removal. Forget it. The strength required to yank on the tab is greater than the average octogenarian can exert.

So, my friend went to the hardware store to get a pair of pliers. He had pliers, but he had hidden them somewhere in his shop, and after a hour or so he decided it would be best to buy another set of pliers and dedicate them to the kitchen for various and future lid extractions.

“The last time I bought pliers,” he said, “they were in a bin, such as in a general store. Nowadays, piers come wrapped up like a mummy in hard plastic container the size of a book. Ask yourself: why do pliers need to be wrapped up in plastic the size of a book? Well, I suppose it’s to keep a certain kind of person from putting them in their pocket and walking out without paying. That’s a sad commentary.”

To extract the pliers, my friend realized he needed a box cutter, which might also come in handy if the plastic tab on the vitamin bottle tore loose and he had to cut the hard plastic lid. Box cutters also come wrapped in a plastic sarcophagi, so my friend took both items to the counter, paid the tab, then asked if he could borrow the pruning shears on aisle four to free his purchases so he could go home and take his vitamins.

My friend was philosophical about it, as he said, “I believe Americans are more afraid of themselves than anybody else.” ❖

When you misplace something, a good rule of thumb is look for something else, which greatly increases your chances of finding what you were not looking for.


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The Fence Post Updated Jul 14, 2014 04:17PM Published Aug 4, 2014 02:04PM Copyright 2014 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.