Saturday, June 22, 2013

Just-In-Case Lifestyle

You may have heard of the Just-In-Time inventory concept popularized several decades back. To reduce costs, manufacturers kept the absolute minimum inventory on hand. They implemented computer systems to help predict orders and locate production facilities to optimize their ability to deliver goods “just in time.”

Today, thanks to digital printing, that concept has found its way into publishing as “Print On Demand.” That’s how I published my three books, through Amazon’s Create Space arm. My books get printed only when (if) someone orders one of them on Don’t worry. This post is not about selling my books. It’s about the contrarian inventory concept of “Just In Case,” which means it’s about how I came to have such an array of belongings.

“Just In Case” is a mantra that I’ve lived by most of my life. It explains half the clothes that are in my closet, tags still attached. Also a cabinet full of cake pans, just in case I decide to take up baking. And shelves of How To… books and file drawers of reference materials on arcane topics. In preparation for downsizing our house, I’ve been weeding out things I acquired “just in case.” Not an easy task when you’ve spent your life accumulating stuff.

I blame my mother for this. She had a full-size standing freezer in our kitchen that was always chock full of meals she’d prepared, ready to be defrosted at a moment’s notice. She did this—you guessed it—just in case a platoon of friends or relatives dropped in unannounced and needed to be fed. Or more accurately, just in case they dropped in unannounced, period. It was her assumption that people always needed to be fed. (Did I mention my mother was Italian?)

My brother turned this into a standing joke with her. As my mother aged into her eighties, she’d engage us in conversations about who should take what from the house after she was “gone.” When my brother was visiting from California and she started on this, he would ask her teasingly: “Where’re you going, Mom?” And she’d shoot back: “Well, I won’t be around forever, you know.”

This prompted him to reply: “You’re not going to leave us anytime soon. You wouldn’t do that to us.” She’d ask what made him so sure, and he’d point out that the freezer was not completely filled to the brim. “You wouldn’t leave us with the freezer partly empty. How would we feed all the people who’d be coming back to the house after your funeral?” Then we’d all laugh, and my mother would get up and start cooking.

It wasn’t only with food that she believed in being prepared. She kept brand new pajamas and a robe in her dresser, just in case she had to go to the hospital unexpectedly. So you see, it’s mostly my mother’s fault that I’ve been saddled with this “just in case” mentality.

To be fair, I suppose my father is also partly to blame. He amassed a garage full of tools, just in case. We lived in one of the snowiest parts of New Jersey, but our car spent the winters in our driveway. There was no room for it in the garage. In his defense, my father used most of his tools and equipment. Or again, more accurately, he used them or he loaned them out to neighbors.

He had a table saw and a band saw and a wall full of those plastic organizers with the drawers that pull out. He had drivers for every type of screw ever made and wrenches that looked like pieces of bent metal. Back in the fifties I was probably the only teenage girl who knew what an Allen wrench was. I was also the only freshman in my college dorm who arrived with her own toolbox. I became popular quite quickly. (Thank you, Dad.)

Between them, my parents were prepared for every eventuality that could have befallen our household. I was doomed from the get go. Even now, I stock up on extra candles, batteries and bottled water, in case the power goes out for a few days. That was a common occurrence where I grew up, but it hasn’t happened once in my twenty years in Providence. Not even last year, when Connecticut was a disaster.

No, a Shaker lifestyle was never in my cards. Speaking of cards, I have two decks (unused) especially for playing Briscola. You never know when you’re going to run into some Italians who might want to play that card game, so I bought the decks when I was in Piemonte. Just in case.

No comments: