Monday, January 29, 2007

Gwyneth Paltrow's Head

This morning saw me in the head offices of a local bank, turning a moldering old key in the lock of one of their safety deposit boxes. It's actually not my safety deposit box as much as it is the family's storage space, to be honest, and I haven't seen the contents of the thing in a long time. I do, however, pass by to make the yearly payments... although this morning had me looking inside the metal container to see if it held copies of some important documents that someone had misplaced.

Whatever the case, this morning saw me opening up the family safety deposit box. And, because I was alone at the time and constantly wondering exactly what we had left inside, my mind started wandering.

I've noticed that modern movies give us an odd impression of safety deposit boxes. There, they're usually represented as shiny secure areas inside underground vaults protected by surveillance cameras, and I suppose that that's all well and good. But on the other hand, safety deposit boxes in the movies never seem to contain anything that we might normally see as valuable: They never contain family heirlooms or life insurance policies or last wills and testaments, for example. Safety deposit boxes in the movies always contain weird little knicknacks, like mysterious coded messages or odd calling cards or the names of people who nobody's heard about in a long time. You can never expect to find money or legal papers inside a movie safety deposit box, in fact -- only objects that raise some really weird questions.

Sadly, the big metal box I opened up today was one of the more mundane ones. Security concerns prevent me from telling you exactly what its contents are, but I can at least tell you that my mind was in the throes of wild speculation for the few minutes I held the unopened container in my hands.

...So much, in fact, that I wondered how many possibilities I could come up with before I ran out of ideas. What could a single safety deposit box possibly contain?

1: That wallet you thought you lost the last time you passed by the bank.
2: A severed human finger.
3: A miniature representation of your home town, made from toothpicks and glue.
4: A credit card in the name of a fictional character.
5: One coin of foreign currency, the country of which doesn't exist.
6: Love letters from your father, written to your mother's sister.
7: A live bullfrog. (It's just as surprised as you are.)
8: A black hole.
9: Schrödinger's cat.
10: That last set of ladies' underwear you wore. (This is fairly awkward if you happen to be a guy, yes.)

11: A gateway to an alternate universe.
12: An alien doomsday device in the shape of an onion.
13: An issue of MAD Magazine, dated September 1951.
14: The corsage from your high school prom.
15: An uncut diamond, larger than any specimen ever discovered.
16: Old boots.
17: A manuscript for a novel, written by you. (Which is funny, because you don't remember writing it yourself.)
18: A desperate message for help, written in blood.
19: A suicide note that holds your name and signature at the end.
20: Another, smaller safety deposit box.

21: Occam's razor.
22: That single Easter egg you never actually found during last year's hunt.
23: Colorless, odorless nerve gas. (The box otherwise looks empty.)
24: A hand-drawn, amateurish-looking membership card that reads "Fight Club -- Tyler Durden".
25: A VHS tape that, when viewed, contains nothing but static.
26: An empty bottle of wine. The year on the label reads "2005".
27: An old, wrinkled and dusty teddy bear.
28: A baseball.
29: Water. There's a live goldfish swimming inside, for some reason.
30: A DVD that, when viewed, is found to contain upside-down footage of your first public speaking engagement.

31: A sheet of note paper containing a bad joke.
32: A hotel keycard. (The hotel itself is halfway across the world in a country you have yet to visit.)
33: A list of names, some of which have been crossed out in sequence. Those people whose names have been crossed out have all died of mysterious causes.
34: Prescription medicine for a relative you know to be healthy and well.
35: A decayed tooth. (It looks like it came from among someone's upper front teeth.)
36: An unused band-aid and a bottle of disinfectant alcohol.
37: A bullet. (Predictably enough, it's got your name on it.)
38: The reading glasses you thought you lost on vacation three years ago.
39: A recipe for sponge cake that your best friend gave to you.
40: Film negatives containing blackmail material. (Strangely enough, one of the people shown in the film looks like you...)

41: A small painting of an optical illusion. It makes your head hurt just looking at it.
42: A pot of gold and a tiny set of green clothes.
43: A TV remote control. The brand name is one that you've never heard of.
44: Lipstick.
45: An ID card for a company you never worked for. It's dated "1999".
46: Mathematical notes that detail a proof for Fermat's Last Theorem. The handwriting isn't yours, and there's no signature at the end.
47: Human pubic hair.
48: A pastel-and-oil painting, etched onto the inside of the box.
49: A Swiss army knife. The corkscrew extension has blood on it.
50: A bento box. The meal inside is long gone, however.

