The Lavender Files
My first job ever was working as a low level office worker at the university I went to. The most important thing I learned was that I do not like working in offices.
I started out being a second receptionist for the department and then after budget cuts my main responsibility became fixing dumb people’s teacher evaluations. It’s not that we disagreed with their answers. People literally would not fill in the bubbles the correct way and my job was to fix it. I also got really good at reading bad handwriting because we had to type the comments into the computer system.
One day one of the other student workers was going on vacation so I had to learn how to take over her job for a couple days. Her job was to organize files for one of the professors.
Before she left she explained the filing system to me.
The files were organized by color. You could tell what color a file was by what color tab it had on it. There was also a list of what type of thing was supposed to be which color. Each of the colors were in a different filing cabinet. The drawers had labels on the outside to say what color was supposed to be in them.
She showed me where the “green” files and the “blue” files were and then filed one of the things that needed to be filed as an example. It was a blue file and she put it in with the “blue” files. This whole filing thing looked like a piece of cake.
Then she pointed to where the “lavender” files were kept. One of the files waiting to be filed had a yellow tab and the other had a darkish purple tab. She told me to put the yellow one in the “lavender” files and the darkish purple one in with the “blue” files. I didn’t understand why yellow would go in “lavender” but I did it anyway. It did match the other files in the drawer oddly enough. The darkish purple going into “blue” kind of made sense I guess because they’re similar colors but they were a different type of thing than the actual blue files.
It turned out she had still not shown me all the colors yet. She pointed to a file cabinet in the corner of the room and said it was where the “purple” files were kept, and then to another filing cabinet where the “red” ones were kept.
Now I was really confused. Why did we put the purple one in the “blue” files if there were “purple” files? If the “lavender” files were yellow why not just rename them the “yellow” files? She called them “lavender” files and the list called them “lavender” files.
“How do you know where to put the files? Like why did you put the yellow one in ‘lavender?’” I asked her.
She said she wasn’t completely sure what lavender looked like so whenever she had to make lavender folders she just used yellow because none of the other ones were yellow.
Okay. I could accept that.
“But we just put a purple one in the “blues.’”
“No. That was dark blue.” She took the file out and showed it to me. I still think it looked purple, but I didn’t want to argue. I figured I’d only be dealing with these files for two days so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Then she said, “If you work with these files long enough you’ll start going colorblind.” I had only been working with these files for two minutes.
After she left I took a peek in the “purple” files to see what color they were. They were lavender. So the “lavender” files were yellow, the “blue” files were purple but sometimes blue, and the “purple” files were lavender.
The best part of the whole thing was that an hour later I had to train someone else on how to use that filing system.