Reprinted from May 1999
If there is ever going to be an Armageddon around here it is going to be fought over little things. Well, they might seem like little things to others, but to me they are important.
RB had a hard fast rule: Never touch anything on my bench and never put anything on my bench. Borrowing a screwdriver to tighten up an optical screw was grounds for dismissal. Borrowing and failing to return it to the proper place was grounds for execution. Needless to say, those who worked here gave RB a wide berth.
RB demanded respect. I, on the other hand, do not demand respect. Everyone who has ever worked for me seemed to dump everything on my desk or the bench I use to strings beads on. It is exasperating. No matter how hard I try, I cannot clear my work areas off. Things proliferate as if breeding.
To give you some idea about the papers on my desk, I was digging through a pile of old stuff which had been assigned to the pile to look through one day (and not to destroy) and I found a birth certificate of my son who was born in 1951. I think his school had requested it for something.
In this same pile, I found an offer for gold items at $40 an ounce. Too bad I didn’t take advantage of that. Further down in the pile, I found a few bills from the utility companies. I probably paid the next month saying I hadn’t gotten the bill. There was a newspaper photo of some woman. I had to think and think, and finally I recalled RB had told me he was engaged to her once. I took another look and pitched it out. Further down was a notice that the IRS filings were due March 15. I don’t know how old that was… should have noted.
Around my desk, in prime space, are four coffee mugs given to me by well-meaning friends who were sure I didn’t have a coffee mug and, therefore would appreciate them. I found 100 12-cent stamps and some coupons giving me half off cereal if it was purchased before 1982. There were dozens of phone numbers; the most quaint and interesting were papers with “John” and phone number, “Pete” and phone number, “Mary” and phone number. There was nothing to suggest the purpose of keeping the phone numbers.
There were also guarantees. I recall when RB bought a watch-cleaning machine. I think it was an L&R and it washed back and forth and you manually rotated the movement in a basket around from wash rinse, rinse, and dry. The manual was on my desk.
There were old crystal books too. From somewhere in the late ‘40s and ‘50s which showed BB crystals and how to measure and order them. You should have seen the prices then!
I was embarrassed to find a couple of graduation announcements; RB’s nephew’s high school and college graduation announcements. Since he went on to become a doctor, I guess they decided they’d drawn blanks so far, so they didn’t send an announcement when he graduated medical school. I supposed RB had depended on me to send a gift. I felt bad for about 30 seconds and realized they had never sent our kids a gift either.
There were a lot of clippings. RB would clip something out of the newspaper and then present it to me, and I was supposed to read it. His idea of what was important to read and what was interesting to me were very different. There are articles on 4×4 trucks, binoculars, guns, cameras, and health subjects, enough to over flow a large trash basket.
He had long since caught me, though. First he’d present the reading assignment then he’d ask me questions about what I’d learned. Sometimes I lucked out and he’d forget he gave them to me and they were buried under the rest of the stuff on my desk.
I have gotten in a strong defense mode. When someone comes to the office, paper in hand, now I say, hissing slightly “What is that?” If it is something that is going to sit there into the millennium I just tell them, “Don’t ever think about putting that on my desk.”
They are all scared now and approach ground zero with great caution, explaining why that particular thing has to be left on the desk for my approval.
What is it Ann Landers always says, “No one can take advantage of you without your permission.” I like that. RB had this thought down many years ago. At the bottom of the pile was a note from RB, “Don’t forget to order flowers for mom’s birthday.” I wonder if that’s why she stopped asking us over for dinner and skipped my birthday!