Yesterday at work, I ran into a doctor (who, for the record, is probably my age) in our comms room, who was scratching his head, trying to figure out how to use a binding machine.
A Binding Machine.
He asked me if I knew how to bind a book, and I said yes, because I’m an English major, and part of my degree includes expertise in archaic office procedurals. I can also change the ribbon/correcting ribbion/fluid of a typewriter, use a laminator, work an adding machine, and export mailing labels from Excel to Word. Want me to organise your Rolodex? I’ll get it done in less than 2 mins. I’m a master of Shit That Is No Longer Important.
Every binding machine is different, and the fancy ones nowadays are button operated. But once you’ve worked out one, you can handle all of them. But ours is a special kind of old, like purchased when the Institute was originated in the 70’s. There’s one giant crank handle that controls both the hole punches and opening the binding comb, and you have to adjust the space between the margin of the paper and the hole punches by using a dial. So you have to punch and open the comb by holding the crank handle at varying angles. I’m no doctor, but I ran a couple test drives with a single piece of paper and ended up binding the book excellently within a couple minutes.
So, I felt pretty smug. I thought, I’m pretty happy that I grew up with book binding, projectors, film strips, VHS and chalk boards in the classroom. I’m glad I had a typewriter before I had a computer. I’m glad I had to look up books in the library using the card catalog, and that at some point I did a book report using microfiche as my primary source material. I remember when Oregon Trail was not only a thing, it was THE Thing.
I thought, I’m glad I grew up when I did, between generations, right as technology was growing up. I like that I can step back from smart devices and apps and multiline phones and computers and do some simple shit — like book binding — that saves someone heaps of stress. I thought, hey, there’s a place for everyone to be great in this world. One person can achieve greatness by contributing significant data on sleep apnea to world class research and the other person can… make sure their papers are grouped and organised in a plastic comb so it doesn’t fall out. My Doctorate in Shit That Is No Longer Important helps me achieving greatness.
I am achieving greatness.
And then I thought, “the world needs ditch diggers, too.”
A temporary moment of triumph, followed by swift deflation.
And then I thought, “eh, fuck it. My work day ends at quitting time. And I don’t have work email on my phone. And I’m more than ok with that.”
So if you need me, I’ll be taking down the minutes of a meeting in short hand.