The Junk Drawer

And what I found there.

We keep our stamps and batteries in a drawer in a built-in desk in our kitchen. Sadly, that’s not the only thing kept in that drawer. Over the years, our cleaning person used it as a catch-all for little things she could fit in there. And we apparently added our own things.

Today, sick of dealing with a drawer I could often not close, I emptied it as a prelude to cleaning it out. Here’s what it looked like neatly arranged on my kitchen’s center island:

My Junk

Here’s what I found:

  • A set of 6 precision screwdrivers with 3 of them missing.
  • A screwdriver that does not belong to the above set.
  • 3 small padlocks: 1 with keys, 1 with combination known, 1 with combination unknown.
  • A “Jet Fuel Only” sticker, which is kind of odd because none of our vehicles takes JetA.
  • A small plastic ruler.
  • 3 promotional pens, all working. Why they aren’t in the pencil cup on the desk is a mystery.
  • 4 black wooden pencils with erasers, only one of which is sharpened.
  • A pencil sharpener.
  • Numerous sheets of return address labels with various holiday themes, all received in the mail by charities that thought I’d pay for them when I never asked for them. (Wrong.)
  • 2 broken sterling silver bracelets, badly tarnished.
  • An empty Tylenol purse size bottle.
  • Part of a AA battery charger, but not the part that actually plugs into the wall.
  • An exposed roll of 35mm film.
  • A small red square plastic filter.
  • A single-hole punch.
  • A wooden clothespin
  • A small black plastic protractor (think elementary school).
  • An iPod belt clip.
  • An embroidered Ducati patch.
  • 2 round adhesive-back pieces of Velcro, both soft side.
  • 2 pennies
  • 2 rolls of quarters
  • 1 roll of dimes
  • A Garden State Parkway toll token
  • A bottle of Plexus 2 plastic polish
  • A bottle of stamp pad ink
  • A First Class Mail self-inking stamp
  • A telephone jack splitter
  • A tiny of green tea flavored “mints”
  • 2 black binder clips: 1 small, 1 large
  • Several dozen paper clips, 5 of which are preconfigured as Macintosh floppy disk removal tools. (Long-time Mac users know exactly what I mean.)
  • A handful of rubber bands, half of which are dried, cracked, and unusable
  • The “start” pin for a light timer.
  • A tube of dark red lipstick.
  • A tube of Blistex.
  • 2 rings for hanging bird toys in a cage.
  • 8 key rings, empty
  • A key ring flashlight with AAA battery still working
  • 3 partial rows of staples
  • A contact lens case
  • A small round sponge
  • An envelope slitter
  • Multiple screws, including two screw-in hooks
  • A rubber foot for some kind of stand
  • A wooden peg for our futon
  • A wooden peg that looks like it came from a game
  • A lapel mic clip
  • 3 black beads, 2 of which are almost identical
  • 3 promotional pins: 2 Feedburner logos and 1 QuickBooks heart Mac
  • 2 WINGS program pins
  • A tiny safety pin
  • 5 various sized wire ties
  • A sprayer nozzle
  • Magnet-backed promotional 2002 calendar from an out-of-business local mechanic
  • A rock with bits of green color
  • A SanDisk neoprene zippered media card holder
  • A bookmark with Mount Rushmore pictured on it
  • The manual for a Sony cassette recorder
  • A pocket calculator, not solar-powered, with installed battery still functioning
  • A piece of masking tape marked “Do Not Open” with the adhesive dried up. I have no idea what this was affixed to, but recognize my handwriting. (I hope I didn’t open it.)
  • A Bed Bath & Beyond Gift Card, likely never used
  • A package of drapery pins
  • My “captain” pilot stripes from the summer of 2004, when I flew at the Grand Canyon
  • A Newton rechargeable Battery Pack
  • 7 D cell batteries, 2 of which are in an unopened package
  • 2 loose C cell batteries
  • 43 loose AA cell batteries: 6 lithium, 17 alkaline, and 20 rechargeable (4 nickel-cadmium, 15 nickel-metal hydride, and 1 unknown)
  • 8 AAA cell batteries in an unopened package
  • 2 9-volt batteries, both rechargeable nickel-metal hydride
  • Numerous postage stamps in the following denominations: 1¢, 2¢, 3¢, 4¢, 20¢, 27¢, 41¢, 42¢, 72¢, $1, $3, $3.85, $4.80, $4.95, “forever” (current First Class rate)

No, I did not find a partridge in a pear tree, despite the season.

The batteries pose a problem. The rechargeables are likely all dead for good, but there’s no place to recycle them in Wickenburg. The other loose batteries are probably at least half spent, which is why we don’t use them. The lithiums likely came out of my SPOT Messenger, which requires lithium batteries. When they’re too used to rely on them in SPOT — which I need to have fresh batteries — they work great in my handheld GPS and most other devices. The fact that we have so many loose batteries amazes me. It’s probably because they kept sliding into the back of the drawer and we kept buying more.

Anyway, the drawer is now empty. My next tasks is to clean it out — with soap and water — and then put back in the things that are supposed to be in there: batteries, stamps, and a few things likely to be in a regular desk drawer.

The rest of this crap? Who knows where it will end up?

And I wonder what’s on that roll of film…

When a Stranger Calls

Another episode from my Truth is Stranger than Fiction files.

