On being ... smater than the average bear

By Ingrid Sapona

Did you know you there’s such a thing as square-bottomed, extra capacity hanging file folders? Well, I discovered them this week – and they’re great! I know this “discovery” might not seem a likely topic for On being…, but in the process of finding the file folders, I discovered a little something about myself too.

A couple weeks ago I decided to replace two wooden storage boxes in my office with a small (two-drawer) wood filing cabinet. The boxes were attractive and sturdy enough to support my printer, but I was getting tired of having to move the printer every time I wanted to get something from the boxes.

The cabinet required assembly, but it was a piece of cake. Per the instructions, the last step was to attach metal edges along the drawer tops to accommodate hanging files. Though I dutifully attached them, I thought it was a waste because I had no intention of hanging files in the drawers.  I’d be using the drawers basically for storage and not all the things I planned on keeping in them were files.

After assembling it and admiring the new addition to my office, I began filling the drawers with paperwork, journals, brochures, etc. The shapes and sizes of the things I put in the filing cabinet were not uniform and certainly not all suitable for regular files, and I noticed that they were – as paper tends to be – heavy.

Though the drawers felt sturdy, I couldn’t help think about the problems I’ve had with the bottoms of another filing cabinet that’s made of similar material. Over time the drawer bottoms of that cabinet sagged under the weight of the contents, making it hard to get the drawers open and eventually giving way completely. I managed to figure out a way to shore up the bottoms, but I have to be very careful with them. As I finished filling the drawers of my new cabinet, I decided that maybe I should give the hanging file idea more thought.  

So, yesterday I went to buy some hanging file folders. I thought the decision would boil down to letter or legal size and maybe colour. Little did I realize the variety available or that someone had invented hanging files that are designed to hold non-standard things like binders. As I hung them and carefully placed stuff in them, I couldn’t believe how sturdy they are and how much easier it is to get at different things. When I was done, I was mad with myself for having resisted the idea of hanging files before, without even looking into the option.

In thinking about it, I realized I rejected the manufacturer’s suggestion because I thought I knew better. I figured they recommended using hanging folders because they’re more modern than the old-fashioned ones and because they assume that folks only use the drawer for files. I decided that, clearly, the recommendation wasn’t meant for those who use the filing cabinet as a place to store things that don’t all fit neatly into traditional file folders. So I did it my way all these years. And, when the file drawer bottoms sagged, I rationalized that it was because they were cheaply made.

After I realized my previous filing cabinet problems were a result of my substituting my judgment for the manufacturer’s, I immediate remembered another similar incident. For years I had a slow draining shower. I tried all sorts of things, including chemical clog-busting products. Invariably they’d help a wee bit for a few days, but the difference was minimal. Eventually I came to the conclusion that there must be some Z-shaped pipe that simply caused the water to drain slowly. My bathroom sink also drained slowly and in that case I became convinced the shape of the pipe trapped air and that the water drained slowly until the air pocket popped.

Anyway, one day I saw a new, super-strength clog-buster and I figured I’d try it. The instructions said to use the entire bottle at once. That seemed like overkill to me. After all, my drain wasn’t completely clogged – it was just slow in draining. Surely the instructions were for situations where the drain was completely blocked, not for cases like mine.

But, figuring this wasn’t the first time I’d be pouring money down the drain, I decided to follow the directions, rather than my reasoned judgment. The results were amazing. The shower drains as though it is new – and it’s been that way for six months. The difference was so dramatic, I bought another bottle to use in the bathroom sink.

Despite the fantastic results I had with the tub, when I went to use it on the sink, I still hesitated about using the whole bottle. But again, rather uncharacteristically, I decided to defer to the manufacturer and poured away. The results were equally unbelievable. (All I can say is there must be some amazing air-bubble bursting ingredients in that bottle!)

Yogi Bear was a popular cartoon when I was young and a friend used to always tell me I was like Yogi: smarter than the average bear. To this day, whenever I come up with what I think is the definitive explanation for something (like the air in the damned bathroom sink that caused the slow drain, or the cheapness of the file drawer bottoms being the reason they sagged) or when I come up with a clever solution to a problem (like the way I shored up the sagging drawer bottoms), I pat myself on the back, knowing I AM smarter than the average bear.

But every now and then some discovery reminds me of the undeniable fact that being smarter than the average bear means there are bears who are smarter than me and their way of doing things is at least worth a try.

© 2013 Ingrid Sapona


Post a Comment

<< Home