Top X Lists / 4 April 1997
Top X Snapple Flavors
Top X Worst Movie Theater Franchise Promotional Trailers
Top X Slogans That Lost Out to “The Softer Side of Sears”
Top X Things to Sniff
Top X Office Supplies
My father was so moved to distraction by this list that he had to write a little essay of his own in response to it. Here’s the abridged version:
“Your new catagory on The Top X Office Supplies exposes a woeful lack of experience in this most pivotal of areas for all devoted office workers. Even sadder, is your obvious inability, or is it stubborn refusal, to look beyond the superficial aspects of some of the items on your list while ignoring some of the true stars (“the most valuable players”) of the office supply world.
First, my son, please do not be taken in by the allure, admittedly strong, I know, of the black, fine point pen. This is not to say that it does not have its value and, when adroitly used, an integral place in your arsenal. But to put it at the top of your list reflects, I’m afraid, your limited time on the playing field. I know that now those black, crisp, neat lines look like all you’ll ever need or want. You’ll find later that there are other choices with equally seductive traits. For example, the wide point in either black or blue can instill a feeling of power that can be addictive. The blue, fine point, on the other hand, allows you to express your softer, feminine side much more eloquently. [Josh’s Note: In retrospect, I do regret not choosing the big fat Magnum markers which I enjoy sniffing in the mail room]
Now, staple removers are another matter completely. They are truly specialized and pure devices. The downside is you can’t fiddle with them for more than 45 seconds without stabbing yourself in the finger.
You cannot assume that copy machines count as “office supply.” That’s a disservice to one of the true heroes in the history of office. Until the recent explosion of LANs, they were the strong heart that pumped the info through the communication arteries of every office. If not for copiers, how would the latest off-color, sexist, racist, and obnoxious jokes have gotten around? If not for copiers, how would the office football pools have survived? If not for copiers, how could we take pictures of our own butts to put on someone’s desk? I think I’ve made my point.
Glue sticks? What the hell are glue sticks?
To be honest, thumbtacks never were much of a factor in any of my office homes. I don’t remember any bulletin boards and, of course, penetrating the paint on your office wall was a crime punishable by forfeiture of coffee cup storage privileges. We were instead issued flat wall magnets of various sizes ranging from large to extra huge to affix items to our metal desks. It was really nice having a 4X6 inch magnet holding up that little picture of one of your precious children. Of course, it took a pair of scissors and a letter opener to pry the magnet off.
Large manila envelopes are, as you say, quite useful, but only if there is no company return address preprinted on it. [Josh’s Note: This is very true, but there is a stash of plain manila envelopes that I have repeatedly plundered.]
The real problem with your list, however, is not what is there but what has been omitted. The most venerable of all office supply items has for decades been the beloved paper clip. As opposed to the staple remover, the paper clip’s popularity is not that it does one job well but rather its limitless versatility. In fact, it does a substandard job at the function for which it was created: holding papers together. The only time a paper clip works is if the papers are sitting quietly on your desk and then you don’t need a clip. Once you start moving them around, one or more sheets will inevitably fall out. More insidious is the tendency for the clip to attach itself to the top page of the underlying document so that it becomes the last page of the document in your hand. [Josh’s Note: This is an excellent point.] Among the more common uses for the ubiquitous paper clip are: toothpick, chainlink, eyeglass repair, lock pick, cleaning the holes in ones telephone instrument, replacement for cuff button, wall hanger, shoestring, etc., etc. I admit it doesn’t have the glitter of some of the other items, but if there is to be a Top X List, the paper clip should be on it.