I’ll just write “Bartleby” on mine, thanks

nickjb told me this evening that everyone at his library job received business cards. Apparently the City decided that they would get cards for all employees in all divisions simultaneously, so the order came down that library employees were to receive these also.

Since Nick is at the bottom layer of the Library hierarchy and shelves books, he is neither an august Librarian nor an honorable Clerk but merely a loyal Page. People in the first two categories received the usual box of 500 personalized cards, which only the Librarians will actually put to use.

The pages received a rubber-banded deck of about 20 cards, on which the name is blank.

After deep and lengthy consideration I can find no actual purpose for such a card. Nick cannot identify himself to customers with it unless he writes his name on it. Even so he has no reason to do this. He is a page; he shelves books and occasionally tells people where the fiction section or the bathroom is. In no situation will he hand a card to a Library customer and say “give me a call”. Unlike say a car rental agency or a medical clinic, a library has no customers who will need a card to remember the address or phone number of the place, either. It’s just not that kind of organization.

The nameless business card therefore represents a totally useless object in the pure Dada sense, like one of Man Ray’s objets inutiles. It exists and has the structure of a useful object but cannot be used for anything that it might represent.

This means that there is only one meaning of the card. It is to humiliate the pages and remind them of their lowly status. Like other Library employees, they are called upon to represent the organization, but they are not entitled to any identity of their own and must demonstrate this by displaying blank calling cards.

The card says: I am of no consequence. I think we all need one!

7 thoughts on “I’ll just write “Bartleby” on mine, thanks

  1. Our new phone system gives everyone in the system voice mail. I’m certain all the people who work four hours on Sundays only are going to be receiving tons of messages.

  2. OTOH
    If one were to run with that Dada idea, great fun could be had:
    “Call me, I’m the Barber of Seville”
    “Call me, I’m George Hamilton”
    “Call me, I’m some guy named Larry’s broken septum”

  3. On Friday this guy handed me a card with no email address, phone number, or last name. Only this url.
    He’s furious that he can’t get work building websites these days.

  4. it was more than a pleasure to sit down with you and nick and the rest of the gang friday night. i invite you to do the same with my family should you make the trek north, with or without capital letters…

    1. It was great to meet you too. I tried to respond to your IM just now but you somehow managed to send it while offline (from BEYOND THE GRAAAAVE).

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