Friday, January 18, 2008

Of Evolution and Patio Furniture

Ok, it’s a bright sunny day, you’re sitting outside on a friend’s porch soaking up the sun and the coronas and the guacamole and the latest celebrity gossip. Said friend is wealthy enough to have purchased or rented an abode with a deck (so if your friend is living in NYC he is probably a millionaire and if this friend is single I think you know who needs a little introduction) but not quite wealthy enough to afford fancy wooden deck furnishings from Crate and Barrel but also classy enough not to have purchased a set of those plastic molded monstrosities and so you’re sitting in one of those metal chairs coated in resin it’s kind of retro and it leaves a nice netting pattern on the back of your thighs (“natural fishnets”). After your friend and I start dating I will make him replace this crappy furniture because when I move in we’ll be saving a lot of money on rent/mortgage and we’ll want to celebrate our love and new found financial solvency with a frivolous purchase but until then you’re forced to uncomfortably squat in this crap, but you probably shouldn’t complain -- it’s not like any of your other friends even have porches. Anyway, as you rest your arms on the pathetically thin “armrests” you notice that the plastic resin is beginning to peel off right where the metal bends to connect armrest to seat. So of course you start picking at the metal, slowly working the resin off until half of the armrest is naked exposing its shiny steel skin. And this is the most awesome fun you have had in ages. I mean sure, your friend’s already ugly chair is looking crappier by the second and sure it’s just going to get worse the next time it rains and the steel starts to rust and sure this might lead to your friend never inviting you over for sweet porch action ever again and sure that might mean that you never introduce your friend (I’ve started calling him Elliot in my head, I like that name) and I and it’s possible that because of this I will also disown you and you’ll have to spend future summers sad and alone in your crappy little apartment but none of this matters. Why? Because picking at things is wonderful and there is no way you can stop. Obviously evolution has selected for the picking at things gene because everyone I know (and let’s be honest, everyone on the planet) does this, it’s impossible to resist the siren song so really your friend should be a lot more understanding (especially since as I noted above if he would just chill out he has some nice replacement patio furnishings in his future).

The issue I have here is WHY? Why is peeling paint or labels or plastic resin off of things so damned fulfilling? I’ve struggled to come out with any clear evolutionary reason for this to be such a rewarding hobby. As a good little science fetishist and someone who would really like the world to be controlled and predictable I try to deduce the reasoning behind pretty much everything. And I am usually able to come up with something believable enough to calm my mind and prevent me from regaling the internet public with a long diatribe on the subject but not so today (clearly). Here’s all I could come up with on the picking topic while lying in bed last night obsessing instead of sleeping (or at least focusing on a sleep inspiring activity). My food foraging foremother was constantly in search of tasty morsels in the form of roots, berries and the like and a bit of over turned ground or a out of place leaf often indicated good eats to be had. After a few generations of being rewarded for this picking at the world the “picking gene" was selected over other genes and today remains in our DNA. Seems reasonable, right? Next time you pick at something ask yourself if you feel hungry and get back to me.


Lisa said...

Are you kidding me? You'd ACTUALLY move in with somebody named Elliot. Good God, woman.

Laura and I are in a race to give birth to a daughter, because we both like the name Elliot (for a female) so much. She's the one with a fiance, but I'm the one with the guts to do it. Let the games begin.

PrincessPolly said...

I love picking at things, it's the same school of thought that makes us want to burst bubble wrap I believe. it's fun.

Stephanie said...

I got a good, heavy dose of the picking gene. Except I pick at the skin around my nails, my cuticles. Until recently, when I resolved to STOP PICKING ALREADY. Before now, my fingers sickened manicurists around the city. But picking is oh so satisfying.

amy said...

Picking at skin is actually a thing:

That said, give me a beer bottle, and it will be label-less before long.