2018-06-13 / Opinions & Letters


Midwest Memo
by Alan Shultz

Five desks down from mine, the office landscape where I work recently changed from conventional to iffy. Instead of a clear path, now in the center of the aisle, there sits an enormous blue plastic garbage container on wheels. The container is like those you wheel to the curb, except this one is marked “recycle.”

Next to the recycle container is another extra-large garbage container, this one is black and has no label. Finally, next to the unmarked garbage can is a large wooden box about four feet tall. This one is marked “shredding.”

Our 4,000 square foot office suite is destined for a total remodel; the project is to commence in a couple months. In order to accomplish this project, the manager, the staff and 90 some agents must all move one floor down to temporary quarters. The temporary space is about half the size of our current space. To accomplish the interim move, we must all purge our files, downsize our possessions and lessen each of our office footprints. This explains all the garbage cans in my path.

I’m pretty settled into my little cubicle that I’ve occupied for many years. On my desk I have a lamp, a clock, two mugs full of pens, two name plates, hand sanitizer, a plexiglass “take a card” card holder, a miniature Lego model of the John Hancock skyscraper, my laptop, an extension cord, a pile of file folders and a pile of maps.

You get the picture.

Add to my desktop accumulation the jammed to overflowing contents of three desk drawers, all the clippings and papers I have pinned to the cubicle sides and the black plastic tub I keep on the floor with miscellany inside. On the top of the tub I keep an umbrella and my computer bag, which is full of plastic bags to use to cover files I carry when it’s raining.

And, several aisles down from my desk, in office territory I have no business in, and where I am rarely spotted, I have a secret four-foot-wide file drawer bestowed to me by a former manager. This is where I keep 100s of file folders of past business full of bits of information that I occasionally consult.

I am a paper dependent worker, and a bit of a packrat, in a paperless office that scans and tosses all documents. And soon, this place I call work, will be remodeled with communal work spaces, unreserved seating arrangements and no place to store one’s stuff.

Oh my.

The renderings I have seen of the new office space to come feature imaginary colleagues drinking coffee, looking at laptops, gathering and conversing in groups and sitting and meeting in glassed off conference rooms. Everything is spacious, sleek and open. I’ve given the office renderings a real close look and there’s not a pen or a paper or a paperclip or a “take a card” holder to be seen anywhere.

Just exactly where a guy like me and all my stuff go in the new place to come seems… hard to imagine.

And so it is that nights and weekends, when I have the place to myself, you can find me lugging old file folders from my secret file drawer stash over to the garbage, shred and recycle corner. I stand in front of the bins and say “hello and goodbye” to decades of old closed deals. Some files I thin, some I toss and some I put aside for “further review.” And even though my future life is projected to be paperless, I grab the paper clips, big and small, that dot the files, and put them aside for reuse.

Having the run of the office after hours does present certain temptations. For instance, the renderings of the sleek new office space sit right out in the open. What might happen if someone added to the sleek new office renderings, say by drawing in an older looking guy in the background. And would it be all that obvious if this guy in the background was leaning on one of the sleek new counters upon which sat – inconspicuously - a mug of pens, a few file folders and a “take a card” holder?

If you think that might work, I’ll stop tossing files right now.

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