The Things We Carry

Posted On January 11, 2010

   I was the driver for three of us going to the local pizza joint to finish watching the Cardinals/Packers game, when I realized that in order to fit the third person in the back seat (I drive an F-150, Crew Cab-Love my truck!!) I had to really shuffle things around. That done, we enjoyed some refreshment and cheered loudly as the Cardinal defense came through in the end with a tipped pass, interception, and about a 15 yard touchdown run by one of our defensive linemen. Go Cardinals!! With that said, my comment to the person in the back seat was, “If you want to know about me, take a look at all the stuff I shoved over to the other side of the truck.” I didn’t realize how right I was until driving home after the game.

   Have you even been at a party, and as a topic of discussion with a near stranger asked, “What CD or song on your Ipod do you have in your car right now?” Beats asking them their sign! Music is a universal language. So much so, that when the U.S. sent Voyager into the depths of the Milky Way Galaxy, the space guys included a recording of humpback whales and some Pink Floyd (I think, or was it the Beatles?). What a person listens to tells a lot about them. Cowboys and cowgirls like Country/Western (but they still know AC/DC!). Flamboyant singles in their twenties and thirties that are into the club scene enjoy Techno, Rap, and R&B. If you see someone with multiple tattoos and face piercings, don’t be surprised if they’re a Slipknot or Opeth fan. These are generalizations, of course, since I listen to just about everything (except Techno, Rap, and most R&B), but the most important aspect that gets me interested in a band or singer, is the musical ability of the musicians, if the music “goes somewhere”, and if the lyrics mean something other than getting drunk and having sex with your girlfriend or shooting a cop. In fact, I use music when I write, something without lyrics, so Jazz or New Age stuff, as it drowns out the other thoughts constantly in my head and allows the story to come through. Can I write without music? Absolutely, but I find myself in an exercise of bringing my mind back to the task at hand, which is fine. It’s kind of like me sitting on my Zafu and meditating. I repeat my mantra, and invariably thoughts intrude, and I just come back to the mantra, no judgement, no criticism. It’s just practice in training the mind to be still, giving me the opportunity to slip between the gaps. But that’s another blog . . .

  There is a writing exercise that I found in some book awhile ago, that suggested dumping things out of your purse or wallet and looking at what you carry. Based on that, people can devise conclusions about you as a person. In looking at my purse, which measures 3 in. x 4 in. x 3 in., one would think, and I’ve had friends comment, “Are you kidding? What do you carry in that? I have one of those IN my purse!” And how can I answer? My driver’s license, credit cards, insurance, gift cards, cash and coins, a few business cards. In the other zipper is my lip balm, pain reliever, eye drops (expired), and compact (about 3 years old). There is a small outer pocket for my cell phone which is held in place by a hook and loop strap, and the loops just aren’t holding it much any more. What else do I need? Nothing. Until you look in the back seat of my truck.

   I have two horses, my mare and her filly. I just bought Holly, the filly, a Jolly Ball, so the cardboard wrapping is in my truck. I don’t want to recycle it yet because it has the web site for the company and I want to get her one of the toys where pellets can be inserted and she can roll it around and pellets drop out on the ground. I also have my barn tennis shoes (My last pair of boots wore out over a year ago, and no, I have not taken the time to order a new pair). There is also my barn jacket, a great hooded number that I got as a gift before my trip to New Zealand and Australia about 10 years ago, which is water resistent, wind-tight, and the dust and horse hair don’t seem to cling to it. I’m carrying two yoga mats, one that I use at the studio and a couple of houses where I go to give yoga sessions, and one that I can use as a spare and at one person’s house who has a number of dogs and I’ve discovered that if I use my good mat, it takes a week to get the dog hair off of it. I also carry a blanket, two blocks, and a strap for yoga classes I conduct. Besides the barn shoes, there’s also another pair of shoes, and a pair of tennis shoes that was forgotten when I took a few bags of clothes and shoes to Goodwill the day before Christmas Eve. There is an Algebra book shoved under the seat. I was using it a couple of summers ago tutoring a student who wanted to learn, of all things, Algebra. A small plastic basket that I need to take back into my classroom to store, well, stuff, I know is on the floor of the back seat covered with all the ads that come weekly in the mail, which I haven’t taken to the recycle bin. I usually check my mail once or twice a week, on my way out of the complex, so whatever isn’t important often sits in my truck for a couple of weeks. What is important generally only spends a week on the passenger seat before I carry it in. There was a bag from the vitamin store and a bag with one and a half changes of clothes (I hadn’t taken it out the previous day, but changed from yoga pants to jeans, thus the “half” of a change of clothes), and two bags of grapefruit and oranges that we’d just picked from a neighbor’s backyard. On the seat on the far passenger side is a box of my books. I carry several copies of all three novels, just in case I meet up with someone who is interested in purchasing one. On top of the box is my spiral that I’m currently recording manuscript #5 in. And that’s in the back seat.

