Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Compulsive Hoarding Behavior

I was driving to my therapist's the other day (for some reason she insists on seeing me in person before refilling my Zoloft), and I started thinking about what I should do with all of my action figure cardbacks — you know, the cardboard backing behind the plastic bubble that action figures are packaged in. This is a debate I've had with myself many times. I'm one of those collectors who keeps the cardbacks. I figure it's for reference, or as the "next best thing" to having an unopened figure. In the past it hasn't been much of a problem, but as I pulled into the medical center I started thinking that the cards are really not serving any purpose if they're just packed away in a box.

As I sat in the waiting room, I considered scanning the cards, keeping the images, and throwing the actual backs into the recycle bin. But I'm not a pixel collector — I collect tangible stuff, and the cardbacks are part of that stuff. Plus, scanning is very time-consuming. I mean, I already spend lots of time taking pictures of all of my figures, taking pictures of all of their accessories, taking pictures of all the figures with all their accessories in various poses, editing those pictures in Photoshop to remove the background so they look like something from a DK book, labeling each part of the picture to identify the different joints used in the action figure, the "in-universe" names of their accessories, and vital statistics about the characters. This takes a ton of time. And then I have to scan all of my store receipts and put them into albums so that I can refer to them when I enter the data into my collecting database. So with all that, who wants more scanning?

I had to put all of this out of my head for a while when I was called in to the therapist because I needed to ask her if the Zoloft was working or if I needed a bigger dose or something new or whatever. This led to a few new prescriptions, some lab work, and a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

When I finally left the shock lab, I started thinking about an idea I had heard of putting cardbacks in page protectors and keeping them in binders. This would allow me to pull them off the shelves to flip through every now and then and relive some happy memories. Unfortunately, I think the page protectors would be too big for the cards and I wouldn't be able to center the cards in the protectors without tape, which could trap fingerprints and damage the cardboard. But it does seem a little easier than what I do now, which is to laminate each card with peel-off laminating sheets. Not the kind you get from Staples or wherever, but a kind I special order from Germany. They're really expensive, but I find they repel fingerprints a lot better, protect from unexpected spills, and in only a few tries I can cut them into an exact size and symmetry. The problem is, they take a lot of extra preparation to use. You've got to use a special heat gun so they set just right, and because they're super-sticky, you only get one shot at sticking them to the card — if you mess up, the card is ruined. You don't know the hassle I went through after I messed up the card to my Ultimate Galactic Hunt Chewbacca. I ended up spending way too much money on eBay to replace the Chewbacca figure just so I could get another shot at laminating the card. Luckily it worked out on the third or maybe the fourth try.

Anyway, this whole process takes about 30 minutes per card, so I was thinking maybe the binder idea would save some time. But I was interrupted again when I got to the pharmacy because I had to ask the pharmacist if the Prozac my therapist had just prescribed would make me queasy like the Celexa used to. He told me no, as long as Prozac was the only such medication I was taking. So I guess I'm out of luck, but I'll deal.

So I finally got back home and all the thinking about cardbacks made me want to get out all of my cards and reevaluate the whole situation. So I opened up all six of my fireproof safes and took out every laminated card and, after putting down a few sterile tarps, laid them all on the floor. This took a little longer than I wanted because the last time I put them away I neglected to alphabetize them, so I had to alphabetize all the cards and group them by series. I can never decide if I want to order them by figure name first, regardless of series, or by series first, then figure name. I did each way in turn, then re-sorted by manufacturer first, then series, then character name.

Eventually the cards were all in place and that's when it dawned on me — my current solution is OK, but it's only half-way there. Combining it with a variation on the binder idea is the key to taking it to the next level. I figure if I leave just enough excess laminate on the left side of each card, I can then three-hole punch them and put them into a custom-made binder so they won't flop around like they would do if they were in sheet protectors. The problem with this, I guess, is that I didn't leave any excess laminate on all of the cards I've laminated so far, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that. Maybe I'll try something with duct tape, or I could re-laminate, but that usually doesn't work. So I may need to buy new cards. I'm not sure. The point is that I was just really excited to finally have some resolution on this. And I think it was that excitement, combined with the queasiness the pharmacist said I might feel, that made me throw up all over my cards. But luckily, they were laminated.

Originally performed on Episode 118 of Star Wars Action News.

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