When I surrendered to the monthly task of vacuuming around the heavy wooden legs of the work table in the kitchen, I discovered a paper clip, hidden in the oriental rug. It was deep in the rug -- with the dog hairs, bits of Milk Bone, some toast crumbs and hermit spiders that love the environment I’ve sustained for them.
The paper clip was invented by a Norwegian, Johan Vaaler, in 1899. During World War II, Norwegians were prohibited from wearing any buttons with the likeness of their king on them. In protest they started wearing paper clips. This signified the binding together of the Norwegian people as a protest against the Nazis. Arrest was the consequence if you were caught wearing a paper clip.
At my home, the paper clip has many uses. Straightened out, it has opened CD trays on the computer, or cleared the orifice on a number of glue bottles or utilitarian nozzles and spouts in the household. Used alfresco, it has plucked a stubborn bit of debris from my ear when no Q-tip was handy.
Like every tool, it has its limits. I’ve never tested how many pieces of paper one clip can fasten, but during tax season, when sorting expenses, the clip is expected to hold many sheets of paper. When it fails to meet the task - big guns come out - rubber bands.
Everyone has a paper clip or two in a drawer in the kitchen or office. They come in different sizes and designs. Some are plastic, some are in the traditional, double-oval design (the “Gem”), while some are the “Owl” or “Ideal” designs. The Ideal has the advantage of not getting tangled with other paper clips, while the Owl design is smaller and has the same advantage. The Owl was so named for its eye-shaped circles. They didn’t tangle with other clips and they don’t snatch stray papers that do not belong with the stack. The variation on the Gem, or traditional clip is the Non-skid. The Non-skid is grooved so it will stop papers from slipping out from its grasp.
There are people that match some of the characteristics of the paper clip. There are those that are plain, ordinary and more common, but reliable and up to the task.
There are those that don’t tangle with others and don’t attract strays, while there are the non-skid types that hold fast to anything that they come in contact with.
All of us have something in common with the paper clip. We can be joined together in some way, while some are more easily joined than others. Some choose to live alone, while others must pack themselves together, only to be separated when called to task.
Then there are those that are twisted and bent in order to perform a specific duty that they were not originally designed for.