   About half the time, the front passenger seat is empty, including the floor, while the other times it is full of whatever I might be eating on the road from one appointment to the next, perhaps some mail, or my purse. On the floor over the driveshaft is a visor (and currently a small bag of trash that I pulled from the pocket of the driver’s side door but have yet to throw away) and a small metal crate that houses my jewel cases for whatever CD’s I’m listening to that week. Right now, I have a couple of Seether, a Disturbed, a Steve Winwood, a Christmas compilation, John Mayer, and Karen Drucker. The consul in the middle of the seat houses pens, scraps of paper, lotion, deodorant, cell phone charger and carrier (in case I want to take it with me when I ride), used checkbook, battery cable brush, keys for the horse trailer and my hitch, a tape (to measure the height and weight of a horse), and a bag of Life Saver’s Mints. There are various other things stashed in my glove box, like plastic wear, napkins, work gloves, and packets of honey. I have another hitch and an air compressor behind the back seat. I have rope and bungy cords in the side door pockets (and various other paper-type things that should go in the trash), keys and hair clips in the cup holder, a bracelet and more hair ties around my gear shift.

   By looking at the size of my purse and what I carry, one could think several things. Perhaps I don’t have a lot to take with me, I’m uncaring about my looks, I have a lot of money, or perhaps I’m really in debt. To look at the inside of my truck, would one feel overwhelmed? Am I a pack rat (a lot of teachers are)? A slob? Obsessive-Compulsive? Do I spend a lot of time driving, or am I too lazy to clean it out? Perhaps I live in my truck. Some people do live in their vehicles, some by choice, others not. I think there’s something private about one’s vehicle. We have our own set radio stations, where we carry stuff (the trunk, the back seat), how we like our windows open or not, etc. To take someone somewhere, even just to the grocery store, means we must invite them into our private domain. Is our bedroom as personal?

   Somewhere, I’d read that a woman’s purse is private, and men don’t want to know what is in there, even if it is their wife’s handbag. They’ll pass it to her and let her dig through it to find what she needs. Conversely, a man’s wallet, for some reason I’ve yet to understand, holds great fascination with women (but not me). What does he carry? Pictures? Money? A speeding ticket? A business card? Perhaps it is a level of trust that a woman feels . . . privileged to paw through a man’s wallet, yet a man holds no such desire to peer into the depths of a woman’s purse. Could it be just a different level of curiosity?

   Check it out for yourself. Dump the contents of your purse or wallet out on the table and look at what you carry. Did you find something you were looking for? What do the items that you carry with you say about you? What if you were a stranger and were looking at these things? What conclusions would you draw? Set your driver’s license aside. If you found these things and were a detective working a missing person’s case, what clues would the items give you as to where to locate the person? Sketch the things in a collage or make a caricature of them. Write a song or craft a poem about one of the items, or the person who lost it. Create a short story around when a particular item was received, or found. If you do this with a friend, close your eyes and try to find your things among the pile.

   In relating this to some of my characters, there are some who carry much, and others who carry very little. Does that tell the reader something about them, or me as the author? I have several short stories and poems on my web site, free, for your reading pleasure. Is there something else that I carry that I’m not aware of? What are the things that you carry?

Written by Michele Venne

Writer of immersive and intriguing stories.

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