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Shredding fires the imagination

The Enron controversy – allegations that company officials and the firm’s auditors spent endless hours shredding documents – brings great joy to those of us whose work hours are brightened whenever we can use the office shredder.

There is great satisfaction in taking a sheaf of paper back to the shredder. Whenever I use the shredder, I am making a statement. I was entrusted with secrets. No one else gets to see these secrets because they soon will be shredded. I am a very cool guy, indeed.



The pleasures are all the greater because the shredder is the one piece of modern-day office equipment that can be operated even by someone who wears a necktie. The postage machine continues to baffle me on a daily basis. I’ll be able to flap my wings and fly before I figure out how to make two-sided copies on the photocopier.




But the shredder! There’s a machine! The “On/Off” button is clearly marked in red and green. The operation – stick a piece of paper in one end, watch shredded stuff come out the other – can be grasped with only two or three training sessions.

The greatest pleasures of operating the shredder come, however, from the fantasies we can indulge.

When I turn on the shredder, I am no longer some dope who needs to get rid of an interim financial report. No! I am Oliver North, defender of freedom, shredding documents that would jeopardize truth, justice and the American way should they fall into the hands of Congressional investigators! In my imaginings, I call upon Fawn Hall – the secretary to North whose 15 minutes of fame came entirely from her use of a shredder – to bring me another stack of secrets.

Other times, I let myself drift into another fantasy. It’s a stifling hot summer afternoon in a small Arkansas town. The streets are quiet. Inside the town’s savings and loan association office, I mop my brow and shred another stack of loan documents that would embarrass my friends in the White House. That, too, is a lot more interesting than shredding the first draft of the capital budget for fiscal 2002/2003. I’m part of history! I get to speak with a southern accent!

This Enron caper opens new worlds for fantasy shredding. Should I play the part of an Enron executive, loosening his expensive necktie as he stands next to the shredder? Or is today the day to play auditor, rehearsing my Congressional testimony about the company’s document-retention policy even as I shove another file folder through the shredder’s jaws?

Shredding has never been filled with so many imaginative possibilities. This is truly a great nation, and a great time in history to run a shredding machine.

John Seelmeyer is editor of The Union; his column appears on Saturday.


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