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A different staple of the community

January 13, 2019

After nearly two months in West Virginia, I finally returned to Atlanta, and it wasn’t long before a fish-out-of-water feeling began to stir within me. Although born in Pittsburgh, I lived all over Kanawha and Putnam counties from the time I was in diapers, and generally expected I’d remain until I was back in diapers again. West Virginians are my people, and I wasn’t sure I’d find my place among city folk.

So while feeling a bit lost, I got on my computer and opened NextDoor, a website that’s become especially active in our part of town. Although the site itself is worldwide, it’s set up in a way that enables neighborhoods to create their own private little community websites, visible only to those living at addresses verified to be within certain boundaries.

It’s a nice alternative for those creeped out by the far too anonymous Craigslist, and offers a safe, easy way to chat among only your neighbors, get community recommendations and search for lost pets. It’s an excellent resource for buying and selling and learning about neighborhood happenings, for warnings about sketchy folks lurking around or to discuss issues with the local government.

Like most public forums, it isn’t uncommon for discussions that start out civilized to be shanghaied by folks searching for a reason to be offended, and the days following the holidays seemed especially humorless. Particularly around New Years, with firework fans being raked over the coals by those who’d spent days trying to calm their traumatized pets.

And then, amid the many complaints, appeared a photograph of a simple fence post, atop which someone had left an ordinary Swingline stapler. Wrote the post’s author, Kayla-Marie: “Last seen on Winding, heading toward Dresden. Seems friendly, but we couldn’t get it to come when called. Maybe it escaped someone’s yard after getting spooked by fireworks? New Years’ Eve can be a scary night for office supplies, so I hope it gets reunited with its owner soon.”

It wasn’t long before someone else replied, “You might consider setting out a stack of papers for it, or perhaps a small desk it can feel safe on.”

Next came, “Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have office equipment. This stapler’s owner will likely turn right around and buy another one.”

And then: “Be responsible owners! Get your staplers and paper clips spayed/neutered and chipped. I didn’t see a collar OR tags on this little guy.”

Which, naturally, led someone to ask this question: “Is the stapler male or female? If someone knows how to tell, please share how to discern the gender.”

Came the reply: “You can tell by

whether the staples curve out or curve in. This one curves in, so if I’m assuming correctly, it’s a male.”

Making it a staple-him. Not a staple-her.

The next neighbor posted a two-word reply that made me laugh out loud at its perfection: “I’m offended.”

Dozens of posts followed, with comments interspersed with pictures of stapler sightings all over the neighborhood. The little stapler peering in a window. Sitting outside a patio door, looking forlorn. Wedged high in a tree.

“I tried getting him out of the tree,” wrote a neighbor, “but he was quicker than expected.”

The post was followed by another shot of the stapler underneath the man’s house.

“Try to lure him with some TPS reports,” wrote another. (I recommend watching the movie “Office Space” for that line to be funnier.)

It wasn’t long before a faux-grumpy neighbor joined in the mix. “OK, people. This is getting ridiculous. I picked up four bags of staples this week. Please — pick up after your staplers! And stay off my lawn!”

And then, “Not to be Debbie Downer here, but has anyone considered that this stapler might be feral? Or perhaps run away from an abusive home? I’ve heard stories of staplers being left in drawers for months without any sort of attention. Either way, it could become suddenly aggressive. Please be cautious.”

Not to fear. There was a happy ending for the little stapler. While he didn’t return to his original home, the NextDoor postings helped him be adopted.

And at the very same time, they helped a fish out of water feel she’d perhaps found her pond. One populated with other odd fish, much like her.

Karin Fuller can be reached via email at karlnful-ler@gmall.com.

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