Monday, August 5, 2013

If You Leave Anything on that Counter, I Will Cut You (or Allen's Binders, Part 2)

(Allen's Binders, Part 1)

I ended up really liking Allen. He had worked in this particular government office the better part of his adult life and seemed to live to cause management grief. I eventually decided we were kindred spirits, we just chose completely different (and often opposing) issues to overreact to.

Allen came by to get something off of the printer and saw that the binders were gone. I was prepared for him to flip out. I had my explanation ready. We needed the space for work, and no one was using, or likely to ever use, the binders. I watched him look at the empty space where the binders once were. He nodded several times to himself and finally said, “Got rid of the binders, huh?” “Yep,” I responded, bracing myself.

“Ok,” he said, nodding some more. And then he left. I didn’t move for a minute, waiting for the floor to open up and unleash the mighty binder-avenger, but he did not appear. I went about my business.

A few days later, a smiling Allen showed up again at the printer. He asked about the newly-vacated counter space next to the printer. What was it for? I was confused by the question. I like space. Clutter makes me physically and psychologically very uncomfortable, even a little panicky sometimes.

Then Allen confused me some more by floating the following idea: What if we used the newly cleared area as a kind of “cast-off” space. You know, for stuff you don’t want anymore but think someone else might want. Everyone in the office could just bring in their old stuff and leave it on the counter. Then other people could come by and take stuff if they wanted it.

He seemed really delighted with this idea. It was damn-near my definition of hell. I’d just got rid of a bunch of old crap no one wanted, and he wanted to create a whole new pile of crap no one wanted. And let’s not even acknowledge that this was in fact an office where people sometimes worked and clear counters might be conducive to this albeit-rare occurrence.

I blinked several times and finally said, “Why do we need a cast-off area?”

Allen stepped back and raised his hands in a kind of “I give up” gesture and said, “We don’t,” and walked away. I didn’t hear any more about it.