Many years ago, I wrote a very important article on the subject of the above. But, despite the fact that I am a retired librarian whose life has been built upon “everything in its place,” I-- even I-- cannot find a copy of it! So I’ll have to start my crusade all over.
It didn’t take me long to become aware of the “paperclip problem.” I must have been not much older than somewhere in my 70’s when I discovered that the ground of almost every city and town in this country is practically paved with them.
Paperclips, I assume, were invented sometime during the 20th century, and what a convenience they have been. They sort of compete with staples, which also have a purpose of maintaining order. Staples, however, have an air of permanence, which can, in turn, become a sort of imprisonment, while paperclips have an air of “do what you wish.” This, unfortunately, has enouraged slovenly, and—worst of all—a “who cares?” attitude among the public.
For me, there came a day when I finally stopped, bent over, and picked up my first paperclip. And from that day forth, I have bent over—on the sidewalk, the parking lot, or the middle of the street—and picked up every paperclip I have seen. Many have been brand new, some bent or stretched, and some old and rusted.
Paperclips were made to be useful and used, which most are, until the day they are wantonly thrown down. Small as they are, they symbolize both the inventiveness of the 20th century and the decay of its human values.