When was the last time you clutched a sheaf of paper and, simultaneously, that metal cannon of the office environment, pressing the edge of the paper into the mouth of that cannon and shooting out a staple to hold it all together? A stapler is the epitome of a bonding experience, containing singular things into solid entities larger then they could be alone. Also, it's a way to keep paper together. But you probably haven't thought much about staplers—or possibly even used one—unless you read Phyllis Korkiki's tribute to them in The New York Times this weekend.
As it turns out, our affection for the ever-so-slightly-the-more antiquated object (out goes paper, out goes the need to bind it) has not died, despite it being more than a decade since the movie Office Space commented so hilariously on the stapler as something like the essence of office culture. It's still, regardless of our changing existence with paper and the increasingly consuming presence of the Internet, hanging around and doing what it does, though quite probably not every person in your office has their own.
Korkiki writes that if you do have a stapler, it might be old and dusty; it might even have gone missing, borrowed and never returned. But she points out that even with our decreased reliance upon the stapler, the stapler still exists, and serves a unique purpose. It's true, you can't staple things online, exactly, though I'd hypothesize that a "thread" or "forum" or even a "blog"—any collection of items gathered and connected by one tiny yet powerful "staple"—is, a stapled bunch of information. Whether you agree with me or not, she's right that stapling can be oddly fulfilling: "Nothing, really, comes close to the satisfying ka-chunk of a stapler: it’s a sound that means work is getting done." (The sound of popping bubble wrap might be more satisfying? Discuss.)
New York Times commenter Duncan agrees. There's something existential about it, maybe:
"Well, it's not just the click that is satisfying. It's the feel of the stapler clicking the staple in. OTOH, it's very unsatisfying when the stapler is out of staples, and the lack of sound and feel is quite noticeable. People need a tangible sense of closure, right?"
As long as we live we will need our senses of closure, and as long as we have paper, Korkiki explains, we will probably have the need for staples, and staplers. In fact, industrywide sales of staplers are up!: "$80.3 million in 2012, up 3 percent from the previous year, according to NPD, the market research firm."
There are brands other than Milton's famous Swingline (Stanley-Bostitch, OfficeMax, Staples), but Milton was right: Swingline is tops, having "long been the market leader." In the old days, Swingline's easier-loading staple method (under the cap) was a miraculous innovation that made work easier, and that made Swingline founder Jack Linsky a wealthy man, who, in a fantastic detail, went on to own "one of the largest collections of Fabergé eggs in America."
Now a stapler is a bit of a relic from the past, but that doesn't mean we don't still love, and occasionally use it. Office Space fans, Korkiki reveals this great fact about the film: "At first, Swingline executives weren’t sure they liked being associated with such a dark parody of corporate life. But in 2002, recognizing the value of its pop-culture star turn, it released its Rio Red collectors edition 747 stapler. The company bills it 'as the star of any office space.'”
A miracle of engineering, a magical way to keep things from going astray, you may not think of it often, but do take a moment to go back to the good old days when it was just you and your Swingline, keeping things together. Hug your stapler today, make it make that ka-chunk sound, if you can find it. Introduce your stapler to a young person, who might not understand it, but who might grow to love it just the same—the hope is if merchandisers can make their staplers pretty, "fashion staplers," people will still want them. Thank goodness that there's still more time with staplers, even if time is going too fast, too fast, always faster. With that time, read Korkiki's article. It is a staplerpiece.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.