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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Paper trails

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Lynette Sowell

My front porch


“The Motel of the Mysteries” by David Macauley released back in the late 1970s, and I read an excerpt when I was a kid. A few years ago for Christmas, my father found a copy online and sent it to me for Christmas

The book is set in the year 4022, when an archaeologist starts to explore and discover more about a curiously strange civilization left behind. You see, the United States was destroyed in 1985 after it was buried under all its fliers, brochures and paper mailers.

After all, the paper we generate has to go somewhere, doesn’t it? Sometimes around my house, it feels as though we’ll get buried in paper, no matter how “paperless” we go.

I do battle with papers on the dining room table, the daily catch-all for whatever we bring in, whether it’s mail, printouts from a meeting or an event I attend, or something my husband brings home.

Although our society has grown less dependent on literal paper and I find myself regularly trotting out to our big green recycling container with the latest things I’ve torn up to get rid of, it’s not hard to see the value in a paper trail.

We can have a conversation with someone about something important, but the real deal comes down to the paperwork. Where’s the paper to back up what we talked about?

Recently, someone I know paid for something in cash, yet didn’t get a receipt. Now, they have no proof that they paid for what they hoped to receive but didn’t. However, the original order form came with its own unique number imprinted—which they so happened to take a shot of with their phone.

Papers and images are ways to keep a record of what’s been said and what’s been done.

In our increasingly digital age, it amazes me the number of people who neglect to keep the paper trail that’s necessary to do business and document a transaction.

If there’s no paper to back up the words exchanged, there’s not much a customer has to stand on.

Even when I go to the gas pump, I get a receipt. I can’t help it. Even if I pay with a card and there’s a digital trail of the transaction, I still want that little slip of paper. I admit it, once in a while I picture an attendant running after me shouting, “Hey, you didn’t pay!” Because even computers have hiccups at times. So I make sure I get that little slip of paper to show I paid for my gas.

Maybe it’s my age; maybe it’s years of caution I’ve learned after seeing what’s happened to others who don’t have their paper trail. So yes, let’s have our paper trails. But not so much that we’ll get buried in a landslide and end up the subject of someone’s archaeological expedition.


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