I’m a bit of a packrat with my things, as much as Manhattan apartment living and my clutter-averse wife allow. Most of what I hang onto has some sort of emotional attachment: I have, for example, a bin full of pre-digital-camera photo albums, tucked away in the upper recesses of my closet. This I consider to be useful hoarding.
One thing I hang onto, and which I haven’t been able to quite reconcile, is old business cards.
Back in the 1990s, I began keeping a proper Rolodex to track the people I knew. I’m pretty sure it started when I was working at Billboard, tracking various freelancers and business contacts, and it was still common to look up a phone number and call someone.
I took my card file with me when I left, and for awhile, I continued to maintain it: glue stick, the individual filing cards in the system, culling people when they left their jobs, and so on.
At some point, I stopped actively maintaining the Rolodex. But I didn’t stop hanging onto the business cards. And now I have a bag full of them: nearly 20 years of contacts, from longtime bosses to people I met once (I literally have a binder clip of cards from my agency days with the title “PEOPLE I MET ONCE” on it) to all manner of my own cards from jobs past. And now I’m trying to figure out why.
This morning, I tried cleaning up the stash. I threw out a few dozen, but the vast majority are still here. Some names give me a flicker of remembrance, which is fun; some are entertaining, like the card from the woman whose bosses called her “Potato” and actually stuck it on her business card; others are former clients, prospects, or connections, people whose encounters with me made my life however much richer.
And still. It’s not like I’m talking to more than a few of these people, nor have I, some in literally decades. I found a handful of contacts I’m debating reaching out to anew, and a lot of cards that I’m keeping for keeping’s sake. I am slowly coming around to the fact that this is a bit ridiculous. But I haven’t thrown them out just yet.
Surely, some of my old business cards will be good for a good-old-days chuckle someday. The rest, though? Sooner or later, I’ll wish them all goodbye, their utility vastly improved by LinkedIn and Highrise, and their tenuous memories forever abandoned.
For now, though, Potato, I still have your card. Maybe I’ll give you a call.