Thursday, August 14, 2008

Paper trails

Over the last two and a half years I have been collecting items left by one of my café regulars. I had noticed that the woman left what looked to be a shopping list on the table. I retrieved it and brought it to a coworker who seemed to be on friendly terms with the woman (we will call Ester from now on). My coworker informed me that this was a common thing for Ester to do and she never asked about the items or wanted them back. They were being discarded, thrown out with the trash.

I found this to be very disconcerting and at first I didn’t know why. What should I care if an old German woman wanted to leave scraps of things behind to be thrown away? I threw them away a few times always feeling very much like that was wrong, almost disrespectful to do. I determined it was because this woman must be trying to say something. I don’t know what or to whom but this habit of hers seems to be a form of communication and it’s rude to ignore people even if they don’t make any sense.

The above is a photo of most of what I’ve gathered since I decided that I would listen to this woman, two and a half years ago. I grouped them according to the typical items she leaves. Most frequently left are thoughts and notes scratched on napkins followed by note pages with much the same content. Post cards and torn magazine or book pages are rare but not as rare as actual things. She tends to favor certain items for a while leaving several receipts from various establishments in a week. More frequent than any of these she leaves magazines laid out on the table open to pages with a sense of purpose that I have yet to discover. For a time much to the consternation of my managers she would write along the borders of magazines. Unfortunately those were all thrown away.

Over time the items have become disorganized in regard to chronology. I will try and present them close to the order I found them but some I am eager to talk about so they will be bumped up in time because I am impatient sometimes

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