In this job, one of the ways I can be most useful is in providing academics with stationery. I increasingly find myself living for those moments when an academic bursts into the office, breathless and flustered, gasping:
“Please can you help me? I can’t find a post-it note.”
I can almost hear the triumphant chords of a violin chorus as I sweep post-it and pen from my desk and into their outstretched hand, with one smooth movement of my office chair.
“No problem.” I smile beneficently back at their delighted eyes.
So imagine my distress this week, when my colleague tells me not to give our supply of box files away to an academic in need. I freeze, clutching the flatpack cardboard and gazing sympathetically at the scholar standing, perplexed, in the office doorway.
The seconds seem endless as my colleague launches into a lecture on the correct process for ordering stationery. Still holding the cardboard prize, I’m caught in the crossfire as the academic begins to negotiate – he’ll fill out all his overdue paperwork in exchange for one box file. My manager and I exchange a glance across the room – we know how high the stakes are.
At last, defeated by the length of the awkward pause that ensues, my colleague relents. The academic can take the box file – this time. I shove it into his hands and scarper back to my desk. He backs out of the office wearing an expression reflective of the horrors he’s just experienced. My colleague reprises her lecture to the office in general as I make a mental note to order more box files.