Thursday, May 15, 2008


I am late posting because I have been busy with the final phase of closing down the office.

When you work 35 years in the same place an unbelievable amount of files and paper accumulates. Particularly if you never throw anything out.

I have been having a hard time parting with my past. Each file reminds me of some person long gone, or some bygone activity or project. That is until I got my paper shredder.

My accountant suggested I get this to dispose of “sensitive” documents like credit card and bank statements.

I got a heavy duty one with a twelve sheet capacity. When you pass a document through, it makes a very satisfying WHIRRRR, not a little girlie “whirr”, but a manly WHIRRR. Papers going into its maw make a shrieking sound like a last desperate plea for mercy. As I was plowing through the canceled checks from the 1980’s, I learned that by keeping it continuously fed, the motor didn’t shut down. I soon discovered this could best be accomplished by employing the two handed feed. Soon I was stuffing paper with rights and lefts and the machine just hummed along.

I briefly considered taking my socks and shoes off to get a foot feed going. I was reminded of a song that Elsa Lancaster sang on the Johnny Carson show: “I’m Picking Bits of Paper with My Toes.”

Soon, alas, I was out of “sensitive” documents. I briefly eyed the boxes of material my accountant said must be kept “permanently.” This includes things like the articles of incorporation, tax returns, etc. I can picture some distant descendent of mine saying: “The old bastard didn’t leave us any money, just boxes of paper we have to drag with us into eternity.” I spared these files because I like to think that someday the association tax returns from the 90’s might be stored in a garage on Mars or some other distant outpost of humanity.

My gaze wandered to the piles of memory laden files I was planning to box up and take with me. Maybe I wasn’t so attached to them after all.

I decided to take my emotional temperature by shredding the files of correspondence that were critical or negative toward me. Fortunately, these made a pretty big stack. Into the shredder they went accompanied by witty comments like: “ So that’s what you think. Here’s what I think!” WHIRRRRRR.

Next came pictures and correspondence relating to people I never liked but had to put up with because they were dues paying members of the association. I spiced up shredding this stuff with appropriate observations: “This is a really nice picture of So-And-So. I should send it to him. Not!” WHIRRRRR.

I was in a shredding frenzy now and soon the slaughter became universal. Kathie must have extra copies of these pictures of the kids. Occasionally, a red light came on indicating the machine had overheated much like John Wayne’s tommy gun after mowing down legions of enemy troops.

At last, there was nothing left. The air was thick with paper dust. The floor looked like Broadway after the Giant parade.

I patted the machine, turned off the light, and left.

As I walked down the hall to the elevator, I softly sang “I’m picking bits of paper with my toes. I’m picking bits of paper with my toes.”

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