Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Black Book You Took

Last night, I bought something I haven't owned in years: an address book.

I'm an organization maniac. I'm not always successful at being perfectly organized, but I'm always searching for Total Organization Nirvana. It's been and will continue to be a lifelong quest. I feel drunk with glee when I see a room with everything in its rightful place, everything lined up, no clutter anywhere to be found. This is probably why I've been known to plop myself down and kick my feet up on the display couches at Pottery Barn and pretend like it's my house. I wish.

A few years ago for Christmas, mom got me a Palm Pilot. I had noticed earlier that year that my dad had a pretty nice one. As he showed me all it could do, I said, "Wow! I have got to get one of these!"
Dad stopped and said, "Why would you need a Palm Pilot?"

Sure, my life wasn't exactly busy or fast-paced, but a Palm Pilot would be another tool through which I could attain utter Nirvana.

After mom hooked me up, I sat down and got to work. At first, I exercised restraint and just added addresses and phone numbers. Then I created a "to do" list. Then I went hog wild and created multiple "to do" lists, prioritizing each item.

Then I lost my mind.

I made a list of all the spices we had in our pantry, so I wouldn't buy, say, nutmeg, again by accident.

I made a list of all the coupons in the paper I had clipped. They were alphabetical, complete with expiration dates.

I kept my grocery list on the Palm Pilot, much to the amusement of some random guy one day at the grocery store. He snickered as he said, "Oh, I tried keeping my grocery list on the Palm once. Doesn't work."
"You probably just weren't doing it right," I replied.

I listed things we needed for the house, things we wanted for the house.

Things I wanted, just in general. Usually clothes and shoes.

I listed my favorite stores. You know, just in case I forget how much I love Target.

My lifetime goals. My short-term goals.

Lists of my weight and measurements on various dates.

Books I wanted to read. CDs I wanted to own. Movies we wanted to see. I felt that all of this was important, because I suffer from some very irritating affliction that wipes my mind completely blank the moment I step into any store that sells or rents media.

I showed my mom, a fellow organization freak, all of my lists and she sighed, "Oh, I wish I had that much time on my hands! Honey?" she asked my stepdad, "Can I quit my job?"

Then my world came crumbling down. The Palm Pilot crashed, and I had backed up none of it. All of my precious lists, gone. Addresses and phone numbers, vanished. It was a wonder I didn't buy all kinds of cinnamon and oregano on my next trip to the store, sending our pantry into complete chaos. I had to send a humbling e-mail to everyone I knew telling them what an idiot I was and ask them for their contact information.

Anyway, ever since then, I've had a few trust issues with technology as an organizational tool and I've rediscovered my love of writing things down. Typing is nice and efficient, but a written note? Totally impractical, but so much better. Years ago, I had a pen pal. We kept it old-fashioned. Our notes were almost always hand-written, and even after e-mail came along, we decided to keep up our correspondence the cumbersome but rewarding way, except in emergencies. We're not friends anymore, but I saved all of his letters and I'll always treasure them because they feel like relics. It's a lost art.

These days, I keep my lists on paper, next to the bed. I reserve my nicest handwriting for them.

So, the address book. This is shameful, but I had been keeping my addresses on a chart I created in Word (and printed out, lest the computer crash) since the Palm Incident. Addresses acquired since I printed out that list two years ago are kept on little scraps of paper nearby. It's gotten pathetic, and I think a few of my friends are starting to lose patience with me calling to ask, "Um, so, what's your address again?" I think I've asked Arwen a record five times for her address and the last time I asked, I was kind of surprised she didn't come over here personally to tell me to get it together, already. It's really about time I got around to it, considering my lofty aspirations.

I've got my pencil, my best penmanship and my crash-proof black book at the ready. Maybe now I can head to Pottery Barn with it and sit at one of those cute display desks while I scratch out some letters.