I was always that kid who liked to build things out of common household items accessible to a kid. Growing up, my room was always full of simple pinball machines made of cardboard, duct tape, and marbles.
As an adult, I still occasionally take on do-it-yourself projects that remind me a lot of the kind of things I would build as a kid, the kind of projects that I imagine someone like MacGyver would take on. A while back, I used two long sticks and a tape measure to unclog the dryer vent. When I posted a picture on Facebook of the huge pile of damp lint that had been clogging the vent, I said that I would like to thank Angus MacGyver for teaching my preteen self that there is always a solution using common household objects.
Which brings me to last week. One of my current projects requires large amounts of scrap cardboard. I thought of the perfect place to acquire this cardboard: Costco. For those of you who do not have Costco in your area, this is a bulk wholesale store that sells large quantities of groceries and other common items. Many of them are sitting on wooden pallets, with sheets of cardboard separating boxes that are stacked on top of each other. So I walked around the store, grabbing as many of the sheets of cardboard that I could without making a huge mess of the stacked items. I even checked with an employee if it was okay, and he said sure, we usually just throw them away anyway. That’s what I assumed.
A few people asked me what the cardboard was for, and I just told them it was for a project I was working on. I thought about what I was going to say if anyone asked me what the project was. I didn’t want to be one of those snobs who gets all uppity when a stranger tries to make conversation, telling the other person that they have no right to talk to me. But explaining exactly what I was doing didn’t feel right. At one point, I considered telling the truth: “I’m sorry, but I’m feeling really anxious and self-conscious right now, because whenever I do a project like this, people always respond by telling me it’s stupid and it’s not going to work.”
For example, a few years ago, I got another clever idea, this time an electronics-computer-type MacGyver project. I was telling some people about my idea, and one guy just sneered and told me why my idea was dumb. Now this guy is just an asshole all around, and not just because of this. We still cross paths occasionally, and I try not to say more than hi to him. But it still hurt. And I never did finish this project.
So… back to Costco. No one asked me what the project was. Four people asked me on what aisle they could find things; apparently they assumed that someone pushing a cart full of scraps of cardboard around the store must be an employee. I hadn’t even foreseen that happening. Apparently they didn’t see my case of toilet paper, bucket of laundry detergent, or four pound bag of chocolate chips in the bucket under all the cardboard.
When I finally got to the front of the line, I checked again to make sure it was okay for me to take the cardboard. I said I wasn’t using it to hide anything I might be trying to steal. And while attempting to make small talk with the cashier, I told her what the cardboard was for.
And she promptly told me why my idea might not work.
You’re not helping. Just shut up. Go do something else with your attitude, like crush a child’s dream or something. But leave me alone. I don’t need your advice.
Meanwhile, nothing about that experience has helped the way I feel about this. Notice that I haven’t even explained here what the cardboard is for… and I’m not going to. I guess I’m just better off keeping my bright ideas to myself. Maybe that’s ok.
And it remains to be seen whether or not my idea will work.