On Point: The timekeepers they are a-changin'

 Ted Streuli, The Daily Record Newswire

I learned Tuesday morning that I am old-fashioned because I have a desk clock in my office. That is not the only thing that makes me old-fashioned, but it’s one that had not yet occurred to me. Desk clocks have disappeared.

My computer screen tells me what time it is, and if I fail to pay close enough attention to it, Outlook takes over the electronic version of my desktop and reminds me that I should be doing something. My desk clock isn’t even on my desk, it’s on my credenza, and it runs two minutes slow. Even my clock is behind the times.

There was a time when everyone had a desk clock. If an organization had bestowed an honor upon you, the clock was likely engraved and, if the honor was big enough, it had a penholder. A gold watch, particularly a gold pocket watch, was the long-running symbol of a lifetime spent toiling for a particular company, presented at your retirement ceremony.

I can’t recall a single retirement ceremony that involved a gold watch, nor can I think of anyone presenting a trophy clock. That’s too bad. We still need to know what time it is.

The same person who pointed out that my desk clock was out of date — let’s call him Jim because, well, that’s his name and it would be silly to call him something else — also noted that no one makes a decent stapler anymore. I protested, pointing out that I have my very own red Swingline, which is only funny if you’ve seen the movie Office Space. But Jim’s right; modern stapling means adding pages to the PDF.  Jim still has an oversized gunmetal gray stapler he took when he left the Navy in 1974 and it still works because that was before MBAs came up with planned obsolescence and companies still competed on design, price and quality. You can still buy a used Speed Products stapler like that on eBay, with bidding starting at $24.99, and they’re still indestructible.

My desk detritus no longer includes a Rolodex. I couldn’t carry it around very easily, but I didn’t have multiple contacts for each person spread through Outlook, Gmail, Facebook and my iPhone, either. You can get one to match that Speed Products stapler on eBay. Coincidentally, it’s $24.99.

I do not have an in basket or out basket; those have been replaced by email folders.

I don’t have a desk blotter because there’s nothing to blot and few papers to tuck into the corners. Blotters were handy when people wrote with fountain pens or those dipped into an inkwell. My father handed out 3-by-5-inch green blotters printed with his ad instead of business cards, but I’m not sure he could find anyone to print those today, much less anyone who would know what to do with them.

My desk of old had a metal file caddy and a Boston pencil sharpener, the metal kind that let you dial the right pencil size and stuck to the desk with a rubber suction cup operated by a lever on the side.

My desk still has a phone with a wire, but I imagine I could get by without it.

Retailers reported earnings over the past week or so. Staples reported that net income was down 43.5 percent in part because it closed 16 stores in the first quarter of 2014. Staples plans to close 80 more stores in the second quarter.

That clock ticking away on my credenza might be a tad slow, but it’s still ticking along.

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