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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Is it All About Expiration Dates?

July 20th, 2022 by dk

I sure hope I’m not about to die. It would fulfill the second half of a familiar storyline. I’ve been living the first half. Just when a person gets their affairs in order — boom! — a UPS truck runs them over while trimming flowers in their front yard. Joining these two halves uses illogic posing as mystical insight: “Somehow, he must have known what was coming.”

What’s coming hasn’t come yet, at least as this column goes to print. But my sudden spate of organizational success defies any logic. Hence, the fear about tripping the “run over while picking flowers” wire.

I’ve culled my books until they fit my bookcase. I’ve rid myself of literally hundreds of pounds of perfectly good (and untouched) reading material. I’ve dug through hundreds of partially completed task lists, replacing them with just one list — and it’s not as long as I had imagined.

I haven’t been reading inspirational gurus about organizing or “taking control” of my life. (Although, come to think of it, that phrase was in the title of one of the unread books I discarded.) I’ve just had some time to spare, for literally the first time ever.

I balanced my checkbook before tax season. I repotted my houseplants. I matched my leftover containers with their lids, abandoning the orphans. I learned to clip my fingernails without launching errant shards in every direction. I found a Cuban casserole recipe that used up some green olives that have lurked in the back of my fridge for years — expiration date: October 2016.

It felt a little weird reaching the end of two TV shows that I’ve been streaming for months. Closure is overrated, unless you like Going Out of Business sales. That’s a fate I’d rather not tempt. Just to be safe, my Cuban casserole called for capers. I bought a jar that should last me a decade.

It’s not like I’ve run out of things to do. My single, consolidated task list is several pages long. I have dozens of keys that pair with no locks in sight. My carpets need cleaning. I didn’t part with some of those unread books before confirming that the library has a copy if I change my mind about reading them. 

I still have lessons to learn, even if I have mastered the clipping of nails. (For example, historians reminded me of two failings in last Sunday’s column. Wayne Morse was not the only Senator to vote against the Vietnam War. There were two. And there’s no evidence Mary Skinner did more than approve of her husband’s decision to stake his claim here.)

Historians like to get things right, God bless them. Humans do, too. So why do we instinctively worry that getting things right will be followed by something going very wrong? Smelling flowers while waiting for a delivery seems too small a consolation. Do we crave balance more than beneficence? Are these stories shaped by grief, explaining a chaotic world and our disheveled selves?

My own disheveled self will return soon enough. Put it this way: I’m in no hurry to use up those capers.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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