Stationery Man


I am about to release a group of high school students at the end of an hour-long class on American history. Many of them enjoyed the lesson. We laughed a lot.

And yet, they prime for release. I don’t know if it’s the general antsy nature of teens or the fact that I told them about the cakes awaiting them, but they can’t wait to escape. I ignore any possible reflection this might be on me or my lesson. I can be self aware tomorrow.

The stampede for the door is laced with murmured goodbyes. In a matter of a few seconds I am alone.

Correction: I am alone with the notebooks and pens the university has provided for each student, many of whom eschewed their utility or ignored them altogether.

I got into teaching for the stationery. Sure, there’s the joy of collaboration and communication, the pleasure and reward found in assisting learner development and helping a student be their best selves.

But mostly it’s the stationery. For I am Stationery Man.

I am an avowed stationery nut. Nothing brings me greater joy than choosing a notebook from my notebook shelf. A lot of time and consideration are focused on picking the perfect notebook for a task. We will be together for some time, so a conscientious decision must be made.

Is it a journey? Well then perhaps a pocket-sized notebook for ease of mobility and access. Is it for drafting stories when out and about? Well, then a thirteen centimeter hardcover meant for placing on my lap on trams. Opening our stationery cabinet at work and looking for a pack of Post-its, markers, or a staple remover is a moment of zen in a hectic day. If there are stickers in that cabinet, well then my next lesson will feature stickers. Better yet, they’ll stay in my desk drawer until I can come up for something to use them for at home. Can you say Czech labels on household items for vocabulary review?

Oh, this pleases Stationery Man greatly.

My journeys to other countries always include a visit to stationery shops. As Stationery Man, I like to see the national tendencies in notebooks and pens, the preferred method of keeping track of what tasks and events have to be done at a particular time on a particular date. It’s not what you think, though, I do manage to keep a hold of myself. This is mostly due to the fact that I am usually carrying a backpack with limited room, so twenty notebooks are narrowed down to five, and then two are selected from them. Twelve pens are test driven and cut down to three and I choose one from them.

Or sometimes I take all three. I am Stationery Man.

Japan was a problem. As my friend Emma said, ‘a stationery shop in Japan is like an orgasm with walls and a door’ and this old man agrees. The rows of notebooks, each one representing a possible fresh start, a new, clean, dense, cool pad of paper, on which to spread my hand oils while writing my profoundest Twitter jokes and Facebook comments, all between two leathery protectorates. Each pen housing a plausible future best seller, a naughty note to a waitress, an expansive list for the grocery store.

It is with that same joy and intent that I scour the leftover notebooks and pens in the classroom. I try one, two, three pens on the same pad. I discard one of the pens, and then weigh some of the other notepads. One winner has been marred by a top corner booby doodle and is instantly cast back at the desks. I decide on three notebooks, two pens. I fit them in my hand and carry them through the door. I don’t look back at the sad rejects that remain inside, only pat the notebooks and pens I have as if to say, worry not, you’re with Stationery Man now.

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