51: A newspaper clipping concerning the death of a famous personality.
52: One piece of a shattered ceramic coffee cup.
53: A plastic bottle of Mountain Dew. The bottle is still full, and is still well-sealed.
54: Tangled string that looks like piano wire.
55: A microchip. (You have no idea what it is, or how to hook it up.)
56: An authentic aborigine boomerang.
57: The ukulele you bought the last time you stopped by Hawaii.
58: A sketch drawing of a beautiful woman, who is unfamiliar to you.
59: Pixie dust.
60: An old-fashioned top hat, one that depresses in order to fit small spaces.

61: A sealed scroll that contains an invitation to an imaginary school of wizardry.
62: Bird seed.
63: Photographs of random people. All the subjects in the photographs seem to be horrified at the person holding the camera.
64: A massive pool of candle wax, as though someone had melted a good-sized candle inside the box.
65: A wig, a false mustache and beard, and fake travel documents.
66: A Native American dreamcatcher. (When you hold it in your hand, it seems to strain in one direction all by itself.)
67: The tonsils that you had removed when you were eight years old, floating in a small plastic container.
68: A cassette tape, of the "Learn English in Seven Days or Less" variety. (Which is odd, because you're a native English speaker.)
69: An airplane ticket. The date of departure is tomorrow.
70: A 18th-century trade agreement signed by one Button Gwinnett, whoever he is.

71: A cryptographic cipher that translates the English language into an obscure set of symbols. You don't know where the symbols have ever been used.
72: Old music CDs.
73: Twenty pounds' worth of unsharpened pencils.
74: A short letter from a well-known Hollywood celebrity, inviting you for what it calls "one night of unforgettable passion".
75: A cellphone with one text message in its Inbox. (Which reads, "Stay put. I'll get you out soon.")
76: Marbles shaped like the planets of the solar system. (Which is funny, because there are ten of them for some reason.)
77: Tupperware.
78: A copy of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri computer game.
79: A dinner plate. There's a hairline crack across its center.
80: Beer.

81: A sweatband that belongs to your badminton partner.
82: A key to a second safety deposit box in a different bank.
83: A sheet of graphing paper, on which is written a dirty limerick.
84: Homemade wasabi in an elaborate container.
85: A strange-looking device. As you stare at it, a red light starts blinking on and off.
86: An old wristwatch that stops a few seconds after you open the box.
87: Ticket stubs from the premiere of Peter Jackson's King Kong. (One of the stubs is yours.)
88: An old Mickey Mouse comic book. The cover pages have been torn off.
89: Two hundred unpaid parking tickets.
90: A black costume, a collection of shuriken, and a pair of shuko.

91: A belt with a complex metal buckle. Pressing one button on the buckle automatically transports you to the inside of your closet at home.
92: A newspaper with tomorrow's date on it.
93: Art supplies and reference material. (Despite the fact that you don't know how to draw.)
94: A deck of tarot cards. The art on each card depicts you in various scenes of torture.
95: A set of billiard balls. All of them seem scratched and worn except for the 8-ball, which looks pristine.
96: A Pantone color guide with all the color references in the wrong position.
97: A Transformers toy.
98: A single drop of blood. You don't know if it's human or animal, or even where it came from.
99: The head, arms and legs of a Barbie doll. You don't know what happened to the rest of it.
100: A folded paper crane, made from the resignation letter you supposedly submitted to your last employer.



Ailee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

"24: A hand-drawn, amateurish-looking membership card that reads 'Fight Club -- Tyler Durden'."

Hmm. But doesn't a membership card by itself violate the first rule of Fight Club? :p A bar of soap seems more Tyler's style. That, or a bottle of gasoline and a bottle of frozen orange juice in equal parts, to make napalm. :)

Sean said...

Ailee: For those reasons, yes, the existence of the membership card is highly unlikely. But then again, the existence of a lot of the stuff on the list is highly unlikely -- the one I'm most proud of is #13: the 1951 issue of MAD Magazine (which didn't put out its first issue till 1952).

One of the semi-authentic items on the list, however, is actually the trade agreement with Button Gwinnett's signature (#70). Gwinnett was one of the original signers of the American Declaration of Independence, but is most well-known nowadays for the rarity of his signatures. That trade agreement, if you did manage to find it inside a safety deposit box, would probably net you about US$100,000.00 from collectors.