Andy and Me

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“At the Car Wash” is a monthly column written exclusively for self-storage operators interested in providing a mixed-use development including a car-wash facility. If there are particular topics you would like to see addressed, feel free to contact the author or e-mail tlanza@vpico.com.

Last Sunday, while watching Andy Rooney, I chuckled to myself as I wondered: What would Andy have to say about “stuff”? How would he view this driving need in our society to accumulate and store things? Looking at Andy’s desk, as well as my desk, car, basement and garage, I’d say there is no problem here—everything has a place, and every place has a thing. A life of chaos and clutter is a good life, isn’t it?

I’m not quite sure how this happened, but sure enough, it did. Yesterday (or what seems like yesterday), I left the nurturing nest of my parents and flew the coop. As I remember it, I had my clothes, a razor and some other necessary gear (like 45- and 33-rpm records)—just enough to fill a duffle bag. That was it! Life was simple then. But something in my obsessive-compulsive behavior and need to overachieve told me I needed more stuff. Stuff shows you’ve arrived. Remember those t-shirts that read, “He who dies with the most toys wins”? Between the effective advertising of really cool things and wanting to be competitive with my peers, I unknowingly began a life of accumulating stuff.

Here I sit, years later, looking at this vast collection of possessions, wondering: Where did it come from and why does it have me surrounded? I think part of the answer has to do with my parents. (They won’t read this, so I think I’m safe in saying that.) They were children of the Depression, raised in an era of great Puritanical beliefs—you know, like “Eat your spinach,” “Remember the starving children in (pick your country),” “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and so on.

My mother had—and still has—stuff handed down from several generations, all of which she was convinced she’d use and I’d need. She is so passionate about this, she has me convinced. Of course, I’m not one to break with tradition and, therefore, my children hear the same tune. The garage is full of all the treasures I’m going to pass down to them.

Now, normally, this recycling of vintage goodies would be a good thing. We all know there is a future for those old beanbags and lava lamps. That collection of 45s, some original Johnny Mathis LPs, and my bellbottoms will have value and add tremendously to my overall estate. Gosh, I’d better decide who gets what in my will. I’d hate to see the kids battle over my Motown records and tie-die t-shirts. And let’s not forget, along the path from then to now, I’ve also done a good job stimulating the economy by collecting my own new stuff.

While wondering how to manage this treasure trove, I discovered a great phenomenon: a wondrous TV show on which people take their stuff and have it inspected and valued by real appraisal professionals! Did you ever wonder what schools these folks attended to learn so much about the value of stuff? What kind of degree is it—Master of Stuff, or maybe just a BS? Well, in any case, I’m sure somewhere in my stuff I have some really valuable goods. Maybe that old chest of my grandfather’s holds the key to retirement.

In the meantime, while I figure out which of our five lucky kids gets what and how to create space so I don’t have to sell my house and move into something bigger (i.e., more expensive), I’d better find a way to keep my stuff safe and secure. I discovered another fantastic phenomenon: storage facilities, where, for a minimal fee, all my worldly treasures can be relocated and protected.

Now this is a marvelous invention. I have to think the originator of this idea was someone like myself—a collector of stuff. As a result of the discovery of this wonderful service, I have announced to my wife that the desk will be cleaned, those boxes of old tax stuff will be moved and, yes, we can now put the family car in the garage.

Now the question becomes: What other services can storage facilities provide to make my life simpler? Maybe something to help with out-of-town guests, like a bed-and-breakfast? As so much of the stuff I’m storing once belonged to my in-laws and parents, maybe they’d be more comfortable sleeping next to it. This could be a whole new twist to the storage industry: sleep and store!

If anyone has interest in pioneering and using the concept, give me a call. Perhaps it is a bit far-fetched. Hmmmm. What a minute! What about a car wash?

Fred Grauer is the vice president of corporate accounts for MarkVII, a car-wash equipment manufacturer located in Arvada, Colo. He has made a life-long career of designing, selling, building and operating car washes. He can be reached at fgrauer@mark7inc.com.

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