Since I recently found myself with a lot of time in my hands (ie unemployed), I decided, while trying to revive my contacts as a freelance journalist and translator, to help out my dad in his office.
My father is a lawyer and as far back as I can remember, whenever I visited him in his office, I would always find him buried under a huge pile of paperwork, folders and books. It never seized to amaze me how he found his way through all this mess and still have the clarity of mind to make jokes about the state of the Greek justice system.
And since he always complained about how much time he wastes looking for his folders, I decided I would start by fixing his archive. I conceived a plan of action. Day one: I would file all his lawsuits by date. Day two: I would file the folders lying around on his desk. Day three: I would make sure my dad knows his away around the new, improved archives, after which I would go for a drink to congratulate myself on a job well done.
My dad was ecstatic about my offer, he even mumbled something like, “I need all the help I can get”, which I took it to mean “you’re so competent, I’ll be forever grateful.” Little did I know.
His office is housed in an drab apartment block in central Athens, typical of the city’s early 1970’s architecture. Once upon a time people lived in it, but the vast majority of the apartments are now rented out as office space. It has seen better days.
Day one: I walk in, see him across the hall buried, as usual, under his paperwork. A faint musty smell reaches my nose. I walk over to him and say with a smile on my face “so where should I start?”. He looks at me and replies in a quiet manner “oh, could you start with these files over there?”
I turn around and see, for the first time, the old wooden bookcase on the opposite wall, bursting with folders, loose papers and large white envelopes stuffed with judicial documents. My smile disappeared. “Uuh…”
“Start with the old ones, from 2007.”
A thunderbolt just struck my head. “2007…??”
“Yeah, and move up to 2008.”
I stood there for a while. My dad turned to his paper world, concentrating on the job at hand. I slowly made my way towards the bookcase and started taking out the folders and envelopes, carefully stacking them on the floor. With each folder I removed, a cloud of dust would hit my nostrils and eyes causing me to sneeze and blink like an idiot.
I soon realized I would have to clean up the shelves before I put anything back on. I went into the tiny kitchen, where turning on the light made little difference, and grabbed the kitchen paper and some cleaner (an obscure Greek brand I hadn’t seen since the 80’s).
I pulled my sleeves up and cleaned the shelves thoroughly, then started going through the files one by one. “File number 8722, X’s lawsuit against Y”. Needless to say, it took all day just to sort out the folders from the stray lawsuits and the other secondary documents. At night, I left.
Day two: While searching through the paperwork, I decided I needed a tea break. I went back into the dark kitchen where my dad was making coffee . “Do we have any tea?”, I ask.
“Of course, it’s in the cupboard.”
I open the cupboard. I see Nescafe instant coffee, Loumidis Greek coffee, a package of white sugar inside the plastic supermarket bag with the receipt still in it and Lipton tea bags, the only tea I do not drink. And a small of bottle of grease. The one used for lubricating bicycles, sewing machines and shotguns, as the drawings on the bottle clearly indicated.
“Dad, what’s the bottle of grease doing in the cupboard?”
“Uh, I put it there to remember where it is.”
This is Day 14. So much for my 3-day master plan.