Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

Zen and the art of paperclips

So mark356 got the "we've been lj friends too long" award last week for remembering this entry I wrote in 2003 (!) about paper clips.  I gotta repost it, because reblogging is the thing nowdays and I think every eight years I deserve a rerun, and because for some weird reason it's still in my head, despite the fact that I was clearly over-generalizing an eastern religion here. The concept is important.  Like, to this day I still have a lot of paperclips at my desk at work.  I have a 4" diameter, 6" tall round container of pens and pencils and colored pencils, because that's what you need to trace wires on a drawing, and next to it I have a container that's the same size full of paper clips.  It's a bit excessive. People notice.  People borrow them, that's okay.  I tell them the honest truth about my need for a ton of them... it's about balance.  It's kind of a thing with me.  Anyway here's the entry, originally posted here.

At work today I decided to get some paper clips and lots of them.  Here's the deal: we are engineers, we do drawings.  When we get done, we paperclip all the drawing pages together.  Then we paperclip the pages with pages from other drawings.  Then we send the drawings, and the paperclips, to another building, and nothing ever comes back to us, it goes to vaults and secret places and the company intranet.  consequently we are perpetually running out of paperclips; there's a void, a guzinta that doesn't equal a guzouta as we like to say in systems design.

So it was obvious to me that somewhere in the company there's got to be this place where all the paperclips go... a paperclip room, maybe, a paperclip vault, a giant magnet that they're all stuck to, a room that the supply managers go swimming in when they want an adventure.  It's the only explination... paperclips are leaving our office at an incredible rate, so they must be arriving somewhere else.

So while routing some of my own stuff I started asking people... "Do you have to take any paperclips off before you send this on?"  another department.  another step.  finally I got to the step where the paperclips are pulled off, it was at the desk of a woman named patricia who I'd met before.  I asked if she had paperclips.  She had a drawer with lots of paperclips.  She gave me a torn up nasty little box and filled it with paperclips until it wouldn't hold any more, and I took them back to my desk in the other building.

Patricia's problem was that she receives thousands of paperclips, but no bags.  The entire process falls apart... there's the break in the cycle.  Sometimes she finds a bag, puts paperclips in it, and sends it to the supply room, but usually she just has too many other things to think about and not enough bags anyway.  trash bags would be horrible for paperclips, it'd take paper bags probably, and who in an office has paper bags anymore?

There's some great metaphor for life here... all these paperclips, stranded with no way to get back, not really important enough to worry about anyway, but we still need them and they all add up and we definately notice when they're gone.  There's a cycle here... money comes in, airplanes go out, that's the big cycle.  But there are little cycles too.  Little circles we don't notice.  Little chains we can't break.  It's all the world is.  it's office supply karma.

it's zen... I'm going to get some giant zen-like container and fill it with paperclips and achieve all balance in life.
Tags: office politics
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