Preparing to go into Assisted Living, I came across 40 years worth of income tax I had to shred. Which reminded me about a story I wrote and gave new meaning to Paper Shredders Appreciation Day.
It was Secretaries Day. All the department managers were taking their secretaries out for lunch. The two-story social services agency housed about 30 employees. So on this particular Tuesday there indeed was a buzz in the air.
Tuesdays were also Peter’s day. Peter was one of the company’s par excellent volunteer-employees. He was a twenty-four year old down syndrome fellow with an infectious cheerfulness. For a very small stipend, his parents would bring their son for a weekly four-hour shift to shred the building’s confidential material. And on weather-permitting weekends they’d drop him off to sweep the modest parking lot.
For paper shredding, the first two hours Peter would go around the building collecting sensitive material from each desk’s blue box. And judging by his countenance, this was by far his favorite part of the job. He’d visit with each employee asking great questions and reporting any news in his own life. He had an elephant’s memory and could recall details from past conversations like a magician’s bouquet of flowers. Needless to say, this made for remarkable, pleasant exchanges and always brought a smile.
When his oversized carton got too heavy to lug around he’d deliver it to ‘his’ office, a small windowless room with a phone and a door for visiting program managers. Once emptied, he’d return to his tour of duty until all the offices had bare blue boxes.
When the material was all collected he’d close the door and assemble his tools of the trade – a letter opener, a pair of scissors, tweezers and needle nose pliers. Firing up the industrial monster machine the crunching began. He tried not to feed more than a small handful at a time, but impatience occasionally won out and he’d cram a fist full in the ravenous teeth. Only to have to employ his surgery tools for a case of lock jaw.
So on this particular Tuesday, Peter was doing his rounds amidst the din of anticipation of an outing. Peter’s puzzled expression said he didn’t quite comprehend why everyone was going out for lunch, but then again on account of his delightful disposition, he happily went about his shredding business without the slightest hint of being left out.
When he got to Cora-Lee’s desk, she came up with something he did understand.
“Hey Peter, do you want to go out for lunch today? We could have a ‘Paper Shredder’s Appreciation Day’. What do you think about that?”
Still grappling with the concept, she spelled it out a little more.
“Since all the secretaries are being taken out for lunch in appreciation for all the hard work they do, I think you should go out too, for all the hard work you do. I would like to take you out to lunch to celebrate ‘Paper Shredder’s Appreciation Day’. Would you like to go?” Now he totally understood and joined the buzz of the office.
“Where are you going?” he’d ask anyone he passed. “We’re going to the IHOP,” then he’d recite formally “The International House of Pancakes. We’re going to have a breakfast-lunch.”
He leaned in the front reception window promptly at 12, his forearm resting on the counter. Cora-lee spoke first.
“I called your mom to let her know I’ll drop you off after lunch so she doesn’t need to come and pick you up.”
“That’s terrific,” he smacked the counter with a full-on smile. I’m sure he felt the integral part of the agency that day. “I’m going to have bacon and eggs with toast and hash browns for lunch.”
And thus Paper Shredder’s Appreciation Day was born and celebrated every year thereafter.
Who knew recycling could be so personable? If only my 40 years worth of taxes was...