My Cardboard Man Purse

Drewprop's Cardboard BriefcaseIf you read through my blog you’ll see that I have a creative affection for that most malleable of forestry products: cardboard. From cardboard stormtroopers to cardboard panties, I continue to discover an ever-increasing array of uses for the stuff and have found that other people share the same delight with it as me. So today, I’m happy to announce my newest invention: the cardboard briefcase.

Inexpensive (free, actually), lightweight and easy to carry, this simple paper storage unit will change your life… or perhaps it already has?!!

I first began using a Cardboard Briefcase on a day when I’d brought a change of clothes to the office. Looking for a place to put my discarded slacks I spotted a stack of Office Depot copier paper boxes near the door and grabbed one. It was perfect! Small, with cushioned handles (you know, those punch-through oblong holes), the thing even had a lid that fit like a dream.

The next morning, headed for work, I was trying to get out of the house while juggling a handful of bills, a novel, some NetFlix movies meant for return, a small coffee thermos and some cookies. The cardboard box from the day before was just laying on the couch doing nothing so I dumped everything into it and toted it to the car. Talk about convenience!!

During the elevator ride up to the office I was busy trying to find my cellphone, which I’d tossed into the box at some point. It was rattling around somewhere along the bottom of the box and I couldn’t find it right away, which is probably why I didn’t pay attention to the people in the elevator that morning.

But as I recall, everyone seemed pretty nice.

EXTREMELY nice, in fact.

Sure, when I got to the office the folks at the front desk made relentless fun of me for carrying my mail around in a cardboard box but I laughed it off, comfortable in my dorky little world and very happy that I’d solved the problem of carrying a wide variety of stuff, all at the same time.

Soon, things began to collect in my box.

  • Medicine
  • Toiletries
  • iPod headphones
  • Paperclips
  • Willy Wonka “Nerds” Candies
  • Business cards
  • CDs

All of that stuff was in there and it was easy to see, unlike the interior of my old Samsonite satchel, which was really dark on the inside because it was made from ballistic nylon…. and that stupid case always took my papers and scrunched them into little fanfolds after a few days.

So I was loving my box and kept adding things to it…. things like:

  • Magazines
  • Dental floss
  • Action figures
  • Pullovers
  • Camera gear
  • Parking passes
  • Sketchbooks
  • Passes to the Georgia Aquarium

Do I Look Embarrassed?

It wasn’t light anymore, but it was still convenient.

Well, sort of.

Well, not really.

I began having conversations about my box with the girls in the office. We’d discuss how hard it was to find things in the bottom of our containers…. they in their purses and me in my…. well, dammit, it was a purse…. a gigantic frikkin’ cardboard purse.

So I took a Sharpie and wrote “Man Purse” on it as a kind of joke…. an homage to a pretty writer’s assistant I once knew who’d been involved in the conception of Joey’s “Man Bag” on the popular show “Friends”.

Even with that infringement on my masculinity, it was too late to stop now.

I decided that I didn’t like the marker scribbles so I went to the copy supply room and traded up to a new grafitti-free cardboard box with even sportier markings. Around the same time I began adding smaller boxes inside of my cardboard briefcase. Those little cardboard boxes began diving the space in the box into even smaller cubbyholes full of:

  • pencils and pens
  • toothpicks
  • battery chargers
  • cellphone accessories
  • eyeglasses
  • eyeglass repair kits
  • shoes
  • lampbulbs

I was hooked. I didn’t care what other people thought. It was convenient and I’d gotten use to it and it was cardboard dammit… CARDBOARD.

I could hardly turn my back on cardboard.

But then I finally started noticing the looks.

IF it was after 4pm and IF I got onto the elevator with my box, I’d inevitably receive those furtive “pity stares” from the other people in the elevator. I didn’t pick up on it for a long time, but once I did I realized that people thought I was doing a corporate “walk of shame”, with desk-in-box and box-in-hand. For a couple of weeks I’d laughingly explain to people that I was “fine” and that I hadn’t been fired, especially trying to reassure the morning elevator crowds that I wasn’t some lunatic corporate discard who’d come back to exact his revenge.

This experience got me to thinking and I realized that during my time with the cardboard briefcase, I’d come to learn how seldom I actually needed or used:

  • my chinese throwing stars
  • a handheld 200x microscope
  • a packing tape dispenser
  • an extension cord
  • volume “P” of the Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Algebra III flash cards
  • an instruction manual for a 1983 Snapper lawnmower

And then it became a medical issue.
My shoulder began hurting from all the over-the-shoulder toting of my cardboard briefcase.

It was time to stop using it.
It was time to let the dream pass.

These days I’m back to my Samsonite and, while I miss the smell of the cardboard box, my shoulder is almost back to its original range of motion (shout-out to my therapist Sarah!!) and I’m doing pretty well handing out fans to people in the office… after all, warm weather is back!

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