"Where's the tape?"

March 6, 2014

Notable Stats

Scotch Tape Depletion Rate (STDR) – The number of containers of Scotch Tape you go through during non-holiday and non-birthday times of the year.

Unnecessary Office Supply Usage (UOSU) – A running count of how many times your kids use office supplies for repairs of items that they end up giving to the dog or making into back-up underwear.

OK. To all the office supply companies out there, you are advertising to the wrong segment of the population. Forget small businesses, forget multi-national corporations. Time to target the people who most use your goods for the least amount of purpose. Pre-schoolers. Yes, you need to get commercials out on all the children’s networks and entice them to use a whole ream of photo paper to wipe their baby sister’s nose. Because that is what they are already doing.

We are now spending valuable time and energy protecting the things that most matter in anyone’s household. Tape and scissors. I have special hiding places, I ration items if need be, and I am at the point where I think it may be prudent to place an extra set of scissors in a safety deposit box at the bank. Kids have an innate GPS for scissors and when they find them, they will start cutting whatever is nearest to them.

Of course, a parent has to appreciate when their children are resourceful enough to want to fix things that are broken. They are beginning to care about the originality of their possessions. They no longer want a replacement, they are trying to salvage. Kudos. But it will take time to express that taping the 4 inch rip in their pants with blue masking tape, most likely will not keep their pants together, nor will the fashion police be thrilled.

I spend an awful lot of time regulating scotch tape dispensing. Making sure the tape is necessary, then making sure they don’t go through an entire spool to seal the rip on a Post-It handmade picture of a diseased Darth Vader made by our two year old. It is the judgment of when to use it, then how much to use, and I am now confident that a parent believes a pre-schooler does not ever need to use tape, so why even get into how much? I hardly ever use tape unless it is to wrap a gift. So why do we go through tape like toilet paper?
But it is not just tape that Staples is jumping for joy about. It is wayward scissors used to cut anything from grass to locks of hair. The misuse of scissors is staggering. Locks of hair are now gone, curtains are now sliced up with a new fashion flair, and since I can’t beat them, I suggest to the Federal Reserve a way to replace coins and save on precious metals… Let kids make shards of paper dollar bills. Need 50 cents? Let them cut that dollar in half. Imagine their satisfaction of supplying all of the United States with shards of money. That should keep them busy during a snow day.

So, we can try and say it is no big deal when you can buy 6 rolls of tape for 99 cents. Let them learn organically how to use tape, we can say. Fine, I can accept that on one level, but this does not account for pain and suffering of ripping the tape off of the dog’s ear that was taped to his tail. What about his rights?

We also neglect to oversee the wearing down of pencils and other writing tools. This results in indelible marker on the wall, the pencil marks “decorating” the piano keys. They have access to products where we have a duty to go behind their work to erase, shred and even clean. Meanwhile, Office Depot keeps ringing the register. I smell a conspiracy.

Most of us are fortunate when our kids are able to go to school and come back with a bucket of art projects. We hang them up, we marvel at how they are growing from year to year. What used to be a stick figure is now a real dinosaur. Amazing, but unfortunately, I now think about how much more material is used for a dragon versus a stick figure of the dog. A lot more coloring pencils get worn down, the crayons, the waterproof markers, the lipstick, unfortunately.

Why is tape so exciting? Why is white paper so inviting? Why are scissors and staplers so magnetic? Why are crayons so tasty?

The answers to these questions explain why a parent spends half his life picking up, replacing, or undoing the work of writing tools. We have to find the tool itself and we have to locate the work produced by the tool. Often they both end up in secret locations. Thankfully we no longer use fire to melt the wax or to heat ink, otherwise I would then be thankful if I sold fire sprinkler systems or built new houses or apartment buildings.

We love the creativity of our kids, the fast growing land we call their minds. They express creative ideas that blow us away, they can be happy with a simple stroke on the paper or a fold of a paper airplane.

Yet, they love exhausting all of earth’s natural resources for this process. It apparently is a child's duty to keep the office supply industry in business while generously emphasizing the importance of recycling.

In the meantime, we need to do what we can to slow the erosion of home office supplies and help our children understand that tape has its limitations. Unfortunately, we are failing miserably.

- Doug Glanville

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