Friday, July 10, 2009

Have you seen your stapler?

I inherited a few items from my Uncle Charlie. His 1930's vintage bedroom furniture (bought when it was new), some binoculars, many photographs, and a stapler. There's probably more than that, along with a large sheaf of memories, but right now, I'm only thinking about the stapler.

I know it sounds odd that the stapler is the thing I treasure most of all. It's a Swingline, probably from the late 1960's or early 1970's, procured when he was working in the mailroom/supply area of a company who shares the name with a seafaring adventurer from novels about the Napoleaonic wars. It hung around the house for ages before my parents told me I could keep it, I don't remember if it was before my uncle died or after.

I don't know what attracted me to it. It might have been the color (all other staplers I'd seen were black), the weight and heft of it (I might be able to use it as a weapon), or even the satisfyingly loud click it would make when I'd press down on the handle to staple something. It might have even been, back in my days as a fledgeling zinester, a brand name I'd internalized as being optimal in stapling. There were battles on the old yahoo zinesters list about what staplers were best; ask any zinester past or present about office supplies and be prepared to get comfortable - it won't be a short conversation. I learned more about office supplies and copy machines from talking to other zinesters than I ever did working in an office, but that's a topic unto itself.

I used that stapler to bind together pages for countless school reports. It even came with me to college, the first witness to any A's or B's I got. If I got homesick, I could look down at my uncle's name taped to the handle and feel a little closer to home. That stapler is probably why I insisted on a heavy, solid Swingline at work when the one I'd been given previously broke (no surprise there - staplers shouldn't be plastic). I always find them to be the best thing to hold pieces of paper together. Paper clips are a good temporary solution, but they tend to snag either on each other or pieces of paper that don't belong. Binder clips are find for things that are too big for a stapler, but for anything a stapler can hold together, I find them excessive. I still enjoy picking up the heavy stapler, pushing down on it to bind the pages, and hearing the click. My inner six-year-old beams with pride that I can now use one hand, instead of having to push down with all my might with both hands.

I know most people don't care about staplers as much as I do. Still, I'm always mystified when I get a pile of collated, but unstapled sheets of paper. Why collate, but not staple? Why just leave it all in one pile, without distinction? Seems like a waste to me. As much of a waste as writing several paragraphs about a stapler, I guess.