My boss asked me to clean my desk, because, as part of our brand new newscast, there will be a person with a camera roving around the newsroom and we can't have it look like hobos have taken up residence in my cubicle.
I haven't cleaned it. Yet. Because really, news folks should have messy desks. You'd like to think that the guy covering your beat is relentlessly saving tiny fact morsels, written down on the back of matchbooks and cocktail napkins, inside the cover of the AP Stylebook and on the underside of the desk. That last one is reserved solely for information that will bring shame to a sitting president.
Computers are supposed to make Rolodexes, paper scraps and Post-It Notes obsolete. But yet there it all is, ruffled stacks of obsolete, just spread out on my desk. Over on the right are printed emails with the important parts highlighted and underlined. On the left are some story ideas that didn't make today's cut. I put them in a larger, overarching Story Idea Pile, which tends to move closer to the Long Term Story Idea Pile when I need more elbow room. Along the edges are tapes of old interviews that I may use again, but probably won't. Somebody gave me a tiny plastic Ichiro Suzuki bobblehead. I kept it. On the back row are cutouts of stuff that I've saved. I decided to keep a newspaper ad from Mr. T's failed reality show. I kept a flier from a man who imitates Barney Fife. Somebody gave me a Chewbacca dry erase board. Can't get rid of that.
Somebody told me that there's power in the archives, and I've never been able to let go of that idea. So I never let go of... anything. I have folders full of printouts from my first year that turn up from time to time, full of ideas I had forgotten about, like some sort of Appalachian State weather study I meant to get to in 2006. I put it in one folder, but then it got full and I started another folder. Then I put the first folder in the bottom drawer (the Tertiary Archive Drawer, below the Secondary Archive Drawer). I was certain I would get back to it before 2012, which I didn't.
Humans are meant to forget. If you remembered everything, your head would fill up to the brim with endless minutiae. While you were searching for the answers to life's most important questions, you would first have to wade through years worth of grocery lists and video game passwords to get to the important stuff like rational thought and complex trigonometry. When it comes to memory, the really big stuff tends to float to the top.
So maybe I will clean my desk. Maybe it's time to forget. And maybe, like my boss says, it's worth it, if only to keep the hobos at bay.