Dried up paint and the GSA

My son does not have hobbies. When something sparks his interest, it becomes an all-consuming passion. For proof of this, you need only look in our attic: Several Rubbermaid containers housing Thomas the Train Engine and all his friends along with bridges, wooden train track and other accessories.

Then there was his Yu-Gi-Oh phase. At first simply collecting cards and watching horribly predictable anime on TV was enough, but soon he was spending his Saturdays at Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments.

Then came Warhammer: a tabletop wargame where two or more players compete against each other with “armies” of 25 mm – 250 mm tall heroic miniatures. The remnants of this last hobby have yet to make it to the attic. They’re in that in-between place also known as the closet.

His propensity towards enthusiastic immersion in interests isn’t necessarily a bad thing. His drive to be the best he can be at whatever interests him has helped him become good at both football and French horn.

But with football season over and the school year winding down, my son has found a new passion: Paintball.

If you or someone you know has ever played paintball, you know that it is not a cheap hobby. It’s expensive enough if all you ever do is play with the rental equipment provided by the paintball place, and it only took a month of Saturdays for my son to come to two realizations: 1) He wanted to become a professional paintball player, and 2) He would never achieve this goal using rented equipment.

His allowance covers the cost of his weekend paintball games, but soon he began asking for extra chores around the house to earn money for paint pellets, a mask, protective jersey and pants. Oh, and a gun. But that’s a whole other story…

The first chore I relinquished to him was a no brainer. With the exception of two 9 month periods over the past 15 years, the job of changing out the cat litter box has been exclusively mine, and frankly, I don’t know why I didn’t give him this job sooner. But as disgusting as it is, it wasn’t going to earn him the kind of disposable income he was seeking. He needed a big job, and after thinking it over for a couple of days (which may or may not have included his constant nagging), I finally came up with one.

Some of you may know that in my non-virtual life I’m sometimes a painter–walls, canvases, etc. If paint will stick to it, chances are I’ve painted it. Over the years, I’ve managed to amass quite a collection of acrylic paint–you know the kind–the little 2 to 4 ounce bottles they sell in the craft store? Yeah, well I have about 500 to 600 of those, many of them either nearly empty or dried out. And since I’ll soon be painting a couple of murals, I’ve needed to assess what I have, and who better to go through 500 to 600 bottles of paint than my darling son? Better him than me, huh?

He was eager to get started and even more eager to get it over with and get his $20. My instructions were clear. He was to check each bottle, first by shaking it. If he couldn’t hear and feel paint sloshing around inside, he was to open the bottle and check to see if the paint was dried out. Good paint was to be returned to the color coded 2 gallon ziplock baggie from whence they came. The duds went into a large garbage sack.

This system worked fine for the first 50 or 60 bottles of paint. But then he decided that if he didn’t hear the paint sloshing around, he wouldn’t bother checking to see if there was paint inside. He simply assumed the paint was dried out. This resulted in a whole lot of full bottles of paint which had never been used being tossed in the garbage. It also resulted in him having to start over again and some mild grumbling. The job was eventually completed, but this time under my watchful eye.

I hope that this was one of those teachable moments for my son. I know it was one for me. Because you see, even though my son cares for me, he cares absolutely nothing about painting. To him, those bottles of paint were just things to be sorted or discarded. He couldn’t understand, as my daughter would, being a fledgling artist herself, that those bottles of color represented the elements of a sunset or an ocean teaming with life, a poppy flower or a puppy dog. How could he know that? And why should he care? Painting is my passion, not his.

There’s no attachment to something you take no ownership in.

Which is why I’m not particularly surprised to hear of the recent scandals surrounding the General Services Administration or GSA. To be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to who they are or what they do, or rather what they’re supposed to do. According to Wikipedia:

The General Services Administration (GSA) is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1949 to help manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies. The GSA supplies products and communications for U.S. government offices, provides transportation and office space to federal employees, and develops government-wide cost-minimizing policies, and other management tasks.

It’s bad enough that an agency created in-part to develop cost minimizing policies for the government is so brazenly wasting taxpayer money, but to mock us all in the process? It makes my blood boil.

But why should they care? It’s not their money, right? They didn’t earn it. They’re not personally invested in its management. They were simply put in charge of spending it.

What could possibly go wrong with that scenario?

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