Heavy Load 

Bucket lists a drain on local society

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The City Council will be holding an emergency session this week to figure out what to do with all the people walking around town carrying buckets of various shapes and sizes.

“These bucket folks have become a real nuisance,” said an official. “You can’t turn around these days without being banged with someone’s dang bucket. The plastic ones aren’t so bad, but the metal buckets can hurt like hell if they hit your elbow, knee or noggin.

“It’s a problem on buses, trolleys, elevators, ball games, public lavatories, restaurants, public parks, churches—practically any place folks congregate. We’ve already had some tense moments at the airports, where folks want to get on the planes with their buckets.”

The buckets in question contain the hopes, wishes, plans, goals, dreams, pipedreams, hare-brained schemes, etc., to be fulfilled some time before the bucket people shuffle off this mortal coil. In the common parlance, these desires constitute a “bucket list.” Scholars have yet to come to any conclusion as to which came first, the bucket or the list; nevertheless, your generic bucket has now become the container of choice for all those things you want to do before you die.

Some are of the opinion that the term “bucket list” was popularized by the 2007 movie of the same name, in which two dying codgers set out to do the things they had always wanted to do, like sky diving, going to the North Pole and taking a picture of the Taj Mahal. Accumulating these experiences was called a “bucket list,” supposedly because they were things they wanted to do before they “kicked the bucket.”

As commonly happens, there was a linguistic transfer by which “bucket” became associated not with a metaphorical bucket but with a real-life bucket. Hence, the practice of carting around the “things you always wanted to do” in a bucket, whether of aluminum, plastic or, in some cases, cardboard. Before the advent of buckets, people used a variety of containers, some more convenient than others: shoes, pockets, purses, grocery bags or paper sacks. A few contrarians carried their hopes and dreams in their heads, but the cranium is a leaky vessel, and their hopes and dreams dissipated over time.

At the beginning of the bucket-list craze, the early adopters held themselves apart from those who had no bucket list, or who carried their dreams in a place like their pockets, where they inevitably got mixed up with spare change, old rubber bands, candy wrappers or hairy lint from God knows where. The early adopters were very proud of themselves and their bulky buckets spilling over with dreams, plans, goals and schemes, sometimes in the process injuring innocent bystanders, who felt inferior with no dreams, plans, goals or schemes of their own to bang around with.

Now, of course, everyone is supposed to have a bucket list, and with all those buckets out there, it seems everyone does. Given all the daring, adventurous and/or meaningful things that people could do before they kick their own buckets, it is quite a downer to see what is actually slopping over the sides of those clanging containers. (I don’t think, by the way, that there is any truth to the rumors that some folks use their buckets for any other purpose, bodily or otherwise, than cramming them with dreams.)

A cursory glance inside the buckets reveals that, for the most part, the things that people want to do before they die are disappointingly banal. There is the usual trip to one of the wonders of the world, like the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China or Disney World. Some people want to milk a cow or ride a camel or meet a celebrity or touch a monkey—well, that’s kind of interesting, I guess. Even the risqué bucket list is predictable—kissing in the rain or fornicating on the beach or dressing in drag.

The other day, I found a fellow in the mall who was not carrying a bucket list, and unlike those around him lugging buckets, he was moving easily through the throng and whistling a happy tune.

“Once I had a bucket, but the only thing on my list was never to have a bucket list, so I ditched the bucket. One thing at a time, I say. Stick something in your bucket and there it will stay. Take it out of your bucket and put it in your life, where it belongs.”

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