Monday, October 29, 2007

True Social Stories: Perseveration in the Workplace

Due to time considerations, I had to leave this story of perseverative behavior out of my talk for APSE.

It wasn’t very funny at the time. I had something of an obsession with scrap paper. Tickets, old maps, labels from cans of vegetables, beer coasters, cardboard boxes, any kind of paper with unusual or interesting text or texture or certain muted colors. Often, I tore them up and used them to make my collages. Sometimes I just added them to stacks of other papers I kept around to look at. I often spent my breaks from work at the restaurant scrounging or sorting through the day’s finds.

Usually these came from discarded boxes or other containers I grabbed before they landed in the garbage. Sometimes I’d patrol the edges of the property, seeking out those especially valued scraps which had been rained on and run over by cars. On this particular day, though, something had caught my eye, a dog-eared invoice sticking out of the trash can in the manager’s office. The manager on duty was one I had a good relationship with, but he seemed aggravated that day and chased me out of the office. I waited awhile before I went back in and removed the trash bag, replacing it with a new liner. I took it outside, and passing the dumpster, delivered it to the back seat of my car. Returning to work, I was happy to know I’d have the bag to sort through later at home. Perhaps I’d find something even better than the intriguing invoice.

About an hour later, a co-worker mentioned she’d seen something odd—the manager and the district manager were outside standing in the dumpster, digging around in the garbage! What were they looking for? Apparently, $2000 dollars was missing from the previous day’s receipts. There was some possibility someone had hidden money in the trash and carried it out of the restaurant.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

I confessed my “crime” immediately and told my boss I would understand if he needed to search my car or have me questioned by the police. That wouldn’t be necessary, he said. Somehow, he knew I didn’t take the money. Explaining it to the district manager would be harder, but at least there were plenty of people who could vouch for the fact that I often put trash in the back of my car. “She’s weird,” they would say. This time, I was glad to know that they would.


  1. Hmmmm. Conspiratora says, I wonder if that invoice had simply landed in the trash accidentally, or if you in fact thwarted somebody's plan to smuggle it out. Perhaps they were planning to pin it on you!

  2. Ephemera -- you collect ephemera, not trash.

  3. Ephemera, yeah that's right. And I'm "eccentric", not "weird." Yeah.

  4. I'm glad the police didn't come for you! Was the money ever recovered?

  5. Hi, abfh!
    I wondered if anyone would ask for the rest of the story. It turned out to be an assistant manager with a gambling problem. This wasn't the first time cash had disappeared on his watch. I'd say he was suspected immediately and this was part of what saved me from further interrogation, though I didn't know that at the time.

    My paper collecting slowed down from there and has never regained its full intensity. Which is good, I guess; I still have plenty of ephemera to work with.

  6. "Ephemera" is what you sell... what you collect is trash. Like the sign in the antique store window says, "We buy junk. We sell antiques."

    Glad your honesty paid off.

  7. One man's trash is another woman's collage material. Artists have always been considered weird by the mainstream. Then after we die, we are lionized. Take a look at Kurt Schwitters; he has his place in the canon.

  8. I couldn't post on the last entry, but I wanted to mention that the screenplay I got a National Silver Award from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in 8th grade in 2004 was about an institution in Lynchburg, Virginia in the 1920s.

    It was the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, where Carrie Buck was ordered sterilized under the Virginia Sterilization Act.

    Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote in 1927:

    "We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough"

  9. Our actions are often considered suspicious. As such we often become the targets of law enforcement and security.


Squawk at me.
Need to add an image?
Use this code [img]IMAGE-URL-HERE[/img]