For two pins, I?d...

You need the patience and delicacy of a teapicker to peel each envelope, even with the business end of your stapler, writes Renuka Narayanan.

india Updated: Oct 11, 2006 22:52 IST

A pox on the person who invented staples (it had to be a man). One of the occupational hazards of my job with a newspaper is to wade through whole Himalayas of dak and I want to say, here and now, that this is a high-risk profession in unlooked-for ways. Consider this. Every dispatch clerk in every PR and courier company who sends out invitations and information — make that ‘informations’ in semi-literate Delhi — is obviously a closet sadist.

These worthies — lonely men in shirt-sleeves hanging out of bus windows? — clearly vent their whole life’s khunnas on envelopes. You’d think one staple properly punched would be enough to secure the flap of an envelope. But often, the papers inside are also in a mean, metallic deathgrip. You need the patience and delicacy of a teapicker to peel each one, even with the business end of your stapler. I have the bleeding fingertips to prove it.

I am seriously worried now, because I’m a diabetic dolly, Type 2, which makes me a lower caste — a popper, not a jabber. But a daily dose of pinpricks from unsterilised staples is emphatically not recommended for my tribe. So if I can’t open the envelope in one easy shot without threat to life and limb through my poor little pinkies, I just chuck it away. I earnestly recommend that anybody in any profession with RSRS (Recurrent Staple Risk Syndrome) do likewise. If anyone gets ratty about it, speak the truth: “I’m sorry, I couldn’t open your envelope without hurting myself, so I was forced to throw it away.”

Throw it away? That calls forth a most ladylike picture, of delicate fingertips suddenly spurting ruby drops of blood, a cry of hurt, a look of deep reproach and a swift, graceful movement of dispatch of the cruel envelope and its thorns. One blinks back the little tears like diamonds on one’s lashes and reaches convulsively for a lawn-and-lace hankie from the Victoria Technical Institute, Chennai.

In actual fact, opening an envelope is a marvellous opportunity to spontaneously air some Hindi-Punjabi, though not the sort the Sahitya Akademi would award, unless in stark protest verse against social inequity.

Incidentally, it was a man who invented staplers: Samuel Slocum, c. 1860, though only the proto version — a mere poker of pins. But there’s a whole world out there since, of people who actually collect ‘paper fasteners’, especially the curly brass-inlaid Victorian models. These relics rejoice in names like the Hotchkiss (hoo!), the Swingline Speed No. 3 and the Markwell Handi-clip.

Gidgets for closet sadists.

First Published: Oct 11, 2006 22:52 IST