Don’t box me in
Decelerating the car to a crawl as it moved up the driveway, I pushed a button to open the garage door and another to fold in the side mirrors. The car nose was angled toward the door but nowhere near the perfect perpendicular position needed for a safe passage into the garage.
Entry at close to a 90 degree angle was essential to avoid hitting the Matterhorn of cardboard boxes my lovely wife, Grace, had stacked along the walls of the garage. This bounty of boxes comes in an endless array of shapes and sizes. Many are stacked within each other like Russian nesting dolls so there are far more than first meets the eye.
One wrong move and I could hit the hoard and have it tumble, trapping me in the car. Death by cardboard! Who knows when Grace or my Aunt Toogie might find me?
Slowly I advanced. Sensors beeped, signaling a tight squeeze into the narrow spot. Landing a plane on The Yorktown couldn’t have required more precision.
Once the car was safely in place, I gently opened the driver side door, inhaled, and deftly maneuvered past the pile into the house to announce another successful mission through the “Cardboard Box Triangle.”
As you might guess, the vast majority of these boxes bear the Amazon smile logo. No wonder. Amazon ships 5 billion packages a year. Jeff Bezos must have the biggest carbon footprint on the globe. If just over half of those shipments are in the United States, it would be around 25 packages for each of the approximately 125 million U.S. households. Now, I’m not sure who didn’t get their 25 boxes. But if it’s you, I got ‘em – and will be glad to bring them to your place anytime you say.
I’ve often talked with Grace about how we need to shrink the stacks. Our conversation usually goes like this:
Me: Why do we have all these boxes?
Grace: So I can mail stuff to the kids and grandkids.
Me: What do you mail them?
Grace: Gifts for birthdays and other celebrations.
Me: Do you buy these gifts on Amazon?
Grace: Not all, but most of them. Why?
Me: Why don’t you have it shipped directly to them?
Grace: Because I want to wrap it myself and add a card and some extra treats.
Me: Let me get this straight. We get a box of stuff shipped here by Amazon. We open it, wrap the stuff, then add more things, and ship all that to the kids.
Grace: Yep. Do it all by myself, too, I should note for the record.
Me: Do you ship it in the same box that came to us?
Grace: Maybe. Maybe not. If I need a bigger box, I get one.
Me: From the garage?
Me: In that case what do you do with the original box the gift came to us in?
Grace: Duh? Save it and put it in the garage, silly.
This is how we and, I suspect, many other Americans end up with a massive mound of cardboard boxes – just like that stash of ball point pens, paper clips, and loose change you know you have and will never use. I’ve tried sneaking a few boxes in the trash each week, but the stack never subsides.
I’ve also argued that there could be a shortage of oak to age bourbon – a true natural disaster – if too many wood chips are used in the making of cardboard. However Aunt Toogie went rogue on me as she read aloud from a website on cardboard manufacturing. She said cardboard is made mostly from soft woods and recycled paper, and that I basically didn’t know my butt from a corrugator.
Be careful what you hope for. Last week Toogie confided in me that she had been secretly disposing of some boxes. She took me to the garage, and indeed, the hodgepodge was not as huge as before.
“How’d you do it?” I asked gleefully.
“Well,” Toogie explained, “it’s called a Give Back Box. Fill a box with items to donate and the organization will arrange to have it picked up and delivered to a local charity.”
“Well done! That’s thinking outside the box,” I proclaimed. “What did you fill them with?”
“Some of my old clothes,” she answered, “and a mess of your ugly golf shorts, shirts, and shoes. Plus that big box of golf balls you had in the garage.”
“My golf balls,” I gasped. “I spent years collecting them. I use them on water holes.”
“They were in a box that was in the garage, right?” Toogie replied.
“Yeah…yeah,” I stammered
“Problem solved,” she declared, brushing her palms together. “Now, what do you say, let’s adjourn for a bourbon?”