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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Monday, October 08, 2007

Tribute to office accessories

Who are the most loyal beings in any office? Of course the office accessories: the stationary articles, the furniture, the water dispensers, the coffee machine, the microwave. After all, in today’s world, it is not surprising to find most staplers outliving the stints of CEOs in any office. As for lower and middle management staff, the first box of stapler pins outlasts most of them. Yet while organizations spend hours and days figuring out how to hire and retain their employees, they rarely commemorate these silent soldiers. Come on, have you ever smiled at the office coffee machine and clapped to applaud its performance after a typically hard day when it had churned out over 100 cups without bitching about any of us? Or consider the poor office chair, forced to support our inglorious behinds for over 15 hours a day. Remember; whether you perform or not, it will never refuse to seat you unless your human boss drives you out. So when have you garlanded it and provided it with a plaque for completing five years of “dedicated” service? Sure, some of us stock up office accessories at our homes as memorabilia (most favored being notebooks and pens). But does that still provide the office accessories and furniture the dignity they deserve?

Now, Hindutva enthusiasts may argue that their annual worshipping of their god “Vishwakarma” institutionalizes celebration of work tools. But hang on, as is the nature of religion to promote the powerful while ignoring the underprivileged, “Vishwakarma” puja also merely commemorates the heavy machinery, ignoring staplers and pencils.

Office accessories and office furniture are most appreciated by new employees, those fresh out of college. Many of us may recall the day when we first went to work and found that there were pens, staplers, tapes and notepads waiting for us at our desk. It’s great to watch a new employee fresh out of college, walk up to the office coffee machine for the first time, a little shy, exploring the different options with avid interest, often talking to herself in a low voice, and eventually going for the kill: Another great Serengeti waterhole moment. Remember, these were the stuff that we used so extensively during our college years and for the first time in our lives, we wouldn’t have to pay for them any more. There’s a certain carnal pleasure in this, isn’t it? But as with all instances of happiness in our lives, the good feeling fades within a few minutes. And the rest of our working lives, most of us keep incessantly complaining about the poor quality of office stationary, office coffee, and office chair.

Office accessories have lost their days of glory when procurement managers would spend hours selecting the highest quality of stuff from pretty saleswomen. Nowadays, most offices buy their wares from such inglorious carton boxes such as Staples or OfficeDepot. Only if Pablo Neruda had been alive, he would have by now expanded his brilliant “Odes to common things” to include poems on staplers, paper punches and binder clips. But can a modern office chair, that often looks like a Voyager spacecraft, inspire any poetry?

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