A world where the surfaces are bare

IN my next life I’m going to be more particular about the world I’m born into.

I want a world in which there are no shelves.

No, let’s go the whole hog: I want a world in which there are no flat, horizontal surfaces.

Add to that no flat, bare walls, no thumbtacks, no sticky tape, and none of those little lumps of dough that are supposed to stick stuff to your wall, but that actually drop off slowly while leaving an irremovable stain to remind you forever of its inadequate presence.

Oh, and no fridges. At least, no fridge doors. We’ll ban fridge magnets while we’re at it.

In this way I might be able to live a life that is not drowning in bits of paper.

Maybe it’s the human race in general; maybe it’s just the bits of it I live with, but in our house there is no such thing as a flat, horizontal, empty surface. Paper gravitates towards them in the same way dust gathers under a bed. And I don’t mean merely newspapers.

A quick survey of an unusually wide windowsill in our living room (“It’ll be nice to stand flowers on,” said my wife. Ha!) reveals the following: 12 envelopes (opened and empty), seven envelopers (still sealed… the most recent, dated July 10, is a bank statement); the contents of opened envelopes, including an invitation to buy tickets to an art union house draw that ended in 1999; a cut-rate offer from a local cattery (we don’t have a cat); 24 pages from a Gary Larson cartoon calendar, the backs of which have been used as notelets (“Don’t forget Mum’s birthday.” – which was in February); a handful of receipts from eftpos machines; three old movie tickets (Castaway); four charities asking for money; a drinks offer at a Flinders Street East nightclub; three sections from a May 12 edition of the Weekend Australian; three whole copies of the Townsville Bulletin; and — disturbingly, prophetically — a direct mail sales offer from some odious self-improvement quack asking if I’m happy with my life or whether there are aspects of it I’d like to change.

And this is just one surface! We have dozens, all growing compost heaps of paper like mushrooms in a cellar.

Nor does the surface have to be flat. The human race, with a display of intelligence that would do credit to an orang utan, but to nothing else, has contrived to store its garbage on vertical surfaces, too.

We have three magnetic calendars on our fridge. None of them is this year’s. There is a note on one saying: “Work that needs doing on the Holden.”

We sold the Holden in 1997, for God’s sake!

The fridge has magnetic letters on it that never spell anything meaningful and that have been coated with dried yoghurt, ice cream and corn flakes by numerous grubby little fingers. If the magnets ever stop working the letters will remain stuck to fridge by congealed food.

I liked our fridge when we bought it. It glowed like a white tuxedo. I though it would be a fine addition to the kitchen, purring away in the corner with smug self-satisfaction.

Now, if it were human, it wouldn’t be wearing a tuxedo. it would be wearing thongs and a beer-stained singlet and it wouldn’t have shaved for five days.

We have a filing cabinet, too, but its sole contents is a pair of shoes.

There must be a world where tabletops sport only bowls with fruit in; where an Esky that is placed on the floor while you tie your shoelace doesn’t grow a carbuncle of paper detritus.

I shall lead a blameless and Christian life from now on as long as I can go there when I die.