The Messy and the Neat

Last Thursday, a recruiter was out in the lobby, offering our students part-time jobs and pink cupcakes. At the end of the day, she returned an extension cord she’d borrowed from the library and also gave us the leftover cupcakes. There were three. Two were eaten. One  was put on the back counter where it still sits today. It was not wrapped. It was not placed in a container. So it is now a hardened, inedible thing that is fast becoming a library knickknack.

Usually this would not have been a story. Most weeks, the morning librarians would have come in, looked at the leftover cupcake in disgust, and thrown it in the trash can, risking a messy librarian complaining later, “Hey, I was going to eat that.” But the fallout would be minimal. 

This time, however, the neat librarians decided to draw the line in the fast-hardening icing on the top of the cupcake. Perhaps it was the refrigerator clean out day a few weeks before. Perhaps it was the ever-growing pile of dishes that surrounded the sink that made more than one of them shiver whenever she walked by.

But this time, they took a stand. They would not throw out that cupcake. They would see how many days it would sit there on the back counter before the person who put it there would take responsibility and throw it away. We are at seven days and counting. 

In the battle between the messy and the neat, the messy will always win, for they have obliviousness on their side. Once something is laid down, the messy no longer see it. They care not about the number of containers in the refrigerator as long as they manage to find a way to stuff another one in there. They don’t even seem to notice the piles of paper at their desks that seem to wobble more dangerously over their heads each day. 

Even when they are brought face-to-face with their messiness, they have the ability to turn it into some sort of moral high ground:

  • What, you threw out that paper?! I was saving that for recycling. I guess you don’t care about the environment.
  • You’re going to throw out that cheese? So what if it has some green on it? I can cut that out. Some of us believe in saving our money.
  • Or the worst of all:  What are you getting so upset about? It’s just a cupcake. You need to learn to relax.

Now the Jolly Librarian would win no neatness awards. In fact, I spent an inordinate amount of time Tuesday freeing my keyboard of crumbs so that the zero key would work again. But I do notice if food is decaying on the shared dining table or if a bizarre smell is coming from the refrigerator. My messier colleagues simply do not, or they are able to hold out until a neat librarian can’t stand it any more and does a clean up.

Perhaps the messy librarians are more evolved; they can survive the smell and the gunk as long as they don’t have to do the cleaning. 





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