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Worth the effort

Photographs of Spottiswood on the book jackets portray him as optimistic - a legendary disdain for disorder shining fiercely in his eyes. Stories about Spottiswood's ruthless, yet whimsical, organization of some of America's most famous work spaces make the rounds. I have many times reread his books with enthusiasm, although they seem never to zero in precisely enough on my peculiar work space problems. Now that my goals are firming, the efficient organization of my work space is imperative. I must get a handle on things.

The typewriter, the copier, the file cabinets, the bookcases, the cassette-recorder, among other items, I deem vital to the proper functioning of my work space. I have striven as few men to efficiently arrange my work space, but in vain. The continual perusal of Spottiswood's books propels me energetically into each day; but vigor flags as disorder mounts. It was a stroke of luck that Spottiswood, during his recent series of acclaimed lectures, happened upon our city. I telephoned for an appointment. Imagine my cheer when my pathetic entreaties brought him over.

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Except for hair that was redder, more explosive, than I had expected, Spottiswood was as I imagined him. As the jovial, yet serious, man sat across from me at my desk (wedged between the copier, the microwave oven, and the aquarium), exuding his own brand of elan, he rearranged things on the top, illustrating impressively perhaps a hundred possible combinations. ''There is no work space,'' Spottiswood interjected like sunshine during a pause in my complaining, ''that can't be organized!'' He had been, since he walked in the door, taking notes furiously on yellow legal paper on his clipboard, crumpling the irrelevant, tossing it away like confetti. It was ankle-deep.

As he surveyed, individually and collectively, each and every item in my work space, I explained, gloomily, how I always caught my fingers in the wire baskets when I reached for the paper clips; how the pencils fell from the pencil holder into the key basin of my typewriter - the typewriter keys mercilessly flinging them back at me in retaliation as I typed. I pointed out, dolefully, how one leg of my desk, no matter where I placed it, seemed always to rest on a sagging floorboard, causing, when I leaned so toward the cookie jar, everything to slide off the top into the aquarium.

A confident Spottiswood began rearranging things. He said some things would have to go. I said forget it! The hundredth reorganization wilted his smile. At the five-hundredth, a grimness settled over his countenance. At day's end, as the mellow, fading sun ebbed below the window, dragging splashes of warmth from the room that we had rearranged probably a thousand times, I said, from low in my chair (in order not to bump my head on the stereo speakers and aquarium), ''No, Spottiswood, old friend, it simply won't do.'' Spottiswood, his snarl of red hair surfacing briefly above the mounds of crumpled yellow legal paper, muttered something discouraging, disappeared again. There were many crashes, oaths, and proclamations, before the door slammed with a final sound.

I am temporarily ensconced in another room, waiting for Spottiswood's bill, gathering my forces to lay siege again. In the interim, happily, I have worked out several snappy new plans. I believe I can do it next time.

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