On my first day of working for government, I was led to a corner office on the second floor of the Natural History Museum on Summer Street. The office had been completely cleaned out by its former occupant. Or, perhaps, the admin staff had cleaned out the space after the former occupant vacated. More likely the latter, as it turns out.
This was a large office and it housed a mishmash of cast-off furniture one would expect: a desk, some guest chairs, several filing cabinets, maybe a small table in the corner. All gently used, as they say. Bonus: the office had a terrific view of the helicopter landing pad for the QEII hospital. Periodically, one would fly overhead and land right before my eyes. I would have to end whatever call I was on at the time due to the noise, and this would be followed by diesel fumes that the building’s intake would suck into my space after the flyover.
So, I settled into this space. The filing cabinet was empty. The table clean. Nothing in the desk drawers.
No, wait. What was tucked into the back of desk drawer number two? This lovely artifact: a stapler covered in the former occupant’s name with a sharpie pen. Repeatedly. On every surface.
I held the stapler in my hand for quite some time as my mind raced. What was the state of mind of a person compelled to write her name so boldly on an innocent stapler? Was theft rampant on the second floor? Were staplers in that much of a short supply? Why the rage?
Keep in mind that this was the only artifact left in the space that gave me any hint of someone who had spent her entire career with government. When she retired, she took everything, but not this stapler with her name all over it in indelible ink. I kept the stapler, but I never used it.
Upon my retirement, I bequeath this stapler to you, Allan. I admire your levelheaded approach, your determination, your steady-as-she goes attitude. You are unflappable, no matter how many helicopters are flying above you. Let this stapler serve as a reminder that it is pointless to write your name on things you can’t change, things you don’t own, things that don’t matter in the long run.
But, of course, you already know that.