Monday, March 1, 2010


Probably most folk who read this will have seen Andy Rooney speaking at the end of the CBS program "60 Minutes". He has a great job. Although some of his efforts, we recently learned, do end up on the equivalent of the "cutting room floor", he is given great latitude on what he chooses to talk about.

One of Andy's recurrent themes is that from time to time he receives unsolicited gifts, most of which he really doesn't know what to do with, other than give them away. Sometimes, I feel a bit like that myself. Barbara and I make valiant efforts to "simplify", and to insist to family members that we don't need any more "stuff". I was given a very attractive cardigan sweater on my recent birthday; I like it very much, but I also wish that the impecunious donor hadn't spent precious dollars on it.

We recently received little plastic cards from "The Charter Hill Society", which describes itself as "Berkeley's Annual Giving Recognition Program". I looked in vain to see if this would grant me lower cost admission to a concert or even some sporting event. I looked on the back, and see that this came from the "Donor Stewardship" department, on a street near the U.C. campus. Also listed was a telephone number and two separate email addresses.

Now why would I want to keep such a card? I even wonder if Barbara has already thrown hers away. In my case, I was raised to respect orders, so when I receive a document that says "keep this for your records", my instinct is to comply. The local public television station uses a raffle to raise funds. I don't really "approve" of raffles. For years we have supported public TV stations in both California (and Colorado, where we maintain a second home). We would rather not have normal programming interrupted on PBS or NPR for their too-frequent "tin cupping", but we understand the necessity for it. Each year, as I mail in my allocated raffle numbers, I only half-believe the statement that the numbers have been pre-selected, and a donation will not improve my chances of a prize. I am on to their games, calling on me to mark on the envelope whether or not a contribution is enclosed. I respond honestly, but will probably go to my grave without a prize, especially not the "early bird" award. Getting to the point, there is always a tear-off part of the entry form which instructs me to "keep this for your records". Obediently, I do so, putting the document in a special place in the china cupboard, from which it is recycled by the time the next year's raffle tickets arrive.

I also have the instincts of a squirrel. Until one of the good friends of our granddaughter (Justine) intervened, I stored away tax returns dating back over fifty years.

Mind you, there are items I do like to retain, including the beautiful multi-colored birthday card presented to me recently by the next-to-youngest of our wonderful seven granddaughters. Such items may start life on our refrigerator door, but soon graduate to a folder for "items to retain".

I usually retain unsolicited credit cards, and they have their storage place in our house. (This past week, one of our young helpers successfully persuaded me to cut up several expired credit cards from that storage place.)

When I went to work every weekday, I seldom finished the newspaper, the same was true for other publications. Nowadays, I usually finish reading our daily newspaper with my second cup of breakfast coffee. We are enthusiastic recyclers, and today the last print issue of The Berkeley Daily Planet arrived, already put aside for recycling. Incidentally, Berkeleyians are good recyclers, so much so that many citizens have exchanged larger garbage cans for the minimum size, or even taken to sharing cans with a neighbor, thus severely reducing the city's income.

Several organizations accept donations in kind - for Thrift Shops or even for export. It is amazing how many items of clothing not worn for at least two years, that I have donated to Good Will or other organizations. Those, too, are "unwanted", but so far I have only made a small dent in my stock of "stuff".


  1. uhoh - shred those unsolicited credit cards -- my brother's house was broken into and the thieves stole those -- activated them from his phone number and used them before the CC company called - they were on a trip -- at the time.