At a co-working space this week, I found myself sitting on the end of a row of desks in a pod of eight.
I don’t usually like a co-working space but for various, complex reasons I was in one now, blearily squinting in the fluorescent light and wondering what happens next. Someone get me an Alka-Selzer.
The desk I was using normally belonged to someone else and the space before me was littered with her bits and bobs. Key among them was a small, plastic post-it note dispenser.
Don’t go thinking it dispensed full-size post-it notes please. I want you to picture the right thing and if you think of something large enough to dispense full-size post-its, then you’re thinking of the wrong thing all together.
No. It dispensed miniature post-it notes like the sort you use to mark a line in a book and you want to scare everyone else into thinking you’ve got your shit together.
And don’t go thinking they were made of paper like your typical post-it note either. These ones were made of plastic.
It’s not important what sort of plastic it was, madam, but if I had to guess as you seem to be implying I’d guess it was acetate. Okay? Or maybe a biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate known for high tensile strength, transparency, and chemico-dimensional stability. I don’t know. I’m not a plastics expert and neither are you, so please calm down.
Anyway, I had an urge to pull one of these little post-it jobs out of its dispenser and to stick it on my chin like a little King Tut beard.
At first it wouldn’t stick because of my stubble so I had to get up and go to the bathroom and shave. I used the travel shaver I carry with me for all such non-adhesive chin crises.
By the time I’d come back to the desk, the urge to stick a post-it note to my chin had gone. It was one of those small tragedies of life.
Even so, I wanted to honor the original urge, so I did it anyway. This is just a little thing I like to call “commitment to a bit.”
I stuck the post-it note, as promised, to my chin like a King Tut beard but, since the mood had passed, the gesture didn’t feel adequately mischievous and I certainly didn’t feel anything like King Tut. I just felt like a bored man with some plastic on his face. Weird, I know.
I made a few King Tut-style gestures to try and get into character. It didn’t help.
My next plan was to get the attention of the person sitting next to me, point at the beard and make her laugh. But that felt a bit hack. I was my own audience, remember, and I knew this wouldn’t impress me.
Instead, I tapped her on the shoulder and held out the dispenser as if offering a stick of gum. I didn’t say anything or draw attention to the beard. I just offered it with slightly raised eyebrows, as if in reference to a common understanding that nobody’s really comfortable without a little King Tut beard so, here, have one of mine.
My absolute Dream Hope was for the podmate to take one gratefully and to stick it on. When she moved to hand the dispenser back to me, I’d make a generous “pass it on” gesture so that she could offer a beard to the next person along. Let’s see, I thought, if we can get all eight people to Go Tut.
“Hey look!” someone in another pod would say after cottoning on, ideally a few hours of silent beard-wearing later, “the people in that pod are doing a thing!”
And we’d all laugh and pat ourselves on the backs for being the fun ones.
Tragically, my dream was never realised. The first girl didn’t take a post-it note from me. She just gave me a pitying frown as I was the lunatic and “got on with her work.”
From now on, I will stay at home where I can stick whatever I like to my face and make whatever “gestures of the boy pharaoh” I feel like making.
Christ, I’ve got to get on with this book, haven’t I?