Monday, December 29, 2008

Uhm, this is awkward…

…but, I can’t really concentrate. What was that you said you wanted to suggest at the next faculty meeting? Something about undergraduate recruitment? Huh? I can’t concentrate in here, can we talk in my office, because, how do I put this politely? Your office, well, it’s a tad on the disorderly side. Hhhmm. You are laughing, I don’t think you understand. I’ll be blunt, your office is a fucking disaster. Did you hear that? I know you can only see the very top of my head peaking out at you over these stacks, of what I will very generously refer to only as “stuff”, but I tried to direct my voice up and over the obstacles. There are well established degrees of office messiness, from a little messy to really messy (Mr. Clean 2006:21). But this? This goes far beyond really messy into a frightening realm of messiness. It is the kind of messy that causes me to question your sanity (and the structural stability of these stacks). I really don’t know what to make of it. I mean, please explain the following: a). How did this happen? b). What constitutes all of these piles? c). Have your workspaces always looked like this? d). You don’t find this a tad bit, well, uncomfortable?

To begin, let’s explore how this happened. I’ll have to make a few assumptions, primarily that anything that enters your office never leaves (which I should point out, gives me concern for my safety). Why would that be the case though? You do realize that every night our trash and recyclables get taken away simply by placing them in clearly marked bins? A fabulous service really. It means that all of those campus fliers in our mailboxes, meeting notes, lunch detritus, and that manuscript you printed out but then realized you forgot to put page numbers on, can ALL be whisked away every single night. I must also assume that the invisible force-field that prevents all materials from leaving your office is self installed. My office is very similar to yours and I did not have a force-field option when I moved in. Therefore I must make the associated assumption that you want this stuff and are actively preventing its escape (yikes, I’m still here after all). Perplexing.

I already mentioned a few materials contributing to this mess, but there are clearly more. I spy a few packages, articles, exams, journals, unopened mail, books, and what appear to be term papers. No doubt there is more, but that appears to be the majority of stuff. By grading and returning assignments to students you can get rid of a lot of detritus. Voila, and it’s off your desk! (I mean, you can provide quality feedback to students in a timely fashion). Aren’t you curious about the content of those packages? Are they pre- or post- Unibomber? Again, I have safety concerns, I need to stay focused. Oh yes, give the assignments and exams back to your students, throw the mail away, put the books on the shelves, put the articles in the filing cabinet, put the journals on the shelf too (note: those numbers on their sides make them really easy to place in chronological order), and place a call to the FBI and have them send in a robot to retrieve those packages.

Your office must have looked this way for some time. Based on few quick calculations, admittedly these are rough, I would guess that your office reached the frightening stage of messy approximately 4.2 years ago. If you could dig out a calculator, I am sure there is one (possibly many) in here somewhere, I could more accurately identify the moment you crossed the sanity barrier. Considering the sheer bulk of materials (taking into account the average rates of mail, reading material, and class stuff accrual), its average volume, and the size of your office, about 4 years seems accurate. Mind you, prior to that time your office was solidly in the really messy stage. Or, is that assuming too much? Maybe this is some steady state, an equilibrium reached between your sanity and all this stuff that occurred even longer ago? That would imply that you did not install a force-field. Now I am really perplexed.

As for the discomfort all of this is causing (not felt by you, but experienced by everyone else that enters your office), I would really rather talk in my office. Can we do that? Will the now, admittedly questionable, force-field allow me to exit? How long have I been here? Is there food in here? Beverages? Can you hear me?


  1. This raises the possibility of an interesting experiment to answer the question, "What is the largest possible stack of papers that can maintain structural integrity without collapse?"

    Obviously, with a really large stack, neatly stacked, one would have to consider staple and paper clip placement among other intangibles, like toner distribution.

  2. I have a colleague who, bless her heart, has students who will not meet with her inside of her office because they fear death by a falling stack of detritus. Fortunately for them, all available surfaces, including those for seating, are covered and they must meet in another room.

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