I’ve got nothing in my pockets right now save for a pen. It’s one of those nice recycled cardboard ones that they give out at environmentally-conscious conferences and presentations.
This is important. Allow me to explain.
I present a refrain from my high school years: “Hey Tim! What’s in your pockets today?”
Imagine, if you will, a young man, searching for an identity (cultivating more than one, depending on the audience) and realizing that humor can be a great leveler in social situations. Now imagine this young man finding a real penchant for what might be called “prop comedy”, albeit in a slightly modified sense. This young man was me.
I kept a bunch of silly shit in my pockets. I wore cargo pants (this was the late 90s, early 2000s, so it’s forgivable) and multi-pocket coats, so there were plenty of spaces to hide little bits and bobs. My trinkets were, by and large, mundane objects. A random sampling: ice pack, swizzle sticks, matches coated entirely in wax, temporary tattoos, chin guards (hair nets for beards), and sugar packets. Oh god, the sugar packets…
I never had less than fifteen on me at any given time. This was partly because I liked to eat them in front of people and, if the crowd was ripe for it, snort a line or two – don’t forget, at no point in this writing have I indicated that I was making brilliant decisions at this time in my life. They were also fun gag “gifts” to hand to people with great gravitas as if it was a matter of national security – and then walk away.
As I mentioned, it wasn’t that I was carrying gold nuggets, dehydrated lobster shells, and fake eyeballs. These were simple things, although matches coated entirely with wax aren’t exactly normal. What made people gawk and giggle was their non sequitur status; the very randomness with which I cultivated my collection made it something interesting. We might call it eclectic assortment attraction.
So I would travel with my plastic forks and folded-up maps of places that I’d never visited with me to parties, to school, and elsewhere, dragging them out when the situation called for a bit of the old “Tim routine”.
In time, I found that I didn’t actually need to carry all of that stuff all at once. I could, with a very small collection, make comments on objects that weren’t even on my person: “You think it’s crazy that I have a bouncy ball filled with thumbtacks? You should see the musical cake toy and three foot strip of fake cat fur that I had last week.”
The substitutions continued until I realized that I could tell whole stories about objects and their interactions with people in the complete absence of those objects. The substitution was complete – I was telling stories about that which could not be seen but which was either believed or…not believed. It mattered not.
By the time I headed to college of course, I had to change up my game. No longer would carrying around a ridiculous menagerie suffice. I had to reinvent.
I had to find a new way to make people smile.
I had to find something else to carry with me.