I had to mail something the other day, it was a stack of documents and, for whatever reason, I couldn’t just scan and email, no, I had to put them in an envelope and get it out to a mailbox. And that’s fine, I mean, in terms of things that I have to do that I don’t really feel like doing, sure, this registered on the charts, but it wasn’t that huge of a deal. And so I sucked it up and set about just getting it done.
Which, I didn’t think it would have been such a big project. And now that it’s over, I guess it wasn’t really huge. But there were still a significant number of steps involved, planning, executing, stuff like that. Like, the stack of papers was about thirty or so pages thick. I thought, I had better staple it all together.
So finding a stapler in my house, I’m not even joking, it took like a good fifteen minutes. Again, fifteen minutes isn’t a lot of time, but try spending fifteen minutes straight going from a desk drawer that I haven’t opened in months to a little box that I put somewhere on a shelf inside of my closet, looking for a stapler, a mostly unnecessary office supply that, sure, I know I had one around here somewhere, but when was the last time that I had to use it? When I put it back, did I make a mental note of how I might locate it the next time that I had to poke a hole through and join several pieces of paper?
And going through all of these little holes and spots around the house, it’s depressing. It makes me feel like a wild animal, like I accumulate all of these little pieces of things and stuff, and when I’m not using them, which is ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m just shoving them into weird spaces in rooms where I can only hope that I won’t have to look at them as I go through my regular days.
I did eventually find the stapler. I actually found the staples first, a little red box that, I’m actually fortunate I came across it first, mostly because I wasn’t looking for it, and I tried putting myself in the imaginary situation of having come across an empty stapler, and then having to go about looking for a tiny little box, I probably would have given up, because at least a stapler looks like something, I can see it and I can easily identify it, there it is, stapler. But a little three-inch red box? I had no idea that it was red before I accidentally came across it. I would have never even really known was I was looking for.
But it didn’t even matter, because when I finally found the stapler, which already had some staples inside, thereby negating the good fortune of having come across the box of staples, I found that the power of an everyday household stapler proved inadequate at actually stapling my thirty pieces of paper together. I’d say that the staple got through maybe the first eighteen pages. After that, I had to carefully pry the stapler from the paper, because being unable to finish the entire stapling motion, the device refused to let go completely of that tiny little piece of metal.
This sucked because, should I try again? Maybe I needed to apply a blunter, quicker stapling. Did I have to reprint my document? Or were these two little pinholes at the top not that big of a deal? My mind started putting together what the rest of completing this task was going to look like, and I couldn’t get past how the thickness of these sheets was already foiling what should have been a fairly straightforward operation.
These definitely weren’t going to fit in a regular envelope. I’d have to buy one of those yellow ones at a store somewhere. And since I had to be there, I guess I should buy a paper clip, hope to mitigate whatever damage I’d already done in my botched attempt at using the stapler.
When I finally got to the Rite-Aid next door to the Post Office, I found myself staring at the office supplies aisle, not really understanding why something so simple had the power to derail what should have been a pretty uneventful afternoon. Why didn’t they have any of those big clips? All I needed was like one big plastic clip, you know, the black kind that have the two metal pin handles, you squeeze on them to open up the clip. Yeah, they had paper clips, but they came sold in this plastic box of at least a hundred. I really didn’t need a hundred paper clips.
And after I resigned myself to the fact that I didn’t really have any other choice but to buy a hundred paper clips, I kept thinking, this little box is just going to be another piece of human detritus, some more garbage that I’ll have to add to my slowly but steadily growing pile of cheap manufactured junk. Chances are, I won’t need to paper clip anything together for at least another year or two. And by the time that need comes around, am I really going to be ready to recall exactly where I put that little box of ninety-nine paper clips that I’m positive I bought sometime within the last two years or so?
So I just have it out on my desk, this box of paper clips. It doesn’t look out of place, I mean, it’s a desk, and so it’s OK to have a few desk supplies on top. Maybe if you came over and you asked to use my computer or print something out real quick you’d look at that box and you wouldn’t really think anything of it.
But I’m staring at it and it’s haunting my existence. This box of paper clips is almost definitely going to outlast me. I can’t think of any amount of paperwork that I’d have to foreseeably complete in my lifetime to begin to justify the use of ninety-nine paper clips. Why couldn’t Rite-Aid just sell by the paper clip? Why do I have to buy such a surplus of paper clips, a surplus that, maybe not now, maybe not ten years from now, will eventually make its way from inside of my house to a trashcan somewhere else?
If you think about it, it actually is crazy. Somewhere in the world, somebody is making money manufacturing paper clips. They get sent over here from wherever they’re put together, and after spending who knows how long on a shelf at a Rite-Aid, they eventually get scanned at the register, a whole two dollars in the pocket of a small drugstore, a little box of junk that I’ll eventually have to throw out. There’s got to be a better way.
And the worst thing is, the plastic box to hold the paper clips is so cheap, when I tried to open it at the Post Office, all I could think was, man, this thing is going to explode open, all of the paper clips are going to get everywhere, I’m going to have to get on my hands and knees and pick up paper clips, one by one, everybody around waiting on line won’t have anything better to do than to watch me collect them all and get them back inside that box. So being really conscious of this happening, I tried as hard as I could to gently nudge the top open. But there was no response, it wasn’t working. I increased the pressure just a little bit, and then a little bit more, just really trying to be careful. But it didn’t matter, because eventually the plastic snapped, way too hard, and while not all of the paper clips fell out, it was a pretty good amount, at least twenty, twenty-five paper clips, all over the floor, I had to pick them all up, apologizing every ten seconds or so as people awkwardly tried to get past me without accidentally kicking me in the face.