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Zan Thompson

A Red-Letter Day to Rejoin the Desk Set

February 14, 1988|Zan Thompson

I am delighted to tell you that Patsy is off the floor for St. Valentine's Day. Actually, I think she had rather grown to like it. She could sit on the floor with all her treasures within easy reach and never make a move.

What happened is that she got a new desk at her office. She works for a firm of lawyers and they in their wisdom decided she needed a new desk. Personally, I have never worn out a desk. Either she works harder than I do or it's because I don't always work at a desk. I have written in airplanes, helicopters, battleships, Fish and Game Department boats, in trains and standing up against a wall as well as in hospital beds when still slightly sedated. Oh, not badly. Just enough to lend a soft pink glow to everything.

The office engineers had to build Patsy's desk in her allotted space and all last week, she says, groups of men kept coming and going. The men of each group would depart saying briskly over their shoulders, "We'll be back."

Have you ever noticed that someone who says that very seldom does? If they were going to be back, it wouldn't be necessary to say anything. They would just go out the door and then come back. It's kind of like "The check is in the mail," or "The doctor is running a little behind but I'm sure it won't be more than a few minutes." (What this means is that the doctor has been called to the hospital on an emergency and is engaged in a procedure so complicated, it will be the lead article in the New England Journal of Medicine before it's your turn.)

Patsy's people kept coming and going. As well as I can reconstruct it, there must have been 20 or more of them. They measured and tapped, stood back and studied and then left.

Toward the end of the week, they delivered the desk. That is, the skeleton of the desk. It had no top. Out of habit and conditioning, Patsy would fling papers and envelopes on her desk and they would disappear into the crosspieces of the framework, which required her to spend a good deal of her time on her hands and knees, barking her knuckles and muttering under her breath.

After a whole new set of measurements, they brought the top on Friday. It did not fit. It was wood with a vinyl skin and was supposed to fit into the frame on top of the skeleton. They told her, "We'll be back."

And so they were, after she had settled herself on the floor, with her telephone in a free-floating drawer and her papers scattered around her like the leaves of autumn. Finally, they came back and the top worked.

She consented to try the desk although she was really quite cozy on the floor. So, for Valentine's Day, she is back in a chair.

How nice that there is a holiday that is unabashedly sentimental when we can send those treacly cards we see all year and are embarrassed to buy. Have you ever really read one of the Mother's Day cards, with the dear little bluebirds and the garlands of roses? They all read as if they had been written with embalming fluid and the poor old white-haired lady has already slipped away. Fortunately, I never received one of those. Tim sends me something ribald and loving or else just, "Hello, Big Red," which does me very well.

But I'm glad St. Valentine is still a respected gentleman in the pantheon of saints, although there seems to be a good bit of confusion about who he was and what he did. I have read that he was a Roman martyr of the 3rd Century. Britannica says that there were two of them who were born and died on the same day, but that seems too coincidental.

I hope you have a lovely day filled with candy and flowers and puffy satin hearts. I hope you receive at least one unsigned valentine, frilled with lace and adorned with cherubs. If you are a woman with a teacher's conference and a board meeting in Chicago on the same day, I hope you have a valentine from that darling boy who said he would love you forever even if he were going to Des Moines to sell insurance and, isn't that nice, see, he still does.

If you're a man, I hope you get a valentine from the girl you took to the homecoming dance and who finally married that earnest member of the debate team. See, she still remembers.

If you're a woman, I hope your husband looks at you and sees that there is a tiptoe girl there as well as a responsible car pooler and the head of the creative team at the agency. Wear the black peignoir he bought you when you really needed a shirt and skirt. He wouldn't have bought it unless he had a guilty conscience or really thinks you look wonderful in those steamy things. In either case, wear it.

I am in favor of gauzy, floaty Valentine's Days. The heart-shaped box of candy she'll take to the office to preserve her flat stomach. It's getting it that counts. I am also in favor of playing "our song" on an old 78, a 45, a 33 rpm record, a piano, guitar or penny whistle or one of those things that are operated by laser beams.

I wish for you all an utterly delightful day full of pink clouds and bluebirds and the kids stashed at grandma's. What about grandma's Valentine's Day? Honey, if she doesn't know how to work it by now, she ain't going to learn.

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