Once upon a time somebody sent me a book, “File . . . Don’t Pile.” It is buried, defeated but ever hopeful, somewhere in a pile on my desk.
Last week, with no illusions that what I’m doing is mere spring cleaning, I began clearing my desk and file cabinets of 15 years of clutter.
For those who haven’t heard, it’s more likely than not that the Tucson Citizen, established in 1870, will publish its final edition March 21.
I’d be embarrassed to document my hoarding tendencies if I were the only slob here. But newsrooms are notorious for their filth, and the Tucson Citizen is no exception. Just about every desk is covered in old newspapers, documents, books and soda cans.
The government may have to declare this place an EPA Superfund site after we’re gone.
It actually was kind of liberating to chuck out a couple hundred dusty old files. But that was just the start of digging my way out of here.
From one drawer in the newsroom’s communal filing cabinet, I pulled out a collection of medical books from the five years I spent as a health beat reporter and delivered them to the “free” table in the break room.
A recent edition of “The Merck Manual of Medical Information” was quickly scooped up by the office hypochondriac, who also took “Before the Heart Attack” and “Breast Cancer: The Facts You Need to Know about Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond.”
“You’re never too old to get breast cancer,” she said.
She passed, as did the other ladies in the office, on “Stay Fertile Longer,” which apparently is a guide to getting pregnant into your eighties.
From the nonmedical book collection, I happily sacrificed “Joe’s Law,” an autobiography of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, to the free table. You couldn’t pay me to keep it. But some sucker actually took it.
Another cabinet drawer was filled with old notebooks, a bag of clean medical needles and a box of unused petri dishes. Hey, you get weird things sent to you as the medical reporter.
Found on my desk was a lint roller, two tubes of hand lotion, a full bottle of iron pills that I’m supposed to take daily and a stuffed brown puppy that barks and whines when you press a button on its belly.
Inside my desk were two pairs of shoes and a bra. Sorry, no salacious back story involving too much tequila and a darkroom after hours. I just tend to take things off during the day if they become uncomfortable.
Two sets of CycleBeads also emerged and landed on the free table. CycleBeads help women track their menstrual cycles and avoid pregnancy. The color-coded string of beads identifies the days a woman is likely to get pregnant without protection.
A young colleague wanted to know if she should wear them around her head. I suggested they’d be more effective if she wore them around her knees.
Here’s an appropriate, if old, joke: What do you call couples who use the rhythm method? Parents.
To be fair, not all the clutter in a newsroom is garbage. Because we’re creative types – or just weird – we each have our collections of kitsch.
One co-worker kept a life-size, cardboard cutout of Shaun Cassidy beside his desk for decades after Cassidy’s 15 minutes of fame had ended. Another colleague has a tube-shaped bomb casing on his desk. Pinned to my cubicle wall is the X-ray image of a man with a long nail in his skull, just missing his brain, a work accident with a nail gun.
The picture serves to remind me that my worst day at work was never that bad.
Among the “important” papers that turned up during my end-of-a-career desk cleaning was a letter of congratulations for a companywide award I won for column writing in 2006. It was signed by the same suit who came here Jan. 17 to tell us that the Citizen’s 139-year run was coming to an end.
I haven’t decided whether to burn the letter in a March 21 bonfire or save it to include with my résumé if, as speculated by other local media, Gannett buys the Arizona Daily Star.
Anne T. Denogean can be reached at 573-4582 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Address letters to P.O. Box 26767, Tucson, AZ 85726-6767. Her columns run Tuesdays and Fridays.