M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Thursday, October 03, 2002  

Over the past few weeks, my office has been in the process of being re-carpeted. It’s been happening in stages. They did another department a couple of weeks ago, half of my department this past weekend, and this weekend is when my area gets re-carpeted. I’ve been dreading it for over a month.

That’s not because the new carpet looks like it belongs in a casino, or because it’s about as plush and luxurious as a percale sheet stretched across the floor. It’s because it means I have to clean up my desk.

That would be bad enough under normal circumstances. In school, I was always the kid with the messiest desk. Periodically, my teachers would get tired of watching me rummage around in it for ten minutes before giving up on finding what I’d been looking for, and they’d make me clean it out. After a couple of hours of finding stuff I’d given up for lost, I would be admonished to try to keep it more organized from then on. And I did. Sometimes for as long as several minutes.

Likewise, my attitude towards keeping things clean served me rather poorly during my brief career in the food service industry. Not that I was committing any health code violations by any means, but I never quite got the hang of “clean as you go.” I was more of a “clean when there’s no other option besides getting fired” kind of guy. I guess the fact that I only lasted three weeks at that job demonstrates that I never quite got the hang of that philosophy either.

Once I got into the corporate world, I obviously discovered that there’s a lot more leeway. When you have your own space at the office, nobody cares how messy it is as long as your crap doesn’t spill out into the aisle and you’re not serving anyone food from your work surface. After I learned those two nitpicky little rules, things were much easier for me. Nobody ever made me clean my desk again (except for my worst-boss-ever who I think was trying to get me to quit so she wouldn’t have to give me a severance package, but that’s another story).

Of course, since nobody was making me do it, I got into the habit of doing it myself. I’m not claiming to be Felix Unger by any means, but I would always take action when things got to a certain point. When my desk drawers filled up, when I couldn’t remember the color of me desk, when the lower strata of papers in my inbox started turning to diamonds, then I’d take a few minutes out of my routine to get rid of stuff and straighten up a bit. Another factor was that in the corporate world, people made me change desks a lot more frequently than they did when I was in school, so stuff didn’t have quite as much time to build up.

Fast forward to today. I’ve described my desk before. If you’re too lazy to click on the link (or, as is more likely, if I’m too lazy to go back and add the link), then pretty much all you need to know about it is that it’s a circle twelve feet wide, and I sit in the middle of it. I have one drawer, which is just big enough to store two days worth of newspapers provided you fold them creatively.

Since I have no shelves, no file cabinets and minimal drawer space, 99% of my stuff is just out in the open. My manuals are on the counter-y part, and the computers and phones are about where you’d expect them to be. Everything else is just dumped in cardboard boxes on the floor. And it’s been that way for five years.

That’s right. I’ve sat in this desk for five years this month. I’m imagining what my elementary school desk would look like if I’d occupied the same one nonstop for grades 1-5. Probably it wouldn’t resemble a desk so much as a horrible accident at a paper mill.

My current desk doesn’t look like that, mind you. That’s because although I have practically no filing space, I have plenty of on-the-floor-under-the-desk space. And since I’ve never been on the verge of running out, I’ve just been adding to the growing carnage below normal sightlines.

But like I said, that all ends this week, because new carpet is going in over the weekend. So in addition to taping several miles of cabling to the underside of my work surface and dismantling the rack of VCRs that control the video wall, I have to go through all of the boxes of crap I’ve accumulated in the years I’ve been at this company. Among the stuff I found:

 Several years’ worth of reports that we stopped running five years ago and about which anybody stopped caring even earlier. By far the largest component by volume, getting rid of this stuff allowed me to relieve my workspace of enough paper to provide a Manhattan city block with phone books and a number of paper clips that, if melted down, would have yielded enough metal to manufacture an Apache helicopter.

 Over half a dozen birthday cards containing any number of signatures, some of them from people I don’t even remember. Looking at this small stack made me realize something: this job is making me old. See also:

 A coffee mug featuring the logo from a first-season NBC sitcom called Friends. Yeah, you heard me.

 An inexplicable odor of cat pee. Seriously, I don’t know.

 So many unused office supplies that when I brought them down to the mailroom they had to open a new wing.

I didn’t even finish cleaning it out before the end of the day. Tomorrow should be fun, what with all the dismantling and un-wiring I’ll be doing. But what I’m really looking forward to is Monday, when I’ll be able to see more of that new, casino-worthy carpet than I ever would have before.

posted by M. Giant 3:46 PM 0 comments


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