My ex-husband was a gadget junkie. I had forgotten about this until I lost power at my house during the recent storms that ravaged Nashville and needed to round-up flashlights and other provisions in case the power remained off for any length of time. While rummaging through the drawer where I keep the emergency provisions I pulled out the evidence that he had, indeed, been here. Once upon a time, he’d had the foresight to purchase almost a dozen flashlights some of which telescope out to become little standing lamps that provide hands-free illumination; you can actually read by the light of these things if you line a few of them up in a row. There were also some little camping lamps and a few extremely weighty little flashlights which can double as a weapon if you should need to conk someone over the head (don’t think I didn’t consider this a time or two while he still lived here).
At the same time, I realized that the only radio I had didn’t run on batteries. Just moments before, I had been watching TV and seeing the mayhem and destruction that 18 inches of rain falling in a 24 hour period can wreak on a city and feeling cut-off from the world, I began to have visions of flood waters, which were rising all over town, coming to carry me away. But suddenly, I remembered another gadget he had purchased and left behind: a miniature TV/radio combo that did run on batteries. I quickly made my way to the shed, tromping through what was now a torrent of water, found the contraption, and hurried back into the dark-but-dry house. Of course, it had been a couple of years since I had used the darn thing and the eight batteries that powered it were hopelessly dead. But then I had yet another flash of memory and there, deep in the back of the freezer I found what I was looking for: a giant Zip-lock baggie filled with batteries of every shape and size.
I have to say that, at that moment, I was glad for the collection of seemingly nonsensical stuff my ex had accumulated for just such a rainy day and as I tuned into my local radio station for a weather update, I felt a little safer; it’s amazing what the sound of another human voice can do for you in just such a situation, even a disembodied one. Upon realizing that I was going to remain high and dry despite the fact that just four blocks away people were being rescued from their roofs by boat, I began to think about all the other gadgets my ex had purchased, many of which he had left behind when he moved on with his life.
There was the portable DVD player he had insisted I buy him for his birthday only to abandon it when the expensive piece of crap quit working properly and he realized he could just as well watch movies on his lap-top. I still have this forlorn piece of machinery; don’t ask me why, but I do. The portable coffee maker that was an all-in-one water heating, coffee-dripping-into-the-cup-you- drink-from little miracle is something he used for awhile. Not only was it quite portable and convenient, but it saved him gobs of cash when he was on the road and room-service coffee was over-the-top pricey. I found that stuffed in the back of a kitchen cabinet just last week; still serviceable but abandoned. And let’s not forget the electric pencil sharpener, the nose hair trimmer and the battery powered corkscrew he had to have which were also left behind as if they hadn’t been the greatest inventions since sliced bread once upon a time. I have also come across a 35 mm camera he abandoned because he had replaced it with a digital camera and had no use for the old one anymore.
I could go on and on because there are gadgets I have left off this list, but the point I really want to make here is that although my husband accumulated many a gadget he abandoned them as soon as they had outgrown their usefulness. It now occurs to me that I might as well have been just another gizmo on the list of outmoded items he found he could easily live without. And although I was too big to stuff in a drawer and would never have stood for living in the storage shed, at least I never ran out of juice; I have kept going and going and going despite the fact that he didn’t want or need me anymore.
Every gadget and device he purchased came with a disclaimer which read “batteries not included” and he had to put a little bit of effort in to making them come alive and work. Maybe, if I had come with such a disclaimer, he might have been willing to put in the something extra that would have turned me on as well. I guess I’ll never know. And as I walk out to the alley with the big box of outmoded junk that doesn’t work anymore, I can’t help but wonder how it might have been different if he had. But I realize that I have to toss those thoughts out with the rest of this stuff in this box because just like all the broken devices he once loved, they have out-grown their usefulness too.