By Tim Mollen
Journal entry: December 8, 1973 (age 4)
The life of a four-year-old is a stressful one. “Tim, it’s time for your nap.” “Tim, Mog the Forgetful Cat is due back at the West Branch library.” “Tim, I didn’t have time to cut your baloney sandwich into the shape of a lion today.” The daily grind really takes its toll.
My strategy for regaining serenity involves a few key ingredients. The first and most important is a television. After 9 or 10 hours of viewing, my young mind softens into a pliable, pleasurable mush. In this trance-like state, I am open to the enlightened worldview of Barnaby Jones, and ready to talk my parents into buying Franken Berry cereal.
The other essential element is a comfortable perch from which to soak up the broadcast barbiturate. After experimenting with the sofa, rocking chair, and floor in our family room, I came up with an offbeat solution. Most of my TV time is now spent sitting in a garbage can. To be exact, it is a cylindrical, yellow, plastic, kitchen-sized trash can. I cram myself down into it so that my legs are bent into pretzels, and I shift around whenever my feet fall asleep. During commercials, I see how far I can tip in any direction without falling over.
The can sits about a foot-and-a-half from the screen. I have bad eyesight (even with my glasses), so I have to sit up close. The proximity also allows me to turn the channel with ease, when ordered to do so by the eldest family member present. My parents and brothers have gotten used to the sight of me sitting in the garbage can, but they still look at me funny. Jim, 17, came up behind me today, looked down, and told me that I looked like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. While said green puppet was certainly an inspiration for my chosen lounge modality, I did not like the insinuation Jim was making with regard to my personality. So I craned my neck back to look straight up at him and said, “Buzz off.”
I don’t know what it is exactly that I like about sitting in the garbage can. I think part of it is the fact that no one else in my family can fit in the thing, so no one can steal my seat. Being tightly enclosed gives me a strange comfort, too, like I’m wrapped up in blankets. If a garbage can can be considered “swaddling,” then I suppose that is the word. One of my brothers’ Vine Street buddies made a joke the other day about me sitting in “a womb with a view,” but I didn’t get it.
My father thinks all of us watch too much TV, and has started limiting the time we spend in front of the tube. “Garbage in, garbage out,” he’ll say as he walks past the family room. Assuming he’s right, I might as well sit in the trash while I watch Sanford and Son.