21
Aug
08

Paper Trial

Everyone at work who stops by my office lately is making a grand pastime out of teasing my office mate for the state of his half of the room. They used to do it when he wasn’t there, but lately they have taken to mocking him to his face. As a result, I have been shamed into cleaning up after myself at work.

A colleague recently stopped by on the way to her office and asked if it bothered me how messy he is.

“Not really,” I said, regarding the loose stacks of paper on my desk. “I’m not much better.”

“Yeah, but he takes it to a whole new level,” she said.

I turned to look at his half of the room. “Though I am intrigued by his stacking of papers,” I continued.

“It’s not so much “stacked,'” she noted. And I had to agree, they were more or less a pile, like leaves in autumn. There was a hint of organization, or intent, but the result seemed more accidental. I had spent the better part of the previous day, unavoidably, rolling over his papers with my chair.

“And,” she continued, “I really love the whole …,” she paused searching for the best word, gesturing like a conjurer toward a stack of IN boxes and OUT boxes, each with at least half a dozen loose leaf sheets hanging over the edge by at least three inches. “Waterfall effect,” she concluded.

“Yeah. It’s very kinetic, isn’t it?” I said.

She backed out the doorway and laughed as she continued to her door.

I have always thought that, as long as you know where things are, you should not be considered disorganized. Untidy, maybe, but not disorganized. But I realize that there is another side to it. The trick at work, which is almost more important, is to get your colleagues to believe you are organized. It is all in the appearance of tidiness. Without it, you will not inspire confidence.

“What if there’s a fire? And poor Eric slips on your pile of papers and bangs his head and dies?” a co-worker asked him recently. “Do you want that on you conscience?”

I would have to jump behind his desk first, the opposite direction from the door, in order to slip. But it is a good point. We all have our own styles and systems. And it is clearly a temporary situation. I can appreciate his method, but I prefer not to leave myself in a situation where I am tripping over my inbox. I prefer to leave it in piles on my desk, where it can slide and topple onto me, putting me instead at risk of suffocation from burial.

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