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December 19, 2008

When I was your age, we had paper

Yesterday I left my keys in what was once the office where I worked as a receptionist. The company is relocating, and I will probably never again set foot in that building where I spent about an hour per day on average - and where I admit, many of my best blog posts were written.

Not only does the specific job I once had literally not exist anymore - there is no desk in the reception, no kitchen for making coffee, no fridge full of soda to organize. But for the past week, I have been doing another job for this company, and I don't think anyone will be doing that kind of job by the time I have children.*

I can just picture it:

When I was your age, people used to store information on paper. Today we know how dangerous fire is, not to mention the dangers of misplacing things without being able to search for them. But way back then, in the basement of the office builidng where I worked, years of paper documents accumulated. Many of them started as computer documents, but because of this belief in the power of paper, people printed everything they thought they might some day like to read. That's right, they didn't like to use the computer for reading either. So even unfinished drafts of documents that might some day be important, were printed, read and then filed just in case anyone ever wanted to read them again. Many of these documents were not important at all, but you never know what might be useful, someday.

Then one day the company I worked for moved to a different office, and they decided they did not want to move all that paper. Suddenly, they realized that the basement full of paper was in fact completely useless to them. But even if they didn't want it, they didn't want anyone else to have it either. There might be interesting information somewhere in that basement, and just in case, it should all remain secret. So they decided it should all be shredded - that's how paper is deleted.

And that's how I earned money for Christmas presents, way back in 2008. I deleted things. I couldn't just click on the room and press shred. My job was to open all the metal and plastic folders, and take the paper out and put it in boxes. Then the boxes were moved to where the shredder was, and the folders were all thrown away. It took about a week.

Yes, for a week, this company paid a journalist to look through all their very important, very secret documents and then throw them away.

I was beginning to think that my prediction of the future office basement - without rows of filing cabinets - was too extreme. Today, while I was shopping with my younger sister, my theory was strengthened. She opened a plastic folder and struggled with the metal clasp on the inside. When I showed her how it worked, she said: "So, you just put the paper inside? Wow."

* And then I shudder. Yup, those words still scare me. I'm not quite a grown-up yet.

Posted by Julie at December 19, 2008 7:36 PM

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