Yesterday, I picked up a charter flight from Scottsdale to Grand Canyon and back. The client’s agent booked the flight at 11 AM and I was supposed to pick up the client in Scottsdale at 12:30 PM. This is far less advance notice than I want, but pre-Christmas business is always slow — other than gift certificates, of course — and I wasn’t about to turn it down. Instead, I hustled my butt off and, at 12:30 PM, was walking into Scottsdale Airport terminal while a Landmark Aviation fueler topped off my helicopter’s tanks.

My passengers were not around. I had a voicemail and it was from them. They were at the FBO at the other side of the airport. Scottsdale has a terminal building and two FBOs. For some reason, no matter how much I stress that I meet passengers at the terminal, they always wind up at one of the two FBOs. In the background of their second voicemail, I heard the FBO staff member explain how to get to the terminal.

I figured I had about 3 minutes to hit the ladies room. I was just finishing my business there when my phone rang. Expecting my passengers, I answered it.

“Flying M, Maria speaking.”

“Is this Maria?”

I don’t understand this. I answer the phone the same way all the time and 50% of the calls start out with “Is this Maria?” Does anyone listen when they make a phone call?

I replied (as I always do), “Yes, this is Maria.”

“My name is Jean. Steve Smith told me to call you.”

So far, this meant nothing to me. I didn’t know a Steve Smith. I didn’t reply, as I let my brain work on this information.

My caller hurried on. “Steve Smith worked with your husband Mike about two years ago.”

At first, nothing. Then a glimmer. “Steve? The guy who makes the ribs? From Texas or someplace?”

“Oklahoma,” she replied, sounding relieved.

Steve deserves his own entry in my Stranger than Fiction files. The poor guy moved from Oklahoma to Phoenix to take a job with my husband Mike’s company. The first night he’s in town, staying at a hotel, thieves steal his truck with all of his belongings in it. Mike, who didn’t know him before that, is one of a few people to help him out as he recovers from that and settles into his new apartment. He came to our house one weekend and made us the best smoked ribs I’ve ever had from our smoker. But he’d left his wife (and kids?) back in Oklahoma and he missed them. One Monday morning, he simply didn’t show up for work. When they checked where he had been living, it had been cleaned out. He basically disappeared and we never heard from him again.

Until yesterday.

Jean was talking again. “I just moved into the Phoenix area. Steve said I should give you a call. I’m looking for a job and I was wondering if you knew of anything.”


At this point, I was washing my hands, speaking to her from the inside of the ladies room at Scottsdale Airport’s main terminal through my Bluetooth earpiece. I was expecting my passengers to appear any minute. I had to brief them and hustle them out to the helicopter so they could catch a tour at the Grand Canyon in less than 90 minutes.

And this stranger, referred by a missing-in-action friend, was asking me if I could help her find a job?

“I don’t know of any jobs,” I said. “And I think it’s pretty strange that Steve gave you my number, considering he disappeared off the face of the earth two years ago and we never heard from him again.”

This seemed to surprise her. “Oh, well he always said such nice things about you.”

Like that mattered to me?

She was talking again, but I cut her off. “Listen, I’m waiting for some clients and I really can’t talk now. I can’t help you. Good luck with your job search. Goodbye.”

I heard her say goodbye as I pressed the disconnect button.

Thinking back on this, I’m amazed that it happened at all. This woman relocates into the 5th or 6th largest city in the country. A city with newspapers and Craig’s list and employment companies. But rather than tap into the wealth of all the job listings available to her, she cold calls a “friend” of a friend looking for help finding a job? Even if I was hiring, I wouldn’t hire her (unless I was hiring someone to make cold calls; she seems to have some skill at that). She’s obviously not interested in finding her own job and would prefer to have someone else find a job for her.

A stranger.

Maybe she thought I had a job to offer. Maybe that’s why she didn’t offer any details on the kind of job she was looking for. Hell, she didn’t even say what kind of work she did! Was she a secretary? A lawyer? A hair stylist? Who the hell knows? Maybe Steve told her I had a successful helicopter charter business and needed help. By being vague about the kind of job she was looking for, she thought she could wrangle an offer or interview out of me.

Not likely, for so many reasons.

I’m also left wondering if this was some kind of scam. (New Yorkers really can’t help wondering this when something strange happens. It’s in our blood.) Maybe she didn’t even know Steve. Maybe she found (or stole) his address book. Maybe she thought she would wriggle into some kind of friendly relationship with me. Maybe she thought I could help her find a place to live — or that she could move in with me. Or that she could get financial support from me with some kind of sob story.

If any of that is true, she really called the wrong person.

Credit Card Stolen?

But merchandise is being sent to the cardholder’s address?

Here’s a weird thing I’m hoping a reader can shed some light on.

A friend of mine just called me. He said that he was checking his bank account online today and found about 10 transactions for items he did not buy. All the transactions apparently came through on his Debit card.

So his card number was stolen and the thief was on a shopping spree, right?

Well, not so fast. He tracked down a number of the items ordered and discovered that they were being shipped to his address.

It seems that it’s either a bad joke or the thief plans to steal the delivered stuff off his doorstep when it’s delivered.

Has anyone out there ever heard of anything like this happening? Any advice I can pass on to him?

He’s not worried about the money — the bank has already told him they’ll reverse the charges to his account. I’m just trying to understand the scam. This is a new one to me.