Monday, October 13, 2014

Essay a Day #10: Getting This Off My Desk

I love my desk.

My job has been a little frustrating today--nothing special or earth-shattering, I'm not playing "Take This Job and Shove It" or anything--just the little hiccups that make you consider something stronger than coffee at 10:45 in the morning. An "I Love My Job" post right now might be fitting, but I've done that before, and the elements are fairly static.

So instead, let's talk about my desk.

Let's talk about my awesome to-do list, which lives on the desk itself. Taken and tweaked from some ages-past Pinterest idea, I think, the outer eighteen inches of my desk is covered in clear contact paper where I can draw out a to-do list in wet-erase marker, each item with an eager empty box. I love it--it is not only organization but a splash of rebellion, grafitti-ing this office property with hard multi-colored ink. Boxes are checked (or items scribbled out, if more therapeutic means of checking-off are necessary), details circled or annotated, and when the list gets too long (and walking to the kitchen for a wet paper towel is too taxing), the boxes and words just wrap along the bottom and sides. In a word, it's beautiful.

Let's talk about my Legos*. That's right. Legos. All over my desk. I bought them for booth planning--which has actually been quite helpful. I have wads of bricks for shelving, and different wads for furniture, still different wads (these in bright, nearly-brand-perfect green) for signage. My handy wet-erase markers delineate where our booth and its neighbors lie. (My mom bought me a few Lego people--a crazy cat lady, a roller-skated drive-in waitress--for Christmas, but they have still not made the work trip. Sorry, Mom.) Remaindered Legos make up my receptacle for pens and scissors, and even a glance over it makes me an ounce happier--like the castles my brother once built for me, it is absurdly technicolor, similar to nothing in the real world, but it is uniquely Lego and seamlessly impregnable. Those Sharpies are going nowhere.

Let's talk about my organized chaos--or, rather, chaotic organization. I know where every scrap of everything is, but occasionally I am hit afresh by how ridiculous it looks. Like this morning, upon hearing a visiting author come into our office space: I swivel to do a fifteen-second cleanup, tucking this morning's yogurt spoon behind the laptop, recapturing the three escaped pens and securing them back in the Lego fortress. But in so doing, I see this space through someone else's eyes, and should probably be appalled: What's with the barely-balanced stack of cardboard boxes in the corner? Did a breeze blow through, that each pile of papers is fanned out irregularly? Have I heard of folder organizers, whereby you don't have to leave manilas scattered like leaves? Wouldn't a small list work better than those six Post-Its? I hear several teachers' voices in cacophony, explaining how I won't be able to do this sort of thing in a real job.

But it's functional to me, this supposed disorganization, this messy list, these chromatic bricks. When everything else might be going crazy, I know that to spin to ten o'clock is my AMLE folder, while nine-thirty will secure NCTE. I know that the lined yellow Post-It is ridiculous passwords that change too frequently, while the small neon green is a flag for the NCTE book order. This is my home turf, and while anyone else would be terrified of the piles, I am happily at home in them.

And let's not even get into the artifacts of inside jokes, either with others or just with me: the Spy Gnome and BEWARE FEMALE SPIES magnet, the Get Fuzzy cartoon, the card that reminds me to be the Velvet Hammer when necessary, the references to JetBlue and Powell's Books and that great brunch place in Milwaukee. The super hero cape stapled to my chair. The caution sign at the top of my monitor--a formal, typed "Stop. Think."--and the hand-written Post-It below the monitor reading, "DAMN, I'm good." The jester-outfitted llama photo reminding me that you never know what day at the office might be your last. The photo of Benedict Cumberbatch, so upset that he forgot my birthday.

I'm on the road a good deal for my job, and this is what I return to. From fancy hotels and suave restaurants, I come back to what might be a gray-beige chunk of earth peppered with papers. But when I come back to my desk, I come home. I feel the flutter of my cape as I turn to two-fifteen to consult the to-do list. The glimpse of the top of the monitor suggests that I reread that too-sassy sentence, maybe delete it. (And the Post-It below says, really, it never needed to be said.)

* Yes, beloved Lego Corporation, I know they are Lego bricks. I know "Lego" shall ever and always be adjectival. But while my vocabulary has advanced in many ways since age five, this is one of those words I cling to like a threadbare safety blanket. You can pry the term "Legos" from my cold, dead vernacular fingers. 

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