Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I think that I shall never see ...

… a pile of paper as lovely as a tree (with due apologies to Joyce Kilmer).

I feel badly about Kilmer, an American poet killed in 1918 at age 31 in the Second Battle of the Marne. His poetry is widely disparaged as overly sentimental and downright clumsy these days and I don’t much like it either. But I doubt anyone of my generation at least can get rid of that opening line of his ode to trees (substitute “tree” for “pile of paper”) that roams around in our heads, too easily adapted to other purposes.

But I feel badly, too, about these piles of paper --- derived from trees --- that I live and work among. The computer age and advancing technology was supposed to decrease our reliance on paper. It hasn’t.

Granted, I now deal with one small bank account entirely online, and that reduces accumulated paper. On the other hand, when I stopped roaming around so much I also stopped relying on cash and now depend upon a debit card and a credit card. The problem is, each time I use either of those card a receipt is spat out and I can’t bring myself to throw it away. I keep the receipts in a big box, figuring that if I ever need to prove a point I’ll be able to do so. This is a delusion. It also represents at the least one small shrub.

Speaking of credit cards, why do I keep getting all those applications? I have one debit card from one bank and a credit card from another. Those are all the cards I want or need. Still, at least two fat envelopes arrive each week bearing applications for new ones. I feel obligated to shred the sheets with my name and address on them and resent the need. Why can’t Chase Bank just leave me alone?

A good supply of stuff arrives regularly from New York Life. Most of it I never look at. I have a small insurance policy purchased many years ago to keep a pesky agent from bothering me. I intend to cash it in soon and spend it before my beneficiary gets the chance. So I’m not interested. But the paper keeps coming.

Much of my problem is self-inflicted. I do lots of research --- on microfilm, online and in public records and books. Before the days of push-a-button-and-make-a-copy I took notes. Now I make copies. I don’t feel secure without copies. Having completed a project, I can’t bear to throw the copies away. They pile up --- more paper; several mighty oaks lying about in disorganized piles.

I’ve also inherited a good deal of paper, none of it spendable I’m sorry to say --- documents, photographs, antique post cards. Name it, I’ve got it. I can’t (and shouldn’t) bring myself to throw any of it away.

Newspapers: I feel badly about this, since newspapers supported me for many years, but I subscribe only to the Chariton newspapers these days, recycling the buildup. The others, I read (for free) online. That’s one of the reasons newspapers are in decline --- why buy it when you can get it for free? I’m sorry about this and I don’t see a solution. I used to believe in newspapers before the decline began. I’d still subscribe if it weren’t for all that paper, a big threat in a small house. I feel like a traitor --- but not very often.

Finally, for now, Alliant Energy. I like to pay my gas and electric bill monthly --- when I can find it among all the slick inserts packed around it in the envelope. Why do they send me that stuff? I’ll never read it.

For now, most of the paper is confined to a closet and/or scattered across the bed in the guest bedroom or somewhere in the room upstairs that is supposed to become (some day) an office. I’ve decided I have to start confronting it again, which is the reason for this lament …

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