Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Space Garbage

Last week, a friend and I discussed our personal efforts to deal with life crises and chronic failings in terms of talking/not talking with others for support.  This led to a comparison of male and female tendencies to clam up or to spew forth (stereotypically or not.)  I thought about it and decided that I probably clam up just a bit too long in some kind of effort to be private or to pull myself up by my own bootstraps.  Eventually, however, I blow the airlock on the garbage room and send my unwanted neural rinds out into the universe.

I found this analogy somewhat funny because it called up images of a raging tantrum or throwing everything out the window.  I thought about the space movies where people cling to the edges of an open airlock, trying to climb back in, and all you can think is, "You should already be dead.  Your eyeballs should have already burst out of your head from the lack of external pressure."  The potential bystanders of an interstellar purge are often the only ones with the wherewithal to close the doors and suggest new OSHA guidelines for refuse handling.  (I'd love to see their purge schedule.)

The week prior to this conversation, after many, many days of restless thoughts and resulting low emotional defenses, I'd had a long space garbage talk with someone.  It felt overdue, not because it would actually solve a problem or make me feel significantly better about a problem, but because the little space commander on my bridge cannot ever keep her own counsel, despite an admiration for Jean-Luc Picard.  Everything has to be run by Number One and entered into the ship's log and broadcast on all frequencies, just in case. It would be dishonest and disrespectful to the mission to do otherwise.

And there's the rub.  Most space garbage is not appropriate for all frequencies and some is not acceptable on any.  Toxic topics require hazmat permits and even the management of special recycling centers glove up in triplicate when a load arrives outside their bays.  Blowing the airlock puts all involved at risk  - invasion of privacy, hurt feelings, embarrassment, offensiveness, helplessness, repulsion.  But the garbage can't sit unattended for long.  There's room for another 3 week's worth but those chicken papers in the 2nd layer are starting to reek.  Big time.  I might never get the smell out of my hair and I'm not sure the crew will be willing to hose out the bay next time if maggots have already hatched.

Sometimes counter-actions like a night out or a day of distracting chores can reset the smell-o-meter with no peril to the mission.  I often suspect that the meter is hyper-sensitive anyway, but it's a custom part so there's no use hoping for a newer model to come along.  The needle always seems to creep right back up at a steady pace until the big red button is pushed, and however small an amount of accumulated crud clings to the walls, it's finally sucked out.

[Okay, the analogy falters here because "blowing" the airlock is, in fact, exposing the interior of the craft to the space vacuum.  I have no idea how to work with this - I like being on the verb end of things and not the object. Stick with me, despite our obvious failure to achieve exit velocity.]

Whether constant emotional/informational purging is another symptom of late-onset OCD, indicates poor personal boundaries, or is the inevitable result of an overburdened, aging system, there's no choice.  The commander must press the button and hope for the best.  Hope that no one on her crew is sucked out or quits in protest. Hope that no fellow commanders call the Federation behind her back or, worse, stop taking her calls.  Hope that this stubborn wad of blackened gum eventually comes free.  Even if it's just for my gal on the bridge to know there's someone/something out there in the void with a larger garbage can and better charcoal filters, the button will be pushed.


Early Riser said...

Though, at times, I am a net creator of garbage, I hereby sign-up as first mate (or, more accurately, Data) on the USS Everybodyelsesgirl. More than willing to swab the decks (no comments... too easy), manage the mess hall or takeover the wheelhouse.

EForsyth said...

Love it, Christy! And I too am more than willing to be your Number 2...or deal with your purged Number 2...or, well, you get it. So as for pushing the button...Engage!

Lauren said...

no wikidict word of the day in this post. boo

Open Book said...

La - that's because I changed a word for you just before publishing. I can't remember what it was now, though. I promise never to do it again.

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