There once was a rather famous, if old timey, theatrical agent in New York City who had one hard and steadfast rule in his office: No drawers allowed! This no-drawer mandate mainly had to do with desks, but he also included boxes, trash cans and file cabinets in his rage. The rule was incredibly raw, because in those days, The City, and theatrical agencies, ran on paper. There was no digitization. No cloud or computer storage. You Xeroxed and your Faxed and you managed the wood pulp blizzard as best you could.
When the first thing someone tells you upon meeting them is that they are against drawers of any type and for any reason — you pull back just a bit in your shoes — because you know you can’t turn around and run away just yet, and there’s the human expectation, now extinct, that the old timers get your ear and your eye for a reasonable time before you are allowed to go your own way.
The agent’s obsession with the no-drawers office-wide rule boiled down to this: Drawers lose things; drawers are for storing things, not actively using things; stuff gets lost in a box, but never on your desk. “If it belongs in a drawer, it doesn’t belong on your desk, so deal with it and then get rid of it.”
All his agents were required to follow that rule and anyone he represented was encouraged to follow the rule in their personal life beyond 10th Avenue.
As the agent was regaling me with this story about having no desk drawers — or any sort of storage boxes or file cabinets in his office — I did manage to glance around to see his office was actually filled with drawers-less glass tables. No trash cans, either.
There were, however, piles upon piles of papers and folders that stretched four feet up to the sky from every flat surface because, you see, when nobody in a big office is allowed to use a drawer, but they have contracts and scripts and stuff they would normally neatly put away and store — but cannot! — they start building giant piles of disorganized stuff instead.
As I was caught staring at the mass of paper surrounding me, the agent assured me this was just the work process of the day and that everyone is required to clean off their desks at the end of each working day. I wondered where the piles of stuff would be put at the end of the day if there’s no place else to put it except stacking it all upon itself — maybe the agents were required to take home that which had been piled and then bring it back the next day?
I can sort of understand the idea behind the ideal that things get lost in boxes because you forget about them, but in practice, seeing mountainous piles of paper so high that the other agents could not make eye contact with each other while sitting at their desks seemed a bit ridiculous.
You do want to go along to get along in life, so when I was engaged in this no-drawers theory, there was substantial social pressure to agree with the insanity just because you don’t want to make waves, or seem to be disrespectful of a well-earned reputation, but sometimes you wonder what scarring moment happened in a person’s life to make them cling to one thing so hard that they’d break their teeth defending it to the death.
I’m actually quite fond of drawers, and not a big fan of piles of paper, so perhaps the “no drawers allowed” rule is a sort of litmus test to instantly help someone know if there’s a semblance of a business compatibility in the offing.
In our case, there was not — but I certainly remember that agent more often than some of the ne’er-do-well drawer-abusers who actually represented me over the years.