There’s a scene in Star Trek: First Contact when Jean-Luc Picard puts out his hand and touches Zephram Cochrane’s warp ship, explaining to Data that though he had seen it in the Smithsonian, there was something about the sensation of touch that heightened human experience. I don’t remember anything in the Prime Directive about paraphrasing Starfleet captains, so if I’m out of bounds, take it up with Roddenberry’s ghost.
I get that. Feel it even. Whenever there is an opportunity to visit a flea market or an antique mall or a vintage store I take it, because unlike going to the museum, I can put my hands all over everything provided the folks doing the selling don’t find my behavior suspicious. Maybe I’m only forging a tactile bond between myself and the nineteen sixties, but it sure as hell beats fondling melamine plates at Target.
Crazy Daisy Pyrex butter dishes will be caressed, novelty salt and pepper shakers and cast iron skillets and oak chairs and Fiestaware pitchers will feel my fingers all. I love the jumble of old perfume and Coke bottles cloudy still with their original contents, long past the time when you’d want to put them on or take them into your body. But I still want to touch, as though they have stories or better, carry somehow the stories of those who have touched them before.
And isn’t that what it’s about? What’s real or isn’t real isn’t why I’m as greedy as an infant fitting every little bit of the world they can into their mouth – it simply isn’t acceptable for me, and I know too much about communicable diseases, or I’d do it, too. It’s about making a connection, and on the rare occasion that I bring something home with me, it’s maintaining that connection for who comes after.