It started 15 years ago: my mother gave me a little spring-themed dispenser for Easter, and I brought it into work to keep near my phone in my cubicle. I was working in tech support at MacWarehouse at the time, and I was pretty new to the job. The mid-1990s were a busy time for the computer world, and the phones were constantly ringing in the tech support department at MacWarehouse — the callers, sadly, were so feebleminded that they should not have been set loose with a crayon, much less an entire computer — making it difficult to get to know my coworkers. But, the Pez dispenser got a few of us talking, mostly because nothing brings people together like candy. A couple of my coworkers started to get me more dispensers candy, so they could eat it at work. I mentioned this to my mother, and not to be outdone, she bought me more Pez dispensers. Within a year, I had about 20.
I moved back to Trenton not long after that, and started working at a lobbying company downtown. I set up the collection on my office bookcase, and it grew there as well, thanks to gifts from coworkers and matching contributions from my mother. I had a neighbor around the corner, on Ashmore Avenue, and he actively collected Pez dispensers, so when he bought one for himself, he'd get one for me. By 1997, I had 50 dispensers.
There were too many for work at that point, so I set them up at home on a shelf in my office, prompting everyone to ask if I collected them. I'd explain that I only displayed them: others were collecting them for me. Nonetheless, my email address was firstname.lastname@example.org; the company I set the account up with went through buyouts, before it wound up with Verizon; and in the first of a series of unforgivable screw-ups, Verizon killed my pezchick account in 2004. "Oopsie! We're so sorry!" they said. "But it's irreversible." They went on to commit other serious crimes in the next few years, and I do not care how great their cell service is, or if they're an okay company to work for, Verizon can pound salt. They'll never get another dime from me.
Anyway, I don't think I've purchased more than 10 dispensers for myself in the 15 years this Pez thing has been going on; I had no need, since my mother bought them constantly for me. I hate to say it now that she's gone, but it was borderline annoying at the time. They weren't just for holidays and birthdays: every time I saw her, she handed me a shopping bag filled with Pez dispensers. My too large but manageable collection of 50 grew excessively to hundreds and hundreds.
My mom visited with my sister Jenny in March of 2008, and dropped off a large bag of Pez for me. Jenny forgot about it initially, and I didn't bring the bag home until late April of 2008. I set it on the stairs to go up to the attic, where I had my other other sacks of Pez. I didn't really look in it. My mother complained to my sister that I didn't thank her, and Jenny told her that I didn't get them until recently. I sent my mother an email to say thanks, even though the Pez were beginning to feel like a burden. A couple of weeks later, she was gone.
I looked in the bag, and among the standard dispensers in bags, there were two collectors' boxes.
The Elvis Pez does not come with a peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich, or sequins, but it does come with a CD.
I felt like such an ass.
Glen and I have been working on a major clean-up in the attic, and the catharsis has been great. Seeing so much floor has been incredibly motivating. But periodically, we'll stumble on something that stops us in our tracks. Gathering all of the Pez from this box and that corner, and putting them in one spot — a large Rubbermaid tote — caused my Great Attic Purge come skidding to a halt this morning. I didn't count them, but I looked at all of the dispensers, especially the loose ones, which had been on display at various workplaces and apartments. I heard Ken, the collector on Ashmore, tell me, "the ones without feet are worth more money." And, "They started out as peppermint candies in Germany." Vicky, a coworker, used to tease me about the ever-expanding collection. "You'll have to start a new shelf," she said. Another coworker of mine, Mac, in a different place and time, loved the candy but enjoyed the ritual of eating it out of the dispenser, and once, he felt badly that he ate so many, that he gave me money to buy more. My friend, Chris, on the other hand, was only interested in the candy, and she'd eat a few packs at a time, after I received the dispensers from my mom.
He's still holding the dispenser, calling it "Mater," because he calls all the cars from that movie "Mater." This particular car depicted on the dispenser is not Mater, but since I only saw the movie once, with Matthew, stopping every 11 minutes for some major toddler crisis or another, I couldn't tell you who it is, only that it's not Mater.
I'm hoping to get back to work up in the attic later today without any major emotional interruptions. And, I'm hoping this crazy Pez collection, started by my mother, is something Matthew can enjoy in the years to come.
These are two of my favorite dispensers, acquired during my MacWarehouse days: