Tag Archives: office supplies

Where did I put my stapler?

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.

New pens in the supply room

Someone told the office manager that we needed more pens. Three days later, there are all of these boxes in the supply room. I thought, great, finally, I only had like one pen left. At one point there were at least a half a dozen in this decorative mug I keep on my desk, but, and I don’t want to point any fingers here, because I know how crazy it sounds, for me to just go around giving this blanket accusation toward basically everybody in the office, but it’s the only reasonable explanation I’ve got, that someone’s taking my pens.


Do I think it’s anything personal? No, I mean, I can understand it, sometimes. It’s not like I have my own office. And yes, I can think of maybe one or two fluke occasions where I was on the phone with a vendor or a client and I needed a pen – probably because someone had stolen all of mine. Was it Jones? – so I’d kind of just reach over the cubicle wall, not over, but around, I’d take it.

But, and I’m trying here, I’m going back in my head, trying to make a real thorough inventory of how many times this could have happened, and I’m really only picking out two or three distinct memories. Two, it was definitely two. And each time, I’ve put the pens back as soon as I was done with them.

I remember the second time vividly because as I was reaching back around the cubicle, Sally was like, “What are you doing?” and so I told her, “Sorry Sally, I just had to grab a pen real quick, and here it is, I’m giving it back.” She recoiled, it was a physical reaction, a pained look of disgust, “Ew, OK, not ew, but still, just … it’s yours. Just keep it.”

But I pushed it a little, because I knew where it was going to go if I did push it, just a little further, I told her, “OK well, I just thought you might want your pen back.” And it did, it went exactly where I thought it would, she said, “I’ll just take some more from the supply room. It’s a pen.”

It’s not just a pen. I said that to Sally, I said, “It’s not just a pen, Sally. I’m always losing pens. And then there are no pens in the supply room. And yeah, they get filled eventually, but it’s just unnerving, I just want my pens. If everybody just kept track of their pens, we wouldn’t have any of these problems.”

Whatever, she stopped paying attention, turned her back toward me to show how little she cared about how much I cared about the pens. But how could I not? I was sitting there, the day before the new pens came in, it was a crystal BIC, black, but, and this is a pretty bad habit, yes, but the cap was all chewed up. Nobody took that one.

If I had the same six pens that I had grabbed from the supply room weeks ago, I wouldn’t chew on all of them, just the one. But people steal the good ones, – it’s definitely Jones, he’s got like fifteen pens on his desk – and I’m left with this barely functional, old pen.

Fine, new pens, I’ll get over it. Only, these aren’t crystal BICs, they’re some knockoff pen, the ballpoint doesn’t really roll that smoothly, keeps leaving behind these globs of ink on the page, my sleeve is getting dirty. And there’s no structure to the pen itself, it’s like this thing, it’s made out of rubber, or plastic, like a really cheap plastic.

“Come on Margaret,” I went to the office manager’s office, “Why didn’t you get the good pens?” And she barely even registered my complaint, “It’s a pen, jeez, it’s just a pen.” But it’s not a pen. Or, OK, it’s a pen, yes, but what’s the thought process behind picking out the cheapest pen available? We had crystal BICs, and now we have this off-brank junk. How much could you be saving the company? And why? Just because it’s “just a pen” doesn’t mean you have to buy the absolutely lowest-priced model.

Don’t you think if maybe we bought moderately priced pens, nothing fancy, I don’t see what was wrong with the crystal BICs, don’t you think we’d be spending less money in the long term if you think about how many we’re all going to be just eventually throwing away? Because these things are terrible, honestly, what are you saving, like twenty bucks? Can I just donate twenty bucks to the office supply budget?

And I swear to God, as I was talking to Margaret, which was going nowhere by the way, I saw Jones, on the phone, he walked right past my desk. He went right for my last crystal BIC, he took one of my tissues and threw away the chewed up cap, and he putsthe pen behind his ear. I walked over to say something, like what the hell Jones? You’re going to take my last crystal BIC? But he was on a phone call, I went to say something, he just put his finger in the air, like, one second buddy, and then he turned it into a thumbs up and walked away. Come on man, this isn’t pen communism here, those are my pens, can we just establish a few rules? Just like three or four pen rules?

Just three pen rules. Rule one: Only buy good pens. Rule two: Get your own pens from the supply room. Rule three: Stop taking pens off of my desk, OK Jones? I’m going to lose it, I swear to God, just give me back my BIC, now.

Mapping Out My Future!

Originally published at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Today I’m going to make a plan for the rest of my life, for the future. I’m going to lay out all of my goals, break down what I need to do to achieve those goals into individual steps, and I’m going to come up with a timetable, a reasonable expectation for when I should commit myself to realizing all of the smaller tasks that will eventually add up to those larger objectives.

And then tomorrow, I’m going to go to an office supplies store, I’m going to shop for a bunch of binders, color-coded plastic tabs, all sorts of organizational stuff that I’ll need to really put into focus everything that I should be working on. Highlighters, maybe some plastic sheets that can fit into the binder that have separate pockets for different index cards, I’m just thinking maybe I can write out individual reminders on each card, take them out as I need them, really just keep my priorities in check. Forty-seven bucks? Yeah, that’s a lot for office supplies, but it’s nothing compared to the price of my future. That price is priceless, definitely more than forty-seven dollars.

Then the day after tomorrow, I’ll finish eating lunch, I’ll look to that bag of office supplies, I’ll think, man, I can’t believe I didn’t come straight home and get right to work. I don’t know what happened, I took a nap, I made myself some dinner. And then it’ll be halfway through the following day. I’ll think, should I get to work right now? In a minute. I just want to lay down for a second.

And then the week after that, my wife’s going to be like, “Rob, what’s the deal with this bag of office supplies?” and I’ll be like, “Honey, please don’t move those. I need them. I bought them so I can map out my future,” and she’ll be like, “OK, well, are you just going to leave it there on the floor? Can’t you put them away?” and I’ll get annoyed, I’ll say something like, “Listen, I’m going to use them, like very soon, so it doesn’t make any sense to put them away just yet. Just let me take care of it, OK?”

And then sometime later, like maybe a month or a month and a half after that, I’ll yell upstairs to my wife, she’ll be in the shower, I’ll be like, “Hey! Where’s my bag of office supplies?” and she’ll say, “What?” and I’ll repeat, “Office supplies. Where did you put that bag that I had, the one from the office supplies store?” and she’ll say something like, “I can’t hear you. I’m in the shower. Can you wait until I’m out of the shower?” So I’ll run upstairs and open the door, “The office supplies…” but the cold air is going rush into the bathroom and she’ll scream out, “What the hell, Rob? Close the door!” and I’ll say, “Come on, just tell me where you put my…” and she’ll scream louder, “Now!”

And then maybe like one or two years after that, I’ll be on the computer, surfing the Internet, not really understanding why my life is so aimless, the days blending into the nights, each month flying by seemingly faster than the last, and what do I have to show for it? Why can’t I figure out what I’m supposed to be doing? And I’ll think, it’s because I’m not organized enough, I just need to make a plan, I need to set some goals, and break those down into more manageable chunks. But just as I grab my keys to head out to the office supplies store, I’ll remember that I already did this, that I should have some supplies around here somewhere. My wife won’t be home, so I’ll send her a text, but by the time she replies, I’ll be watching TV or listening to a podcast.

I can’t see us staying at our current place for more than three or four more years, and so when we finally decide to move on, we’ll be packing all of our stuff into boxes, I’ll come across that bag of click pens, not the cheap kind, but the ones that come two for seven-fifty, the label maker, all of those plastic separators that go in that binder. I’ll think, this is perfect, I know exactly where I’m going to put this stuff in our new apartment. Once we’re settled in, I’m going to get to work, I’ve still got a whole lifetime ahead to make something of myself.

And then maybe forty or fifty years from now, my kids and my grandkids will be hauling all of my old stuff into a dumpster right after I’ve died. The younger kids will be searching through all of the years of accumulated trash, looking for some sort of hidden treasure, and one of them will come across this bag, they’ll say, “Look mom, a whole bag full of multi-colored post-its, a faux-leather bound document folder, and something called White-Out tape. Can I keep it?” But she’ll say, “No, come on, it’s just going to sit there and take up space, go ahead, toss it into the dumpster, they’re going to haul it away in an hour and we’ve got piles and piles of junk to dig through.” And the kid’s going to go, “Why did Grandpa have a whole bag of old office supplies?” To which she’ll reply, “I have no idea. He worked in a restaurant, and the Internet was around by then, so I couldn’t tell you what he needed any of that stuff for.”