Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Filing Cabinets of Doom: The Office Move Edition

We will be moving offices in the very near future.  I'm trying to see it as a chance to sort and clear out the office.  I'm determined to get rid of the filing cabinets of doom.

I've inherited many a filing cabinet.  They often come full of files.  And if I want the cabinet, I'm the one who must determine whether the items need to be shredded or can go to the recycling bin.

So, I've sorted through a cabinet of a former owner who kept a print copy of every single article he came across.  He kept hard copies of every quarter's schedules and room use charts.  Those documents are the easy decisions.

I've had several filing cabinets now that came with personnel paperwork.  I dutifully shred them.  Yes, I went to graduate school for many years to be qualified to do this shredding.

You might ask why I don't have a secretary do that.  Excuse me while I collapse in laughter.

We don't really have that kind of support staff.  Plus, the few times when I've tried to have support staff do the shredding, the shredding didn't get done, and no one was reprimanded.  I'm not going to take the risk that documents with sensitive information get into the wrong hands because of me. 

So, between now and the day we move, I'll shred a bit each day.  The office shredder has a bit more capacity than my home shredder in that it can shred more pages at a time.  It does not have a huge wastebasket attached.

Other things that need to be done between now and the move:  sort through the office supplies and sort through the books.  Why do I have office supplies in my office beyond what I plan to use?  I got into that habit with an office assistant who is now gone.  She was one of the only ones who could order the office supplies, and for a whatever reason, she often would not do it or would order the wrong things or would only place an order quarterly.  So, I got into the habit of stockpiling office supplies for me and my faculty.  It's time to break that habit.

And the books, oh the books.  When I've consolidated bookcases in the past, I've brought books to the office.  I have grad school books and all of my collections of poetry.  I have a shelf of textbooks.  Time to sort--but not until I have a sense of the office space where we're headed.  I won't mourn the loss of office supplies or personnel files of people I never supervised, but I would mourn many of the books.

The talk of shredding has put me in mind of a poem that I wrote the first time I had a filing cabinet to reclaim by shredding documents.  And yes, I'm hoping readers will get the allusion to Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing."

Here's the first version, which appeared in my chapbook of the same name:

I Stand Here Shredding Documents

I stand here shredding documents.
I think of my mother and her basket
of ironing, the baskets of clothes,
both clean and dirty, the constants
of laundry and housekeeping.

I yearned for a different set of baskets,
an inbox and an outbox,
clothes that need professional attention
from dry cleaners and a house
so uninhabited
that it didn't get dirty.

Now I have become my father,
a woman of file cabinets
and endless meetings of infinite boredom.
I stand at the shredder,
my daily friend, and think of work
that is never finished. 

And later, I turned that version into a villanelle:


I stand here shredding this document.
I know what my father would say.
You do what you must to pay the rent.

I watched my mother, worn from housework, tired and spent.
I promised myself a different future in a distant day.
I stand here shredding this document.

I watched my father, waiting until after work to vent.
His anger at his bosses left him splayed.
You do what you must to pay the rent.

 I thought I’d have a creative life, work in print,
or at least an agenda where I’d have my say.
Instead, I stand here shredding this document.

My mother’s housework never done, her discontent.
My father’s late promotions, always underpaid.
You do what you must to pay the rent.

My parents’ lives stunted, their spirits bent.
I thought I could avoid their fate.
But I stand here shredding this document.
You do what you must to pay the rent.


Maureen said...

We're celebrating the 2nd Annual Poetry At Work Day. I'm going to share your two poems on Twitter and FaceBook.

Kristin said...

Wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing my poems.

Inab said...

Are these based on your real life parents?

Kristin said...

They are not based on my real parents at all--the mom is based on what I remember from the Tillie Olson story, very angry at all the housework. The dad I envision as someone who got a desk job as a promotion from the factory floor, but found it just as full of repetetive work. My real mom and dad never struck me as this angry and misused by work--luckily for us all!