Monday, November 5, 2007


I have two staplers on my desk. One is sleek, black, compact. The other is nasty brown, wrapped in packing tape, and clunky.

I need both of them because I tent to fixate on anything that secures things to things. I have ample supplies of many tapes, several types of paper clips, a box of various sizes of clamps. And I need both staplers to stay in my sight because they are not just staplers to me.

They, to me, are signs of completion and order. I print a paper, I copy a reading, I stack some bills, basically anything that I can squash down into about a quarter inch, I put under these devices and slam my fist down. Suddenly, with a satisfying thunk and crunch, my life is in complete control for the half second as the sound of the mechanism reverberates against the walls of my desk. It's an almost permanent binding, but reversible if I so choose. In just as prominent a place I have a menacing staple remover-- almost as important to my sanity as the fantastic machines and my arsenal of staples. I can bind. I can loose. All is well.

Nothing. I mean nothing. Disturbs me more than when I can't staple something that seems to me to be eminently staple-able. I begin to perspire. I pace. I create a stack of the failed, traitorous staples at my right hand, just to the side of my mousepad. I stand and begin to pound on the staplers, alternating as my efforts further chew the front and back pages of the document, creating a pocketed battleground of half-hearted holes up and down the top left corner. Horizontal, vertical, diagonal both ways. It has to work somehow. I rip the tangled metal bits from the stack of white pulp. It doesn't even work if I flip it over, as if the loose pages wouldn't notice my flank of its iron resistance to my attempted penetration. I pound harder, I snap the pages straight. The even edges satisfy me, but I have to--I must--freeze them where they stand.

Eventually I punch through, my vision blurring and my palms sweating. It is finished.

Now all I have to do is read the article. Understand it. Talk intelligently about it. Or turn in the paper. Edit it. Review it. Read the comments and rewrite. Over and over. Or pay the bill. Again next month. And the month after.

I need a life sized stapler.