A Week of Retroactive Accountability
I don’t like tidying up the house when my wife and daughter are away. I don’t mind cleaning, especially the kitchen and bathroom, but picking up toys and shelving books and generally putting things where they officially belong makes the house feel colder. It erases the evidence that other people live here, that “my” life is part of “our” life now. I haven’t gone so far as to strew some of their clothes around the living room, the way a cat would rub its scent onto the leg of the couch, but it’s only been a few days…
I was thinking about this—about the comfort we get from the evidence of others—as I was walking home last night. One of the buildings near Mozilla’s office is being demolished; as I watched the machines tear at at the old bricks, I wondered how the tenants of the other buildings must feel. Some of them (the tenants, I mean) might have been there thirty years or more—it’s that kind of neighborhood. As they watch the last traces of long-gone friends and rivals erased to make room for new stories with new characters, do they feel the same way I do when I look around the kitchen and see no evidence that anyone ever sat at the table drawing a dinosaur for daddy? Or knit on the couch while Jamie Oliver made something with far too much mustard in it?
And then I wondered, why do only the young spraypaint slogans on walls? Why is it always guys in their teens and twenties tagging some variation on, “I was here”? Why don’t the old do it too, not to say, “I was here first,” but to say, “My friend was here,” or, “My first love was here,”, or even just, “Once upon a time, I sat here in the sun with two strangers, eating sandwiches and enjoying the first warmth of spring.” Why aren’t guerrilla armies of pensioners sneaking around at night parking Studebakers on street corners and replacing the khakis in the window of the Gap with the gingham dresses or tie-dye of their youth?
This post was supposed to be a summary of what I did this week, but mostly what I did was bang my head against other people’s software. I don’t think I’ll bother to remember that (or if I do, I won’t be able to distinguish it from the hundreds of other weeks I’ve spent doing the same thing). What I hope I’ll remember is that picture of ninja seniors putting a few random things back the way they were to remind themselves and the world that once upon a time, others were here.