April 19, 2002
Baby, It's Mold Outside


"Gosh, that looks like fun!" says Scott The General Manager, smirking in the doorway of the Dirt Company production room. "I guess it's really helping to MOLD your character, isn't it?"

I smile at him -- my twinkliest, dimpliest, most insincere smile (Hahahaha! You're so funny!) -- and I slide another thick sheaf of paper into the creaky GBC binder.

It's been like this all week, as I've struggled to singlehandedly reproduce, collate and manually bind 43,897,621 booklets for next week's Mold Remediation Luncheon Seminar. Originally scheduled to run for three days -- in which case, I would have only been required to bind 33,897,621 booklets -- the response to the seminar invitations has been so overwhelming that we've had to schedule a fourth date. (I figure we have Ed McMahon and his dead dog to thank for this.) Every co-worker who wanders into the production room and sees me hunched over the antique binding machine, like a peasant artisan hunched over her loom, has felt compelled to crack wise about it.

(Main Marketing Guy: "Wow! They really broke the MOLD when they made you, didn't they?")

Of course none of these funny, funny people has felt compelled to sit down and help me bind some booklets. But that's OK. I understand. It's a Shidt Job. I'm getting ALL of the Mold Seminar-related Shidt Jobs handed to me: stuffing envelopes, mailing form letters, printing name tags, binding booklets. I'll probably wind up parking cars and serving fruit cups before the seminar is over. (Of course, the secret to dealing with Shidt Jobs is to volunteer for them before they're assigned to you. That way it looks like it was *your* idea, AND you earn extra brownie points with the boss.)

The truth is that I wouldn't welcome 'help' from anybody right now, anyway. It would feel like an intrusion. This may be a Shidt Job, but it's my Shidt Job. As tedious and time-consuming and paper-cut-intensive as it may be -- I'm sporting four Band-Aids on my right hand alone -- I must confess that I'm deriving a certain weird comfort from the sheer mindlessness of the task. Sort. Collate. Align. Insert paper into feeder: not too many pages or the machine will jam, not too few or you'll be here until Christmas. Pull lever forward. Punch pages. The rhythm and the repetitiveness are very soothing, especially after the past few non-stop/hurry up/go-go-go weeks. Place plastic comb onto spindles. Pull lever forward to splay comb tines. Thread punched paper through tines. Push lever back to seal. I'm enjoying the feeling I get, pulling the lever forward and hearing that satisfying *crunch* sound ... putting a lot of loose pages together into one cohesive whole ... stacking the finished booklets into neat tidy little piles. The false sense of accomplishment it provides has been like tonic on my frazzled nerves.

(I'm also, god help me, learning more about MOLD than I ever dreamed possible. It isn't just about bedroom closets and week-old bread anymore.)

But the thing I'm enjoying the most about this particular Shidt Job is the sanctioned opportunity to escape into my own head for a few hours every day. When you're sitting in front of an ancient GBC Binder, punching 43,897,621 Mold Seminar booklets, there isn't a whole lot else to do but to sit here and think.

And think.

And think some more.

As I'm binding, I make To-Do Lists and Wish Lists in my head. I plan dinner menus. I recall dreams from the night before. (My ex-husband broke into our apartment and threw away all of my new underwear; Son #Only was magically turned into a baby again; I accidentally went to work wearing the blue pajamas my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas.) I write bad country-western songs. I compose future *FootNotes* entries. (Right now, for instance, I'm searching for a metaphor to describe the way I've been feeling these past few days, since the Tots went home to TicTac. Limp as a day-old Prom corsage? Flat as a freeway racoon? Sad as a positive stachybotrys chartarum culture swab?)

Plus I've enjoyed countless imaginary conversations:

Rotten Cretinous Asshole Who Stole My Bike: Here's your bike back. I'm so sorry. What was I thinking?

Secra: That's OK. Bind these 43,897,621 Mold Seminar Booklets for me and we'll call it even.

It's like being paid to daydream, basically.

Plus it makes a long afternoon disappear in the blink of an eye. Before I know it, it's almost 4:30 on Friday afternoon and I am surrounded by towering stacks of finished Mold Remediation Seminar booklets. I've managed to bind 43,897,521 of them so far: I'll save the last hundred of them for Monday morning. It will be a good, no-brainer way to slide into the work week.

I'm so wrapped up in counting and stacking and patting myself on the back for a job well done that I don't even hear the Main Geotechnical Scientist Nerd come into the production room.

"Wow!" he says, interrupting my train of thought. "You must be MOLDLY going where no woman has gone before!" He gives me a big, goofy, Geotechnical Science Nerd grin.

"Yep," I reply, without even missing a beat. "Just call me Moldilocks." And I grin right back at him.

Thank god the weekend is here.



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