If all the World Were Paper…
All right, I know I’m uncooperative. Yes, I do lack Christmas spirit. But there’s a distinct excess of spirit in this office tonight, most of it in the fruit-cup. The junior clerk with the cast on her leg is absolutely plastered.
I approve of paper snowflakes, but I miss the soft click of keyboards, muted voices, purring phones. It’s abnormal for an office to be tinsel-bedecked, for its workforce to cast off court shoes in favour of killer heels. And that’s just the men. Temps turn into temptresses. Supervisors become sirens.
All I Want For Christmas Is You? All I want is for the music to stop. If they don’t turn it down, I will flash my most yuletide-icious (the supervisor did say this after a few sweet sherries) display: CAN’T PRINT – OUT OF MAGENTA (YES, I KNOW YOU ONLY WANTED BLACK AND WHITE.)
Lydia Languish, your mince-pie crumbs are falling into my paper-tray. They tickle, you know. Oh, there go the paper chains you sellotaped to the ceiling-fan. Didn’t reckon on someone turning it on, did you? First you guillotine my best A4 and now it’s lolling in the fruit-cup.
Oh dear, that chap by the pilchard dip is having to disentangle himself from the ghastly papery mess. What do you mean, you know the feeling? It isn’t me who overloads my bottom tray.
I shall snarl from my cage-like cubicle. Go on, Lydia, call me Tiger. I’ll bare my teeth while you heave chewed pulp from my jaws. But I know you’re skulking in my alcove so you can ogle Him over by the pickled walnuts. If you trace His name in my dust once more, I’ll growl. Twice. That always warrants attention. Six secretaries once flung themselves at me with a chorus of, “I’ve been waiting all morning for him to wake up!” Similar to what they say to their hung-over other halves on New Year’s Day, I shouldn’t wonder.
He’s watching you, Lydia. But you’re so busy being a bag of nerves, you don’t see what’s staring you in the face. It’s the same with you and me. If you didn’t go into blind-panic mode and fiddle with my switches, I wouldn’t keep throwing up test pages. Oh, stop drumming your nails on my lid and drooping over my finger-marked surface. I see you’ve powdered your nose. How about mine? Where’s my lint-free polishing cloth? Oh I see. You’re cleaning your specs with it. Maybe you’ll notice Him now. Oh, he’s gone back to his keyboard, unmoved by the sprout canapés, his cup untouched and both his cocktail cherries intact.
You see, you’re not the only one who’s shy. He’d love to hi-jack the swivel chair without the dodgy castor and spin into your booth. Oh, watch out, he’s glancing this way and typing at the same time. That can only mean one thing.
Time for action.
Now cooperate, Lydia. Like me, you should always be ready to pounce. Don’t falter. Don’t retreat as if you’ve heard the click of a hunter’s gun. Yes, I know I hold back too. But that’s because tigers are pussycats. You need to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or at least a vaguely red-blooded woman under that woolly jumper.
Now don’t slump on me or I won’t function. So, here comes His message. You’ll hear a bit of a grunt, then a whine, three whirrs and a long bleep. I thought that would get your attention. This is all yours, Lydia. Now, don’t shoot the messenger. I just blurt things out. It’s up to you to make sense of it all.
CHECK LOAD TRAY
Whoops. Sorry. Here we go.
Yes, I’ve spat out a piece of paper. At one end is a drawing of half a person wearing a reindeer antler. What does it say?
Fold where shown and cut me out.
Ah yes, there are lines ruled across the page. No, it’s not an error. Off you go. Make the folds. Now, find the scissors. They’re buried under the urgent memos that were left behind once Wizzard started wishing it could be Christmas every day.
There. Paper dolls holding hands. A chain of delicate people clinging together, all made of my pristine, premium paper. Where would you be without me?
Another few growls. Oh, I’ve jammed. The next step is up to you.
Slamming your hand on my lid, eh, Lydia? Is this the red-blooded vixen emerging? Or have you just remembered the time-honoured advice to approach a monstrous beast with a fearless stare and a firm hand. I’m bracing myself.
Is that it? Switching me off and on again? I guess that will have to do.
Here we go. More people to cut out. This one looks like the supervisor. I’d recognise that bubble-perm anywhere. Chilling to see six of her.
And finally, a paper you in a Santa hat, Lydia. Lucky last, the final part of the chain.
Draw on her smile.
Ah. He wants to make sure you’re happy. So, come on. Bare those teeth.
Oh, I’ve jammed. That’s right. Swear and splutter. Release your inner wolf while I play the crouching tiger. Now beg me not to take any notice of all the times you’ve wished me dead and replaced by a sleek new model. Pat me and I’ll reward you with a sudden spate of various noises of contentment, followed by what can only be described as a snore, just to keep you on your toes.
Right, carry on. What does this sheet say?
Hold on, I just need to chug and rattle a few times to keep you on your toes.
Now please find something to join your chain to mine.
Does He really have no stationery items? What do people keep on their desks these days apart from cans of fresh air to spray the croissant crumbs from their keyboards? Don’t they realise all those bits of pastry just magnetise themselves to their lip-gloss?
There’s some paper fasteners next to me, along with the staples and treasury tags. I’m afraid all the paper clips have been linked to make necklaces and the last one was straightened out to pick the lock of the petty cash tin. That’s how essential they are. Whoever said offices should become paperless deserves to be silenced even more than Slade.
See you in the middle, by the corned-beef Vol-Au-Vents.
Oh, she’s off, clutching her paper doll chain. At last, after she almost trips on an abandoned anchovy nibble, they finally meet.
He has his own chain of paper office workers – so much more flexible and less rowdy than the flesh-and-blood kind – and He’s attaching the cut-out of Himself to the cut-out of her. Oh, he’s stabbed her finger with the split-pin. Never mind. It’s broken the ice. And how handy – hanging from the strip-light above them is a shriveled twig of mistletoe.
A new blanket of snow brings a power-cut. A hush falls. Suits me. I think I’ll go to sleep, like any self-respecting tiger, glad to know I’m not redundant yet. One or two snores, a quick confusing rattle and my smug green light alternates with the unpopular flickering red. Since that daft tree in the corner is festooned with them, I can’t imagine why they all groan at mine.
I don’t intend to function much tomorrow, but then, neither will any of this lot. So from this paper tiger, a Merry Christmas to all and to all a – paper-icious – goodnight.
Written By Joanna Campbell for Euroffice