My desk moved and all I got was two lousy boxes

July 12, 2000

My desk moved and all I got was two lousy boxes

Two boxes. Two small boxes.

That's the byproduct of a decade of heartbreaking toil and strain - coming in early every morning to be able to take a mid-morning break. Rushing back from the mid-morning break to get to the office in time for lunch. Having to cut lunch short to go home and take a nap. A lesser person might have cracked, but I have persevered.

And what to show for it? Two small boxes.

There's nothing quite so humbling as getting new office furniture. That happened this week when, in an effort to make The Herald-Mail look more like a mouse and cheese maze, some very nice men came to install new desks, cubicles, files and chairs. I mention they are very nice, because they are, and I'm sure it was not their intention to throw me into deep depression.


Because we were getting new desks, it became necessary to clean out the old ones. Assuredly, mine was crammed with stuff, stuff I assumed was crucial to the operations of a working journalist, as well as memorabilia, artifacts and tangible testimony to the years of toil.

But the deeper I got into the wreckage, the more it became apparent this was not the case. There were some "archeological finds," to be sure:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Menus from about 400 restaurants that had come and gone in downtown Hagerstown over the years. It made me pine for the Cafe Matisse, partly for the food and partly for the entertaining proprietor. I remember like it was yesterday the time a couple of ladies dared bring a kid into the restaurant and foolishly asked for a child seat.

He weathered that indignity, but barely, finally going to the back for a stack of phone books. A request for a kids' menu pushed him near the breaking point, veins standing out on his neck like dateless girls on prom night.

Then, when the drinks arrived, they made one final error; they asked if the boy could have a straw. "Absolutely not and here's why," he exploded in his thick British accent. "It's 'cause of people like you (accusing finger about an inch from the tot's nose) who like to suck up soda and blow it all over the walls."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Many photos of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, including one on a button with the inscription "Big Brother Is Watching." I couldn't help it. I loved the guy. He called the Eastern Shore an outhouse, wrote nasty letters to antagonists and pointed a gun at a reporter. What's not to like?

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> About 400 letters from people that I've saved and meant to answer when I had the energy and imagination to put time into a thoughtful response, not just a canned post card. Unfortunately, those two conditions occur in my life about as often as starfish meteorologists predict that it's going to be hot and dry.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> A flyswatter. I don't know where it came from and I don't know why I kept it. It's scientifically proven that flies need traces of oxygen to survive, and sensitive instruments have never detected any fresh air of any kind here in the newsroom, so it's sort of a waste. But for some reason, I just like being able to say that yes, I am a man who owns a flyswatter. Sort of a status thing, I guess.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> I kept my dictionary, because I need it to prop up my keyboard. And I kept my yellowing Rolodex, even the 17 cards in it representing people who I probably won't be calling anytime soon because they are, in a word, dead.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> I kept a photo of Bubba the cat and one of me and the lead female singer from the B-52's. I didn't keep 12 emery boards, three combs and eight rulers that say "Re-Elect County Commissioner Ron Bowers. A Man of Action," Sorry Ron, the new drawers just didn't have space.

So that's about it. Everything else, under close analysis, was pretty much expendable. So when the very nice men are done, they will be able to point with pride to the job they have done, and for years their work will be on display in The Herald-Mail newsroom.

Me? I'll still have nothing to point to but a photo of a stupid cat.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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