Corrections or additions?
This article by Richard K. Rein was prepared for the February 19, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
On Duct Tape, Snowstorms, and Valentines
Here’s a week that began with a search for duct tape,
switched to a scramble for a snow shovel, and ended with a belated
Valentine’s Day exchange between employees and employer.
Let’s begin with that duct tape. A day or two before the nation became
obsessed with duct tape and clear vinyl as the safeguard to an
terrorist attack, I needed duct tape. My need was more prosaic than
that of the rest of the nation — I needed it to tape down some
computer cables that had been rearranged during the installation of
some new desktops for my staff.
The desktops were my equivalent of a Valentine for the staff, several
of whom have been suffering for years at makeshift desks consisting
of particle board straddling file cabinets. Despite knees banging
against steel file cabinets and clothing catching on jagged edges
of lumber, my staff has managed to turn out some pretty good pieces
But in recent months, with the economy down and the workload
increased, the normally cheerful disposition in our office had begun
Well meaning folks suggested all sorts of make-nice things that could
be done — at least some of which appeared on the cover of last
week’s Valentine’s Day issue of U.S. 1, a slew of touchy-feely
from a human resources consultant aimed at helping companies retain
their staff. I couldn’t bring myself to initiate even one of them.
I took a simpler approach: I can’t make my employees be happy at work,
I decided. That’s their choice. But I can at least remove some of
the barriers to unhappiness. Crummy and crowded workspaces were an
obvious target. By last week more than half of the cubicles were done,
except for the finishing touches of duct taping some computer cables.
Where was that roll of duct tape we always have around the office?
Nowhere to be found. By that time, of course, people were standing
in line for duct tape and clear plastic at Home Depot — the
cables would have to wait.
If the lines for duct tape were bad, they were soon forgotten as
people lined up at supermarkets in the face of what we all must agree
is the Blizzard of the Millennium. A couple of thoughts on this
America, they can infiltrate the nation’s cadre of television weather
announcers and forecast a blizzard of Ice Age proportions. Even if
not a single snowflake flutters to earth, the forecast alone will
disrupt the nation. Ice melter will replace duct tape and clear
as the object of hysterical desire.
blizzard far better than it did the last major snowstorm in 1996.
Back then, as I recall, the snow started fairly early on a Sunday.
By the time I headed off to work police on Nassau Street were pulling
motorists over and telling them to go home. I talked my way through
that and made it to the corner of Route 1 and Alexander Road (this
in the pre-overpass days), where my path was blocked by a car stuck
in a seemingly insurmountable mound of snow. With the snow shovel
handy, I was able to shovel that motorist free and make it to the
corner of Alexander and Roszel, from which point I had to walk to
the office. Roszel Road was not plowed until several days after the
The bottleneck at Alexander Road and Route 1 continued for at least
four or five more days, with the normal two lanes of traffic on
squeezed down to one by a huge mound of snow dropped off by a plow
on Route 1. Morning and night, twice a day, rush hour traffic clogged
up at the crippled intersection. Articles appeared in the daily
politicians blamed each other for the lack of snow removal.
On the fourth or fifth day after the blizzard I couldn’t take it
Headed home late at night, shovel still on board, I stopped at the
intersection. After 15 minutes of shoveling, and a few seconds of
ramming my Subaru into the remaining embankment, the lane was opened.
This year the roads in West Windsor did seem to take longer to get
plowed than those in Princeton Borough. But in their defense those
West Windsor snow plows certainly have many more miles of road to
plow than they do in compact Princeton. On Monday afternoon, at the
height of the storm, I easily drove into the parking lot at 12 Roszel
Road — the sole person on duty at that moment.
There I recognized that Valentine. Four people on our staff who
play critical roles on a Monday in order to prepare this paper for
its Tuesday printing — Kathleen McBride Sisack, Barbara Fox, Diana
Joseph-Riley, and Stan Kephart — all on their own decided to come
in Sunday ahead of the storm and do what they normally do on Monday.
I figure that was their unspoken Valentine to me. And I stayed until
11 p.m. Monday and wrapped up most of the job — my Valentine back
to them. But enough of the sweet stuff: Who took the duct tape?
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