The Compulsive Collector

January 13, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

The Compulsive Collector
When I started this article about the compulsive collector I actually had a different direction in mind. But then I began to recall a particular event in my life from several years ago. That first idea now started to fade and the following story came back to life. Hope it’s as good to read as it is to remember.

So what is the compulsive collector?

We all know what a collector is. Or at least we have a pretty good idea. And if we’re not one ourselves we probably know of one personally. In is this day and age of downsizing and people living with less a collector stands out quite readily.

So that just leaves the compulsive part. I think there too we all have a good idea but let’s take a look at the definition of  compulsion.

This one is from from

“Compulsion: an inner drive that causes a person to perform actions, often of a trivial and repetitive nature, against his or her will.”

Hmm, …trivial…against his or her will?  I may have to re-think collecting.

You may ask yourself …could I be a compulsive collector?

Anyways, back to my story. I guess it was about  7 years ago. I had been on the road …job related, when I pulled over for lunch at a deli-style Italian bakery.

It was a great little family-run place that oozed atmosphere. Anywhere there wasn’t a table stood open racks of newly baked breads. All of them cooling in full view. Probably more due to a lack of space than an attempt at ambience. But it provided for a fantastic setting nonetheless.

There was also a deli hot counter. Where a very short, very heavy and very matronly woman was filling take-away containers. You know the kind …metal foil …cardboard lids.

I lined up with several people. Most of them sounded like regulars. The “specials” rolled from their tongues like they were schooled in the old country. The old woman too, she could recall exactly who preferred  extra toppings …even before they did.

I definitely made a good choice in stopping there, I thought. Especially when you see burly truckers and clusters of tradespeople. 

You couldn’t ask for a better endorsement of a food place.

As the line progressed my eyes flashed over row upon row of different meats, noodles and side dishes. I could hear the older woman. She became easily agitated if anyone stumbled in ordering.

Even more-so if they mispronounced a signature family dish. I did my best to listen as orders were placed and the line shuffled forward. I silently practised.

When I finally reached the hand written, “Order Her..” sign, I had to bite my lip. But suddenly, and after all the now wasted rehearsals, the old woman was suddenly distracted by a loud commotion in the back room. Wringing her hands in her apron she magically glided her frame through a sliver of a door and disappeared.

And this is where the real story begins.

A much younger gentleman now appeared to take up her position at the cash register. My first impression was that this was her son. His English, while very good, was delivered in a thick Italian accent. He was quite personable while he took my order.

Which by the way was for a veal sandwich with peppers and mushrooms. I decided to forego any of the complicated sounding combination plates at the last second.

I watched them cut the fresh bread roll. Then layer in slices of steaming veal. And after a generous helping of peppers and mushrooms they drizzled on a bright homemade tomato sauce.  The whole thing was presented to me wrapped in aluminum foil.

I placed my key chain on the counter and reached for my wallet.

I was anxious about holding up this line of hungry tradespeople when the register guy locked his gaze on my key ring. I could half-hear him ask about my folding ring knife.

Still fumbling for my wallet I was sure he was just being polite so as to not make me feel like I was holding everyone up…which of course I was. And then it happened – the compulsive collector appeared.

He asked me where I got it and how long I’ve had it. And the truth was I couldn’t recall. Sure I stammered something about picking it up at a garage sale because in all probability I did. But I was more interested in paying for my sandwich and letting the next guy get his order.

“And then the compulsive collector in Joe took over.”

He sensed the next customer’s impatience and began to take his cash while waving me aside. He wasn’t letting me pay …or leave until he had a chance to talk about my ring knife.

I stepped aside with my sandwich and waited until he cashed out the next couple of people. He then walked around from behind the counter to continue the conversation.

He introduced himself as Joe. He went on to tell me he collected pocket knives and lighters. It was at that second that I politely asked about his collection when I noticed his replacement at the cash. I later found out to be his wife.

She simply rolled her eyes …likely having heard it all before.

I told him I also collected.

Not lighters but I did look for interesting hardware and I did come across lighters and knives frequently. To make a long story short I didn’t pay for that veal sandwich that day. And once a week for about a year or so I would pass that bakery and drop in on Joe.

Some weeks I had information on a great lighter I spotted on Ebay so I’d pass that along. Or I may have even found something interesting at a garage sale. They were never too expensive so I was happy to pick them up for him.

Whatever I found he would happily reimburse me for. And to make it worth my while he always built me a beautiful sandwich whenever I arrived.  I had a lot of fun searching out this unusual niche.

And since it wasn’t my normal niche it was somewhat empowering. I could enjoy this hunt while remaining objective. Joe on the other hand was fanatical about this. Maybe he needed me to insulate him from the activity directly.

Either way, I have to admit it was fascinating listening to him. He gave me all kinds of input on what exactly to look for. I never looked at a lighter the same way again. He had been into this a long time and had built a sizeable collection.

But he never balked at anything I purchased in his name. I would have to say he was the compulsive collector. Not to mention the king of sandwich building. It was a great balance.

Best of luck and collect well.


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