I was leaning against the wall in the Apple store, thinking. I had to think, because the Apple store had my phone behind an "associates only" door, meaning I had nothing to do but gaze at the store itself, which was hopping, and woolgather.
Suppose I were transported back to, say, 50 years ago, I thought. If I landed in the middle of Macy's, where I had just spent the last 75 minutes, it might be a while before I noticed the time change.
Stores still have clothes on racks, glass counters, escalators, dressing rooms. But nothing like this Apple store existed back then.
All these people, heads bent over slippery devices the size of a waitress' order pad, employees racing around and charging cords snaking out of holes in the middle of the tables that filled the space like an interstellar library would look like science fiction to anybody I might bring back with me.
Of course, smartphones didn't exist in the recent past either, but look how quickly we glommed onto them. You'd think humans had been waiting for electronic media for millennia, since before our ancestors' ancestors crawled out of the cave and picked up a rock to get somebody's attention.
Well, never mind all that. My phone finally was returned to me, polished up like a car that's automatically washed after every oil change, and I returned to my world of constant distractions.
Soon, though, I had another thought. This time I was driving, observing the world on either side of the highway, and I wondered about the storage-facility phenomenon.
Storage units are everywhere, and no wonder. Consider: You have some land and nothing to sell -- no espresso drinks, vacation packages, manicures, pet supplies or barbecue.
So you sell what you have: space. You can't sell squares of air, of course, so you build small garages around the air and sell it that way. It must be profitable. The places keep going up.
I might be wrong about the impulse that drives construction of these places. Prospective storage-unit owners may go to lenders with fully realized business plans.
This brings us, however, to what I don't understand: Why are people apparently lining up to rent a place to put stuff they aren't using anyway?
I get that people need extra space from time to time -- while they're living with his parents until their new house is finished; until they return from the Peace Corps; until their ISS stint is over. All that makes sense.
But I'm guessing many of these places are filled with furniture left over after the house is crammed to the teeth with hutches, end tables, recliners, desks and ottomans.
Or maybe the space is stuffed with what we call "home decor" (because we're too busy to say the word decorations). Then there are those who change their house to fit the seasons. They swap out pumpkins, gourds and leaf wreaths for elves, sleds and pine cones, which make way for snowflakes and tea candles, hearts and Cupids, and so on.
All this could easily max out a storage compartment, but I, for one, would tire of having a third of my stuff in a remote location.
I would begin to wonder why I have belongings that exceed the space I have for them.
I'd begin to think about all the junk in the world and then I'd progress to all the plastic floating in the oceans and pretty soon I'd sink into the nearest chair and stare at the wall, similar to what I was doing in the Apple store.
And when I had shaken myself back to full consciousness, I'd empty my storage unit, call Goodwill and send it all away.
At least, I think I would.
I might sit down with a pile of old yearbooks and spend an afternoon looking at pictures of Pep Club and the homecoming court.
But given time, I'm almost sure I'd make my stuff and my space to put it in come out even.
Then again, I'm an optimist.
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.