The Jason Hahn Files: Let's Talk About Paper Shredding...

"I have financial records going back 15 years, Sharyn. Each year is about a foot thick and shredders do two pages a time. The last time I tried, I got to March, and the machine starting smoking!"

In my lifetime, I’ve been called many things by unkind people. 

Usually, they say things like, “You cannot be that dumb! Is that really the best you can do?” or “You are ungrateful! If your grandmother were alive today, she’d turn in her grave.”To which I usually say, “Leave me alone, Mother.”

But the one thing no one has ever called me is a hoarder. Because I don’t hoard. Long before Marie Kondo came along to tell me to throw something out if I bought something new, I was already living her mantra. Hell, I could have written that book of hers because nothing gives me a bigger thrill than to pull something off a shelf and pop it down the rubbish chute. 

“Where’s that magazine that was on the coffee table?” Saffy once asked.“You mean that two-year-old copy of 8 DAYS? I threw it out!”

“Oh my God! I was saving it for that hot Shirtless Guy of the Week!” she shrieked.“I cut it out, laminated it, and it’s in your bedside drawer next to your electric, uhm, massager.”

Safft turned pink and muttered, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. And will you please stop opening my drawers!”

My bedroom looks like no one lives in it, it’s so empty of unnecessary personal belongings. I have no duplicates of anything. When I run out of shampoo, I buy a new one, unlike my flat-mates who have multiple bottles of everything.

“I’ll never understand how you use just the one bottle of cleanser,” Amanda said the other day. I was astonished. 

“But I have only one face. Why do I need two?” It was apparently a question that highlighted what a Neanderthal I am. But the thing that still defeats me are my financial statements, receipts, tax records and bank statements. 

Every year, I empty my files, neatly bundle up the papers and put them away in my cupboard. Over the years, those piles have grown and multiplied. They now take up over half the shelving space.

“It’s a fire hazard,” Saffy said the other day. “If you ever lit a match in your cupboard, this whole apartment will just blow up like a Dwayne Johnson movie!”

“Yes, because paper has such a combustible quality!” I replied in as sarcastic a tone as I could manage. But my heart wasn’t really in it because I knew she had a point. 

The thing is, I have no idea what to do. I can’t just throw those documents down the rubbish chute the way I would anything else. I’ve read stories about rubbish collectors selling this information to identity thieves. 

“It’s got all my bank account details and everything!” I told Sharyn.  She looked at me exasperated. “Aiyoh, you tink you are Bill Gate, issit? You make so little mah-ney! Who want to steal your identity? Or hack your bank data?”

“Wow, way to kick someone when he’s down!” I said. Sharyn shrugged. “Is true what!”

She paused and gave the matter some thought. “Why you don’t buy a paper shredder?”

“I have financial records going back 15 years, Sharyn. Each year is about a foot thick and shredders do two pages a time. The last time I tried, I got to March, and the machine starting smoking!”

“Professional company leh?”

“They want big loads, not little piles like mine!”“And you doh wan to just trow down the bin?”

“Nope. I’m not risking the karung guni man, either!”

“Aiyoh, how liddat?” 

Leave it to Saffy to come up with the solution. That evening she burst into the flat. “It’s Ghost Month!” she announced. 

“Everyone is burning stuff! We’ll just wait till it’s late one night, and we’ll burn all your papers in one of those bins downstairs in the garden!”

A quiet silence settled into the room as we gave the matter some thought. “But,” I said eventually, “you’re supposed to burn stuff that you want to send into the afterlife to keep your ancestors company. You don’t want tax records and bills to go up into heaven! Such bad luck!”

Saffy waved her hands. “No, no! It’ll be bad luck only if we burnt the stuff when you’re dead, but you’re not dead yet, so those bills will be someone else’s problem!”

I turned to Amanda for help. She shrugged. “It’s got a certain twisted logic to it.”

“Really? You think?”

“It’s that or run the nightly risk of being burned alive when your stupid tax returns catch fire!” Amanda said.“You spend too much time talking to my mother,” I told her.

This story first appeared in 8 DAYS issue #1455 (Sept 6, 2018).

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