I work for the local utility company and am fortunate enough to have a fairly large desk with drawers and upper cabinets to store whatever my little heart desires. Unfortunately, a lot of this storage is utilized for my personal junk. This is “stuff” that you may or may not need during the day and you absolutely don’t want to be caught without it. For example, I have a toothbrush and toothpaste, dental flossers, mirrors and headbands. I also have two bottles of Advil, two bottles of Tylenol and one very large bottle of Aleve. Headaches should be mitigated immediately upon detection, especially if you only have one sick day left with two more months before you get more time.
I also have food, because you don’t want to be hungry when you’re trying to avoid completing your work. Even if you are working, it’s good to take a break every few minutes to shove a potato chip or pretzel in your mouth. Although, I don’t normally go for the salty. I tend to collect the sweets like Hershey’s kisses, tootsie rolls, cinnamon frosted pop-tarts and last, but not least, peppermint patties. I’ve eaten dozens of those things and I have yet to get the sensation of a cool breeze rushing through my hair, but I keep on trying.
A couple of weeks ago there were mice sightings in the building. It’s hard to prevent because we have operators working around the clock and often eating breakfast, lunch and/or dinner at their desks. Having food around as the weather turns cold is a surefire recipe for invasion. I was on the phone with a co-worker when I pulled open my second drawer only to find that I’d been attacked. I keep a bag of individually wrapped peppermint patties in that drawer. There were several patties that had been completely denuded of chocolate. Apparently, mice do not like mint, but they do enjoy chocolate. I felt violated, so I closed the drawer and pretended that I was too busy to clean it.
All day long, that drawer mocked me. I felt dirty, unclean, slovenly. All of the guilt my mother placed upon me as a child living in a messy room came back to haunt me. And yes, my room was incredibly messy. I still haven’t lived down the apple core that was growing a nice batch of homemade penicillin. Finally, I cleaned the drawer. The patties were tossed and the badge holders went too. There were twenty plastic grocery bags that had managed to reproduce exponentially in there. They were trashed as well. I was horrified to discover that my Star Trek photos were in there. I have one where my face is superimposed with the Next Generation crew and that had something icky on it. I rubbed it down with a Lysol wipe and tucked it into an overhead cabinet.
After the drawer was cleared out, I looked around at the rest of my desk. Personal debris was everywhere. For the first time, it felt oppressive rather than comforting. Was it possible that too much “stuff” was not a good thing? Had I finally discovered the ancient art of feng shui as the result of a mouse attack? As I contemplated throwing some things away and organizing my personal space, the phone rang and a few emails came in. For a moment I struggled between cleaning and working. The momentary panic subsided and I went back to work.