Several people have written to say they like the new “Where Elders Blog” feature, but wouldn’t dare show their own because it’s so messy.
Well, my friends, let me tell you a story…
Many years ago, in the mid-1970s to be exact, I shared an office with another producer on a morning television talk show in New York City. When we returned to our office each day at 10AM, after the live program ended, the stack of new mail on our chairs (the mail guy always put it on our chairs) often reached two feet high: new books, magazines, newspapers, various products PR people wanted us to feature on the show, promotional tchotchkes, invitations, and dozens of press releases to wade through.
Most of mine went in the round file, but when a booking was made as a result of one of these mailings, I saved the press release in a neatly-labeled folder on my desk so that when the time came to write the segment, I would have the facts at my fingertips.
My officemate, Tom, on the other hand, never threw out anything. Months of detritus was thrown helter-skelter onto the bookshelves on his side of our office, in piles on the floor around his feet with more in a jumbled mountain of paper on his desk that only grew taller over time; it never got smaller.
There was so much stuff on Tom’s side of the room, so disordered and chaotic that to look at it messed with my mind. It was so hard to think I had Tom help me move my desk so that when I was at my typewriter (yes! a typewriter in those days) I wasn’t facing his massive clutter.
Inevitably - because everyone loses things at some time or another - the day arrived when I, on deadline, trying to write an introduction to a guest for the next day's show, couldn’t find the folder with my notes, the press release and other information. I tore my desk apart, searched through my files, shelves and drawers. No folder. No information anywhere. No way to write the intro.
As a last resort and not really imagining Tom could possibly help, I asked if he had the press release about – well, whatever it was.
Tom plowed through the tangle of paper on his desk and in under 15 seconds said, “Here it is,” as he handed it to me.
I was stunned. It couldn’t be anything but a fluke, right? So I tested him. Did he have a certain book? He pulled it out of the middle of stack next to him. What about that hockey puck some PR person sent to promote god knows what. “Sure, right here,” said Tom as he snagged it off a shelf.
His side of our office always looked like a hurricane had blown through, but Tom knew where every piece of paper was and could always retrieve whatever he needed when the time came.
Since then, I’ve known other people like Tom. However disorganized their space, they have a different kind of file system in their heads than I do and they know exactly where everything is.
Of course, there are plenty of others who are messy and can’t find anything. In the end, we each do these things differently and one way isn’t necessarily better or more efficient than another.
I am reminded of one of my favorite posts from Frank Paynter of listics which he wrote a couple of years ago when his blog was still called Sandhill Trek:
“It seems to me like the chaotic distribution of my footwear across the house when I return after a day's absence may have certain algorithmic properties that only an Australian Shepherd is capable of getting its teeth into…
“Oddly, I am sure the dog doesn't think the distribution of shoes is messy, but rather that it has order and beauty best appreciated by creatures closer to the floor than the housemonkeys that provide the food and water.”
So go ahead and send in that photo of your messy blogging place - think of it as a better filing system with an order and beauty all its own.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Pat Temiz tells of a month-long, annual ritual in Turkey that could give you a real headache in Ramazan Drummer.]