Reconciling expenses at the end of the month, I'd put the $33 Wal-Mart entry in the "grocery" tab. I knew full well I'd spent the better half of that charge on baseball cards. That's the cost of sending me to the grocery store, I suppose. Doing this in the winter was always the best. It was cold enough outside that I didn't have to worry about perishables as I sat in the parking lot ripping into the more satisfying portion of the purchase.
Inspect the pack. Do I open it from the top? Maybe I'll just tear the flap on this one. Yeah, that worked.
These days, my Wal-Mart purchases lean further to milk-and-eggs than wax-and-cardboard. I no longer have to catch up with my family in the Target housewares section after browsing the card shelves. I don't have to invent justifications when my wife wonders why "a pack" turned into "a blaster". Good thing she didn't catch my sleight of hand as I slid two rack packs beneath the most concealing wares in the cart.
Slide the wrapper off, trying not to peek at the back card. Square the cardboard stack with my fingers. Turn them to reveal the top card. Here we go.
There are no packs. The shelves are emptier now than when they used to be empty. They used to be empty with Topps Lineage or Panini Triple Play or Upper Deck Documentary. Now, they're just empty. The display boxes have been reversed, flipped upside down, or even discarded; each of those three configurations perhaps more fitting than the one before it. I just want a pack.
It's Joey Votto, the best player that no one cares about. Second card is an Indian or a Cub, or a Cub who was traded to the Indians. No one cares about that guy, he's probably card #236. Three more cards until the insert. No one cares about them.
The absence of packs may be the straw that broke the camel's back. My humps are much more pronounced now than they were when I started this blog 10 years younger. My back can only support so much. I suppose the pack drought is just an inevitable step in the waning of my hobby existence. Scott Sizemore, David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, and
BJ Melvin BJ Upton are retired. I sold my Justin Verlander collection. I'm using the proceeds to eradicate my want lists. I focus my time on other things. I discovered Pokemon last year and have been sharing that with my daughter. Of course, the buying fury has come for Pokemon as well.
A no-name, a rookie no-name, and a Yankee. The insert is David Wright. I needed it. Now, I have it. The last six cards are probably fine. Who cares. I got the card I wanted. This pack was perfect. The Wright goes in a binder and the I-don't-cares get carefully sorted into a box. Secretly, I care about them.
Maybe I'm just aging. Maybe it's just stress. Maybe it's shifting priorities. Maybe it's an unprecedented time in history. Maybe it's definitely all of those. For the first time in my life, I have all of my non-personal-collection baseball cards sorted. I want them, but I don't want them. I want to put them back on the shelf, but I want to hand them off to someone else's storage space. I want to cherish them, but I don't even want to look at them. I'm probably going to part with them. I'll still have plenty of cards that I love and want to thumb through and share with others.
I think it took writing this to be at peace with the decision to reduce my cardboard footprint.
I also think I'll hang on to at least one empty box. You never know when you'll find some groceries.