Look at my desk

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by Dave Garretson

Those itty bitty little scraps of paper

Do you accumulate little scraps of paper? I’ve got dozens of them everywhere. They’re taking over my pockets, my car, my desk, the little basket on my bedroom dresser, the other little basket in the kitchen. What are they? Here’s a good one: “Lunch 1:00.” No name, no date, no location. So, did I show up? Did they? Maybe it belongs with this one: “August 12, 10:30,” and with this other one that has a phone number but no name. Who do you suppose that is? Should I call and find out?

Look at my desk. Dozens and dozens of little scraps & business cards in a big messy pile. They’re business leads, waiting around for the big day when I either make the sale or throw them away. Shouldn’t I keep track of these in my computer? Believe me, I’ve invested money, and time, and a lot of effort, to find a better way to organize these things. But the paper menace just hangs on, and it won’t let go.

Another pile on my desk is related to travel. Plane and hotel reservations, and driving directions to my customers’ futon stores. Another messy pile of paper scraps and slips that don’t have a handy home in the computer.

You didn’t think I showed up by magic, did you?

Speaking of magic..... Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention! This particular scrap of paper in my left hand appears to be quite ordinary. It is, however, the prop for my world-renowned Mind Reading Trick. Take a peek if you would: “1 2 3 4. “ I show the paper quickly, and ask my subject to mentally select one of the numbers. I close my eyes (imagine a lot of drama) and tell them that I’m getting something. Yes, I can visualize the number three. (Here’s the trick: I don’t know why, but most people pick three. Try it, you’ll be a genius. Like me!)

My least favorite scraps of paper are the receipts. Grrrr.... The easy ones get filed or thrown away immediately. It’s the problem receipts that hang around for weeks, and they rarely do me any good.

Problem receipts? Here’s one. I don’t know what place it’s from or what I bought with it, but it’s for enough money that I know it’s important. I can’t bring myself to throw it away. I’ll need it, and when I do, I’ll be glad I saved it. If only I could remember what it was for! You know how this turns out. It all comes together in one big whoosh. The very instant that I need this receipt, the big light bulb comes on. That’s what that mystery receipt was for! I was so clever to save it, because now I need it! Then, of course, I’ll never see it again. As soon as I know what it is and realize that I need it, it will disappear, forever....

Sometimes I save a receipt as a souvenir of something I enjoyed.

For instance, the Dingman’s Choice & Delaware Bridge Company receipt. I got that last year and it’s still sitting around. Dingman’s Ferry is a small town in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. If you’re going across the river to New Jersey, use the toll bridge. A very nice gray-haired lady in a flowered apron took my money and gave me this receipt. The Dingman’s Ferry toll bridge is actually a family business. Have you ever seen a family-owned toll bridge? I got a smile out of it, so I saved the receipt. I also took their brochure and learned about the pioneering Dingman family. After years of ferrying horses and wagons across the Delaware, they decided that a toll bridge would make a better business. That was in the nineteenth century. The bridge has been replaced a few times, and another family owns the bridge now, but it’s still going strong.

Does a dollar bill count as a scrap of paper? I noticed that somebody had written a message around the border of one side, going around like a picture frame: “St Lazarus Anyone who finds this bill will be blessed with lots of money if they will do this on ten more bills.” I found it interesting, so I saved it. Months later, when I came across another inscribed dollar, nearly identical, I kept that one too.

Now, if you take all the piles and mountains of scraps and slip and sticky notes I’ve already mentioned, they add up to about half of the paper cluttering my life. The other half are photographs. I keep accumulating more and more of them. People I like, products I sell, and who knows what else. Albums? Forget about it. Throw them out? Not likely. Go digital? Please don’t start with me.

Obviously, there is only one practical solution. Won’t you let me send you some photographs? Let me know. I’m sure you enjoy whatever I send you. Maybe I’ll even throw in a mystery receipt or two. After all, if I send it to you, I have a better chance of knowing where it is.


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