Temporary Insanity #2: Getting Organized
As you sit at the abandoned desk of a complete stranger, you move from being annoyed with the unfamiliar to becoming obsessed with pure chaos. You experience a deep-seated and overwhelming urge to reorganize. Stacking is an easily accomplished task and one that can be done while you answer the phone and struggle to remember who you're working for and where you are. Although forgetting who you are is a definite occupational hazard, it is not something that actually matters. You begin slowly, perhaps unconsciously, by restacking the rectangular objects -- notebooks, message pads, staple boxes, pen boxes, envelopes, miscellaneous labels, computer and company policy manuals, and the ever-present sticky-memo-pads. All things flat and rectangular are grouped together in one drawer and aligned with a precise, if uncaring, angularity. This stacking is similar in nature to the universal human pastime of stacking pocket change into small, conical pyramids according to the size but not the value of the coins. Stacking according to actual utilitarian nature is virtually meaningless. The only variation encountered between stacking coins and stacking office supplies occurs when a truly plentiful array of stick-pad colors is available. In this case, the stacking is always done in accordance with the laws of diffracted light as exhibited by a rainbow. After completing the various stacking tasks you are free to rearrange the office hardware. While moving the phone and computer system around the desk is not the same as organizing in any formal sense, it gives you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the peripherals at your disposal. Many happy hours can be spent faxing your friends or exploring a local BBS with your employers none the wiser. Should anyone question your desire to move the computer, you simply tell them that you are concerned with potential VDT damage. Because of every employer's wish to avoid a possible lawsuit, you find that they usually leave you alone. Next, you determine the outside boundaries of your domain. You go through the inevitable assortment of unlabeled keys and try to discover which drawers and file cabinets they unlock. This task usually takes three to four hours and provides you with a reason to scope around the entire office floor. You discover the supply room at some point during this task -- a good end in and of itself. After you have located and explored all drawers at your disposal, you begin to impose order within these new territories. Simply re-alphabetizing is not enough. You do a ground-up renovation and regroup things according to company, project and year. You go through all the files, writing down the pre-existing categories. Starting from the existing categories you define new and improved categories, creating larger, unifying groups as well as smaller, more precise subdivisions. You create computerized label templates. Creating, or even using, a computer generated label template impresses your coworkers, demonstrates your command of technology, and saves you the untold hassle of actually walking to the office's single, archaic typewriter. There are obvious and not so obvious advantages to this approach to filing. One of the most obvious is that you are always able to produce a particular document on request. While filing is tedious, it is infinitely more tedious to work within the parameters of the pre-existing "system." The existing state of things is always chaos. You never create an illogical system, and you always create a written guide to your system. Failure to fulfill either of these criteria is contrary to the sublime and unspoken ethic implicit in ordering. The not-so-obvious results of reorganizing the hard-copy files is that everyone trusts your talents as you begin to reorganize the computer files. People tend to be nervous when you play with the computer mostly because they themselves have little knowledge as to what lurks within the machine. However, once you have spent valuable time organizing the objective hard-copy filing system, people will think you a rare, earnest, and ultimately trustworthy worker. Once others trust your organizational savvy they will ignore your exploration of the ethereal computer world which is the single most important component within your temporary world. While reorganizing computer files has some of the same obvious effects as reorganizing the hard-copy files, the not-so-obvious benefit of reorganizing the computer files lies in the discovery of hidden applications and programs. While the icons associated with the prepackaged computers games that are bundled with Windows are usually removed, invariably the games themselves still exist. Organizing the computer files allows you to locate these games, and helps you determine where in the system to hide your own personal games. You always bring your own disk(s) of games to a long-term job. The secret is knowing where to hide the games in the system, how to play them silently, and whether or not hitting Escape will simply hide the screen or also stop the game's progress. Some early games of Tetris continue to run in the background, which completely ruins your high-score average.While there are many beneficial and positive results of organizing the world in which you temp, you must never lose sight of the golden rule of the organizational process. Organization is first and foremost and must always remain a completely emotionless act. You do not organize things because the things want to be organized. You do not arrange things because you want them to be arranged. You do not organize because order matters. Organization is not pleasurable, it simply occurs. Organized things are not a joy, organized things merely display an order. Emotionless action and emotionless reaction is the solitary buffer between your sanity and your soul. If you forget this principle you begin to revel in the act and the outcome of the organizational process. You have organized the computer, the files, the keys, the labels, the Rolodex, the papers, the pens, the tablets and the miscellaneous. You have created order from chaos. A place has been defined and set aside for every thing, and every thing is in its place. You have sorted the unsortable. You have distinguished the indistinguishable. You have named the unnamed and labeled the anonymous. You have created place and space and placed all things. As you glorify your actions and marvel in the clean perfection of order, you experience a desire to continue ordering. You no longer act to act, you act to order; you act because you want to order. You feel imperfection lurking amidst your perfect creation. The large paper clips with the micro grooves in their wires are mingling amongst the large paper clips without the micro grooves. There are two keys WITHOUT names - keys to unimaginable, unknowable files. There is one, single, solitary, unique interoffice envelope from the London office which is NOT STANDARD. Its excessive length and sinuous narrowness, its grotesque foreignness mar the perfect coherency of your envelope stack. The disorder is unsettling. The uniqueness is evil. Places must be found so these things can be placed. Their imperfection must not exist within your order. You hide the unique offenders in the dark recesses of the farthest, bottom-most, unused file drawer. You close the drawer, shut out the knowledge of this imperfection, return to your ordered desk and bask in ignorant contentedness amongst Perfect Order. You smile as you survey all that you have wrought. Order has flown forth from you and perfection is your creation. The perfection mirrors your very being. Your eyes caress the smooth, blank desktop with perfectly aligned objects. The labels scream out names that you alone have bestowed. You know every Thing and every Place and every Function. You sit in the center of absolute knowledge, absolute certainty and absolute control. Absolute power is yours. You have sorted and filed and classified. You have named the unnamed and have given meaning to all things. You can destroy all of this and bring back the abysmal chaos whence your order emerged. Your eyes glide over to the computer terminal. You despise the random pattern of stars and have done away with the frivolity of screen savers. The screen of your computer terminal is clear and black. As you gaze into the face of dark perfection, an image begins to emerge. Slowly, the clear, infinite depth of the blackness begins to crystallize, revealing a seeming symmetry of ovals and curves. You blink at the apparition in the screen. You detect motion in the image. You blink again. The image becomes more clear -- two arches, two ovals, a triangle, an outline. You focus more intently on the image. Your eye for perfection notes that the right arch is not quite the same as the left arch. There is minor variation in the curve. Your desire to root out the unique spurs you on. You look closer. The right oval is different from the left oval! It seems to be a slightly squashed version of the left oval. Or is the right oval a more obtuse version of the left? The imperfect symmetry staring in your face is a blight on the once perfect screen. Wishing to block out this imperfection, you blink again. The image blinks back. You cannot escape the vulgar asymmetry of this image. You cannot escape its imperfection. The unsightly sin against perfection is in your face! You want it to go away. It does not BELONG. It must be eradicated, wiped out, obliterated, hidden. You refuse to acknowledge its existence. As you realign the desk calendar and the phone your desire to order is once more fulfilled, your power validated, and you shut out the haunting image of imperfection.