It wasn’t a pretty sight to see me in my smalls at 6:15 a.m. this morning, valiantly pulling upon the cords of the Concept 2 stationary rowing machine in the dreary basement beside the washer and dryer (how unlike the television ads for the product), staring straight ahead (as if there were any other choice in the matter), intent upon completing my 30 minutes of exercise. My protuberant belly all but squeezed me uncomfortably on the forward pull. The CBC radio morning show in the background (at least what little of it I could hear over the whirr of the fly-wheel) did nothing to distract me from the half-hour eternity which stretched before me, as I disparagingly eyed the seconds ticking by with glacial speed on the mounted performance monitor.
What did distract me, and not in an especially inviting way, was the line of filing cabinets along both walls of the north end of the grey room in which I laboured, surrounded as I was at the other end by rising shelves of old and forgotten suitcases, banks of discarded shoes (some hardly worn), antiquated kitchen appliances, bits and pieces of dinner ware and stem ware, various supplies of light bulbs, sets of screw drives and wrenches, cast aside paint cans and a collection of used wrapping paper, ribbons and bows which no doubt will one day be precisely what we’re looking for (if indeed we can ever remember we have them)! It was, however, the filing cabinets which were the more compelling feature of the landscape. Those cabinets represent the overflow of thirty-four years of retired dossiers from my main office (where too the cabinets are burgeoning by the day). Generally, one is able to find sufficient room in the "off-site" storage (as I like to glamorize it) to hide yet one more file transported from the office to its penultimate resting place. However, what I saw this morning before my eyes was the tell-tale indication of a crisis; viz., there were files simply lying upon an open, packed drawer, obviously dropped there because there was no room inside for anything further. Screaming at me from the distance was the need to cull, the mere contemplation of which left me cold. For virtually years I had been able to avoid the confrontation, but after three and one-half decades, the moment of reckoning has sadly arrived.
Anyone such as I who provides a service to the public is bound to observe many important rules regarding the preservation of private records. In some instances we are guided by the vulgar matter of personal liability; in others, the principles are tax driven (to accommodate her Majesty’s minions in the punishment of an historical financial indiscretion). Generally speaking, however, there are limitation periods which exist to exculpate, expiate and exhaust. As such, the application of some judicious shredding is eventually not without its place. Nevertheless, the task is daunting, for the simple reason that one must review a dossier before determining to dispose of it. In many cases it is not sufficient merely to examine the most recent date of correspondence, since certain agreements have far reaching effect, some even surviving the death of a Party to it. I trust you will therefore concede that the undertaking is not something to wished upon any but one’s mortal enemies. This is not purification, it is perdition!
Many of us have no doubt preferred to bury something in a drawer or upon a shelf, rather than corrupt its integrity by determining whether to dispose of it or by having to decide that it is perfectly useless in any event. So much easier to put the consideration off for another day! Yet these drops of water soon manage to accumulate into a vast ocean of debris, the rising tide of which eventually threatens to burst its barriers. The obvious solution is to dispose of things. As much as one, in the spirit of spring-time renewal, may enthuse about doing so, there is the very real threat that that ebullience will translate into a rhapsody of destruction. It is this knowledge which often turns the motive into nothing more than bravado. The memories prompted by this or that item, the reasoning that one day you might need it in an emergency, the thought that when you are older you wouldn’t mind being seen in it again, the possibility that the bathroom will need some touch-up paint, the misguided view that one’s nieces would welcome those household goods when they finally get their own home - on and on it goes, anything to dissuade you from taking the matter to task!
In the end, having completed my thirty-minute routine, I decided it was inopportune for me to address this monumental project. Besides, it was something much better left to a rainy day. For the time being, there was the prospect of a sunny day, and I felt I should profit by the weather to walk to work. Soon the recollection of the unhappy files, fallen on their face, would be out of sight and mind.