The dull roar of the shredder was my companion today. The previous occupant of my desk was apparently something of an old school bureaucrat; bound and determined to maintain hard copies of just about everything – emails, briefing slides, memos, checklists, and all manner of ephemera that go along with spending your life in service to Uncle’s great green machine. The reason I know this is that since I moved in a full file drawer and approximately twenty three-ring binders have been keeping me company here at my desk.
For the last six months I’ve been bound and determined that I wasn’t going to fall into the trap of picking up that mess just because I happen to be here now and he happens to be long gone. That makes about as much sense as going to the dog park and picking up after someone else’s dog. Sure, you can do it, but why would you?
Today, I hit the point of exhaustion – or maybe the point of exasperation – with needing to shuffle around that long forgotten paperwork to get to things I actually need for myself. I attacked the monument to bureaucracy with gusto and was soon rewarded with easily 2000 pages of documentation whose ultimate fate was shredding and ignoble recycling into consumer paper products. Call me crazy but chance of my being called on to produce a 5 year old email addressed to someone else about a project that has been closed out for 4 years seems to be slight at best. It’s almost as if we’d have all been better off if no one had hit “print” in the first place.
And that brings me to my point – I hate paper documents. I avoid them at all costs. When they show up uninvited at my home the first thing that happens is they get transformed into a beautiful PDF, get a searchable name, and then go into the archive for use in the future if it turns out that they’re ever really needed at all. As often as not, that’s the last time human eyes will ever look upon those particular electrons. It’s an approach that’s served me well at home for almost a decade now – virtually making the one lone file cabinet I own obsolete. Now if I could just convince the office that fully digitized documents are better for everyone…
I’m not holding my breath on having any ability to urge the behemoth to step into the twilight of the 20th century so the shredder’s dull roar will likely be my near-constant companion for the next two decades.