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Blinding Them With Science

It's so nice to encounter people who are easily impressed. Today I was blessed with two.

We have a psycho stapler in the office - one of those loud electric jobbies. Up until about a month ago, it was working fine. Did you know that standard staples come in two sizes? Strips of 105 and strips of 210. We had one box of 210's left and several 105's, and because of all the stapling I do, I much preferred the 210. You can't put in two strips of 105, by the way -- it will jam the stapler all to hell.  But we ran out of 210s. So I ordered some more boxes, but to save money I ordered the cheapest version out there. I soon came to regret this. Once I installed the cheap staples -- and then even after I replaced them with the "premium" kind -- the machine began vomiting them up, spitting them out, mangling them and otherwise making its displeasure known.
I never know whether an attempt at one staple will yield a double, a triple, a one-and-a-half, a single-bent-in-half, or a repeater, where the machine grabs hold and refuses to let go, all the while banging as many staples into my document (always something valuable that I don't want chewed up). Then, after throwing its little hissy fit, the stapler will clamp down and refuse to staple anything. So I have to pop the release lever to make it open up and say "Ahh," and then a chunk of about five or six staples will pop out and fall onto the desk or the floor. I don't even bother trying to pick them up until my stapling job is finished. But once it is, the desk and floor are littered with staples, and somebody else has invariably borrowed the broom. So I grab one of those huge magnets that personal-injury attorneys glue to your mini-yellow pages (in the event, perhaps, that you get your finger stuck in the jaws of a carnivorous stapler and are inspired to sue Swingline) and use it to lift the staples up and deposit them in the wastebasket.

No biggie; to me it seems sensible and efficient.  But to Moe, my co-worker, it was the way Pacific Islanders with bones through their noses must have reacted the first time a stranger from across the sea lit a match or flashed a camera at them.

He was walking past my desk as I was engaged in my latest round of staple-herding. I aimed the magnet at a dense thicket of bevel-tipped rejects and listened for the quiet click of them adhering to the underside.

"That is so neat!" Moe exclaimed. I turned to see him gazing at the now fully occupied magnet with a look that reminded me of a five-year-old watching someone set fire to paper with a magnifying glass.  "My kids would love that!"  I showed him the stack of phone books we had gotten from the local distributor -- always about ten more than we actually ever use -- each with its own handy magnet, and invited him to take home one for each of his three younguns. And maybe one for himself as well. He did, and walked back to his cubicle shaking his head and chuckling to himself.

No sooner had I tamed the staple scourge than in walked a regular customer named Buddy, armed with his very well-worn credit card. The card was so well-worn that the expiration date was barely visible, even with squinting. "I know it's hard to read," he said, "but it's three-twelve." After two attempts to run the card (which I knew was good, because the man spends half his life at our building and probably keeps us afloat single-handedly) and getting a "CV error message," I questioned the expiration date, which could have been a two, a three, a six, or an eight.

"Well, gee, I think it's a three..." he said.

"One way to find out," I said, grabbing a Post-it note and a pencil. I stuck the note to the front of the card and rubbed the pencil over it to make the numbers stand out in relief. Now it was readable, and it was an eight. Finally, I could check Buddy out and send him on his way. I even let him keep the Post-it note to ease the strain on future cashiers.

But not before I, once again, found myself in the spotlight of awe and admiration.  "Hey!" he said, watching the numbers appear amid the graphite molecules. "That's just like on that show..." he paused to snap his fingers in attempt to recall the title.  "CSI?" I ventured -- even though I've only seen the show once and would have chosen Monk to represent clever police procedurals.  "Yeah!  That's it! Lookit you, Detective Lady!  I know better than to try to put over anything on you!  You must be a great crime-fighter."

"Yeah," I said, feeding his receipt and invoice into the Evil Stapler, hoping it wouldn't ruin my brief celebrity moment by gnawing his paperwork to ribbons and making me start all over. "That's why I work here. It keeps me humble."

But it's planted some ideas in my head. Do you think I could interest The Discovery Channel in a new live-action series, Woman vs. Stapler?

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