Jan 30, 2012 Walt Shepperd Uncategorized
Samadee’s father was always the first to arrive at the office in the morning, always the last to leave at night. Assistant to the president of the fifth largest corporation in the world, he had assigned himself the responsibility of knowing everything going on in the multinational. He did it by reading pink slips in a throne-like upholstered chair with matching foot rest, after dinner, consuming a pitcher of martinis in the process. The pink slips were copies of every piece of correspondence leaving the office that day — carbon copies, produced by inserting a piece of carbon paper in the typewriter between the pink slip and the company stationary on top. Each night the pink slips filled his leather brief case, packed neatly, side by side, in two piles.
The father never discussed the pink slips with the son, who felt certain that not even his mother ever had any inkling of the contents of each evening’s stash. Having broken in on a daily newspaper, however, he could appreciate the function of copies, to the editor, the copy desk and, then in the 60s, the printers who set type by hand. For convenience and speed, the journalist’s version of the pink slip was two carbon papers and two different colored copy pages bound with adhesive to the top sheet for original text, easily detachable for distribution.
Just punch delete
Samadee learned quickly that neatness did not count in meeting news writing deadlines, adjusting comfortably to the practice of crossing out reconsidered words or out of order lines with a series of rapid fire Xs. While he was the last on his weekly staff to allow a computer to replace his, by then electric, typewriter, he learned quickly to appreciate the existence of the delete button. The series of typed Xs on his rewritten copy always reminded him that he had written something stupid. Revising computer copy with deletions, he could review his work as if the stupid stuff had never been there. And throughout the evolution in technology, he marveled at the challenge faced by the secretaries at his father’s corporation. Most often, if they made a mistake, they would have to pull the papers, carbons and all, out of their typewriters and start all over again.
He also marveled at the existence of the cc: line on computer screens, the label holding its function as indicating e-mail copies to be sent to others than the addressee, even though carbon paper plays no role in the function. He was intrigued to learn that President Obama sits of an evening in small room isolation, reading hundreds of pages of internal White House memos. Upon learning that the first reading occurred before Obama took office, with a memo marked Sensitive and Confidential totaling 57 pages, telling him he was inheriting an economic chaos with impending disaster for which he would ultimately be blamed, Samadee wondered if his father’s pitchers of martinis had been consumed to blunt the impact of reading similar unpleasant messages, or at a time of unprecedented economic prosperity, to dull the shroud of corporate boredom.