By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Back, and forth: All that Christmas stuff and other tales of stow

Few are the pop culture references to storage units. It’s not considered that exotic or diverting of a subject.

But there are two I love: Jimmy Buffett’s “We got lots of self storage/calypso poet shortage” and George Carlin’s “That’s all I want, that’s all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know?” from his classic “My Stuff” routine.

Stuff. Everyone’s got their own version of “stuff” and where to put it, I think.

We have our own. We call it “tale of stow,” since moving from a larger home to a smaller one here in McMinnville nine months ago.

I will spare you the details, other than to say our current place is so much smaller, we are renting a small storage unit south of town on Highway 99W.

I went there the other day to deal with Christmas items. They join camping gear as one of the two main reasons we rent the space.

Whatever we need to stow or retrieve, it works well to park the goods at the rental locker. We go there once every few weeks to swap things out, and are gradually reducing the volume along the way.

We punch in our PIN number and watch the sliding gate open — “Caution: Do Not Ride,” it warns in tempting fashion — then drive to our building. We block the door and go down the labyrinthine interior to our unit.

We open the roll-up, take or leave our stuff, and head home — usually without incident.

It’s become part of our life. Sometimes we slip and refer to it for the storage option we used at our old place — “Let’s run it out to the shed.”

My most recent run to “the shed” was memorable in an odd way. I realized I remembered that stretch of highway for another reason:

I once walked that far out 99W from McMinnville. It’s only a couple of miles, but it was a bit worrisome at the time.

I was hitching a ride to my parents’ house in Albany during my senior year at Linfield, and it was getting late in the day. Near Whiteson, someone finally picked me up.

It was one of only two times I hitched home. Usually I sprang for a bus ticket, as Greyhound used to run through McMinnville.

Once, while waiting for the milk run to Albany, I zipped over to Nick’s Italian Cafe for a bowl of soup. In those days, the bus stop was just a few blocks away, on Second Street.

While I was spooning up my minestrone, Nick took a call and warned, “The bus is ready to leave.” I grabbed my gear and ran over to catch the ‘Hound.

Now I have a car, so no need to hitch. But I do have a need for space to put my stuff.

We bought our tabletop tree last Sunday at Fox Ridge Tree Farm. It made for a modern Currier and Ives sort of scene, what with the panoramic views, friendly owners, smell of wood smoke and a pot-bellied stove in the corner of the barn.

Tannenbaum in tow, we went home and decorated it, pulling choice ornaments and other Christmas accoutrements from three red plastic tubs, and decked our halls. I was then ready to load up the tubs and put them back in storage until New Year’s Day or shortly thereafter.

Back to the shed I went, and down the hallway to unit 519. As I parked, I saw that another rental tenant was on the premises, dealing with something in the cab of his truck.

I paused to greet him, but he was busy, so I carried the tubs inside. I would meet him a few minutes later.

The tubs were lighter — in fact, one was nearly empty — and I was careless. Suddenly, I was jolted by a loud crash, as two of the tubs toppled to the concrete floor, spilling Christmas ornaments that had not made this year’s cut.

I looked up and realized the guy from the truck was just a few yards down at his unit.

The floor was strewn with pieces of unheralded festivity, including a number of those brittle metal decorative balls. But amazingly, nothing had shattered except one of the plastic tubs.

“Can I help you, friend?” my fellow tenant offered. And without waiting for an answer, he bent down and started picking up ornaments.

I thanked him, and muttered self-effacing comments about my carelessness. “Hey, I think this happens a lot of times,” said my companion, whose name I learned was Evan.

“I’ve got a broom and dustpan, want me to get it?” Evan asked.

I said that was probably a good idea. “I don’t want to leave any wreckage to get in someone’s way,” I said.

It all happened pretty fast, and it was one of those slightly embarrassing moments — the kind that, lacking some major causation or drama, can feel worse than strongly embarrassing moments.

Evan was back with broom and flat-blade shovel. “This will work just as well,” he said, and while he swept I scooped up a few errant pieces and together we got the floor cleared.

I stowed everything safely inside and thanked Evan again. And that was it.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be back. And I’ll bring a replacement for the brittle red-plastic tub that shattered.

We’ll plan on repeating the tradition in 2022, but perhaps with a larger tree so we can give more ornaments their season’s display.

Chances are I’ll encounter Evan again.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll be able to assist him in some way next time.

Contact Kirby Neumann-Rea at kirby@newsregister.com or 503-687-1291.

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