Jewish World Review Sept. 8, 2003 / 11 Elul, 5763

Burt Prelutsky

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We humans are funny | One of those axioms we have all grown up with is that opposites attract. Being the type of person I am, I tend to be suspicious of anything that other people accept on face value. After all, we are talking about a species that, in terrifyingly large numbers, believes Elvis Presley is still shopping for blue suede shoes; trusts in horoscopes and tea leaves; worries about who wins wrestling matches; and believes they're called infomercials because they contain actual information.

But, there must be at least a kernel of truth to this business about opposites attracting or how else would you explain so many marriages? We all know couples, I dare say, where one partner, usually male, is always prompt, and the other party appears to keep time with last year's calendar. Then there are those couples where one spouse, usually female, is always eager to be doing things and going places, and the other spouse would prefer to take root on the sofa.

Or, just for the heck of it, take my wife and me. One of us is a pack rat who has never tossed away a darn thing. Everything, this person is convinced, will eventually have a use. The other person, the sane one, is equally convinced that if an item has sat in a box or a drawer gathering dust for over a decade, odds are its time has come and gone.

The first person suffers from the delusion, fostered by all those cable TV shows, that every last piece of trash is a treasure just waiting to be discovered. The other person, the rational one, is equally confident that garbage isn't miraculously transformed into gold simply because some poor sap hangs on to it long enough.

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The first person seems to regard material goods the way normal people regard human beings, believing, it seems, that old clothes and dishes are capable of feeling betrayed and abandoned. To them, throwing away an old lamp is tantamount to tossing out a child or dropping the family pooch off at the city dump.

It is not my purpose here to suggest that one of us is right and the other one wrong. Neither is it my intention to imply that one of our ways is reasonable and civilized, leading to peace and contentment, while the other road inevitably leads to madness and chaos.

It is merely my hope to convey the idea that no matter how wide the abyss seems to be, with goodwill and compromise, people can reach across their differences and live together in near-perfect harmony.

And if I have one last thought to share, it is simply to remind everyone -- and one person in particular -- that old is not the same as antique, that clutter should not be confused with booty, and that most of the stuff that some people would like to regard as collectibles is best left curbside for the garbagemen to collect.

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JWR contributor Burt Prelutsky is a veteran TV writer whose credits include, among others, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show and Diagnosis Murder. Comment by clicking here. Visit his website by clicking here.

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© 2003, Burt Prelutsky