Today I placed an order with Staples for some supplies badly needed at the Center:
- ”Reinforcement, hole”
- “Pressboard Report Cover, side tab”
My reader may well wonder, “why badly needed?” No one died because pages fell out of a three-ring binder.
We forget at times how much the work of writing still depends on paper. As much as I’ve tried, mightily in fact, to be rid of paper in my office, I find that about once per year, I will need an ancient text I photocopied in grad school in the late 1980s, an article I saved and hole-punched from a moldy issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education in the mid 90s, or a news item printed from the New York Times‘ Web site in 2005.
These sorts of materials are not alien to my students, but I suspect that keeping and organizing them are as alien as, say, using a slide rule would be to their peers in the sciences. And yet a Writing Center could not exist without its crumbling archives of printed matter.
One day in the not-too-distant future, such paper-based storage supplies will be as hard to locate as typewriter ribbons (Google that, you young rascals! We can still order them!). When that dolorous day arrives, I’ll do one of two things.
Option One: horde the remaining stocks of Dymo labels from the 1970s, hole-punch machines, and White-Out for personal use.
Option Two: Open “The Old Man Store,” with lines of clothing (suspenders, by gum!) and food (Where in the Sam Hill can I get me any Ovaltine?).
For a long while, The Vermont Country Store served this purpose, even including jabs at “the young word-processing crowd” in their praise for a manual typewriter (no longer available, it seems).
As if my students get sweaty palms thinking about opening MS Word.
I just wonder if, in a few years, their younger siblings will be saying things like “OMG you still have an external computer!” as they chat on their brain-implants.
What that will mean for writing remains unseen, but I worry about the longevity of the technologies for paper storage. These everyday items have so long been a part of a writer’s fortifications against forgetfulness and stupidity.