Everyone Has Enough Mugs

Stop it. Just stop.

Think about it. When was the last time you actually broke a mug? The fookers last forever. You can drop them, bang them into the sink, shot-put them. And if you do chip the lip, it ends up with pencils or something in it.

When the Engineer joined a fencing club for a while, he got a mug with his membership. Last year he changed jobs, and his new employer presented him with safety equipment and an enormous mug. The year he turned fifty his family gave him a mug decorated with a complex mathematical formula yielding that number. That was a year or two after they gave him his second oversized Doctor Who mug with a disappearing Tardis.

My clients are lovely people who like to remember my birthday. They give me mugs.

I have a pottery kink, and what do potters make more of than anything else? You guessed it. (Try, just try, finding a dinner plate at the Hand and Kiln Collective.)

As winter set in and I found I could see and maneuver decently for the first time in a few years, I started extruding the closets, shelves and cupboards. There were mugs going back to the horrible job I had in the early 80s. There were mugs slid off on me by people who’d obviously received them as some sort of promotion and didn’t have space for them either. I lost an hour of my life that I won’t get back, stuffing newspaper and bubble wrap around them, to join the donation pile that has now crept up to about 25 boxes of assorted clothes I’ll never wear again, dishes I’ll never use and gizmos I never even tried out. Damn it feels good taping those boxes shut.

We sat down on Christmas morning and opened an omnibus box of gifts from a branch of the Engineer’s family out of state. In seventeen years, I have never actually had a direct conversation with this couple or their two sons, but at Christmas, apparently, it is imperative to perform gift-giving.

There was a jigsaw puzzle, which we don’t have space to put together, a set of the ugliest cereal bowls I have ever seen in my life and — engrossed with truly hideous Eight-Year-Old-Kid Art by one of those online companies where you can upload your original design — a gigantic mug.

Really, it’s okay not to give people something if you don’t know them well enough to know what they’d like. And don’t say “gift card.” I have a gift certificate — probably expired, but who can read that tiny print — to a theater chain where we never go, which has been stuck to the front door with a fridge magnet since just before it became too dangerous to go to a movie theater. Save your money.

At least, for the love of God, stop giving people mugs.

4 thoughts on “Everyone Has Enough Mugs

  1. Nobody ever gives me mugs! And I hope they never do. I own four mugs, one of which is my favourite and is – wait for it – 40 years old. It has a Boynton cat on the front wearing striped PJs and on the back it says The Cat’s Pyjamas. This mug travelled from Toronto to England to Spain. I don’t need any other mug (the others I only use when cooking).

  2. It may have something to do with the American obsession with STUFF. Like you haven’t been somewhere or done something unless you have the swag to show for it, you haven’t wished someone a happy birthday or whatever unless you’ve given them a material object. And everywhere, you can get mugs. They’re generic, cheap, and easy to manufacture — now in this age of online ordering, with your own (kid’s, agh) design if wanted.

    T-shirts are another one. I have had lots of clients who liked traveling, and they’d bring back a t-shirt from Thailand, say, with a bit of Thai-inflected art and the motto “Thailand,” because why would I not want that? I unloaded a whole kitchen trash bag full in the Great Extrusion, which is still winding down.

    I love those Boynton cats, and Kliban too. I do have more than four mugs, but one of my faves is FIFTY years old. See you and raise you.

  3. I have some mugs I actually like. I don’t need any more. One is from Peet’s Coffee and since Peet’s was started in Berkeley (CA) it says Brewed in Berkeley on it, and I rather like that because I was too (born there, that is). Speaking of Berkeley, we had mugs made with a picture of the VP that say Kamala is Hella Berkeley. Wanted to send her one but didn’t. (She and I went to the same grade school so I was always a cheerleader, until she became VP and seemed less up to it than I expected.) The best though are three mugs of a deep pretty blue, one from WordPerfect Corp, one from Schlumberger ATE Training, and one from Dynamic Details Inc, who used to manufacture printed circuit boards for me. The beauty of these mugs is in the fact they’re so old they don’t have URLs on them. When was the last time you saw technology company promotional material without a URL?

    • I’m queer for ceramics so out of the gate I own more mugs than I will ever know how to use, each one a unique artisanal work. Hence when someone hits me with a commercially made mug I just sigh deeply. To be fair I use those for daily wear and tear, the morning cup of tea comsumed when things are still falling from my half awake hands. Almost all those feature some effigy of a cat. The Engineer has a supersize mug with Doctor Who’s Tardis on it, which disappears when the cup is filled with something hot. His current employer gave him an all but spherical, even bigger mug on the first day. Clearly they expect maximum caffeination.

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