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At the Copy Machine Staples Dig In and Multiply

     Don’t you love staples? Not the office supply store. Who could love a place that sells stuff for work? No, I mean those tiny itty-bitty steel things that hold everything together when you’re out of paper clips.

     They’re so handy when they’re not attacking the tip of your finger with their sharp points. They’re cheap, they work on every kind of paper – unless you put too much of it in one bunch. Then you have to pry them out and go find those giant staples that hang out in the two-foot long stapler that sits on top of the copy machine. The giants work really great.

     Just don’t try to remove them. They don’t make a staple remover for giant staples and you don’t want to do that with your fingers. But they do make staple removers for regular staples. They’re the most used tool in the world. Mostly in front of the copy machine, but lots of other places, too. Like at your desk when you find you’ve stapled the purchasing report to the back of the lease agreement.

     I’ve been pulling out staples since I turned eighteen. I can’t imagine life without them. You put them in. That’s good. They’re quite well-behaved and don’t wiggle around or play loud music or otherwise disrupt your peaceful world.

     But inevitably, they’re going to have to come out. And that’s the end of the peace. I spend too many hours unstaple-ing stapled papers, chasing popped off staples that slide over the edge of the desk and into the carpet where they surely will stick someone who comes along barefoot and give them blood poisoning and so I’ve got to find that darn staple hiding in the rug.

     Staple removers are designed – some with two claws, some with a single blade – to easily open up a staple and hold the resulting mangled piece of steel on their prongs. Ha!

     The claws never grab both ends of the staple at once. Pull one end loose – leave the other stuck. Or grab the paper around the staple, but leave the staple intact. Mostly just slide around the staple not gripping anything. The single prong works better – but sends the released staples flying through the air. No matter how many staples you scoop up and throw away, there are more. They multiply. 

     But the copy machine – that’s where those staples really dig in. It’s at the copy machine where they silently procreate. It’s at the copy machine where you discover your set of five pages has fourteen staples, firmly embedded at various junctures.

     Determinedly, carefully – so as not to rip the pages - you remove the staples one by one. Half an hour later, you confidently place the pages in the tray and press the “Start” button.

     Within seconds the copy machine spits out your pages like a bad case of the flu. The scrunched up totally ruined set of papers that you so carefully placed in the tray now revolves around one staple. Forgotten, betrayed, neglected – that staple is in staple revenge mode. And winning.

     While you’re trying to extract the culprit from the tangled mess of papers, you find three more staples.

     Okay. So there are two people waiting for the copy machine. Let them wait. Tell them to check their papers for staples and show them your scrunched-up mess. That’ll keep them busy for a while.

     Then I think it’s a good idea to go for a coffee break. Quickly, ’cause that light on the copy machine is flashing and if you don’t get out of here in a hurry someone’s going to expect you to fix the paper jam and that’s another column that I’m not quite ready for. Not ’til I get these staples out…

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