Confessions of an Office Gadget Geek

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LanceBy Helene Matheny

I am not,  nor have I ever been, a connoisseur of designer clothes, shoes, or handbags. I recently made a conscious effort to pare down my collection of CDs and even books. In short, as I have gotten older, I have sought to consolidate. However, I am an unabashed gadget and office supply geek. Once while in elementary school, I found eight dollars on the street and promptly spent it all on a purple denim binder and accessories to go with it (and in the early 1970s, that eight dollars went pretty far). I was the kind of kid who got more excited about school supply shopping than summer vacation. And this was before PCs, PDAs, ATMs and even answering machines — which I love to remind my students about when they seem as if doing without their cell phones for the hour and fifteen minutes of our class will make them catatonic.

Luckily, this love of office supplies has served me well as an adjunct Freeway Flyer. I’ve discovered, through trial and error, which gadgets and supplies are vital to life as an academic on the road. Here are some of the gadgets I feel I cannot do without as a busy adjunct.

Mini Office Supplies: I keep a small, clear plastic case with compartments that holds a mini stapler, paper clips, pencil sharpener, binder clips, mini color pencils and post-it page markers. Since most of us may not have a permanent desk, this comes in very handy.  Check out some Supply Boxes here.

Rolling Briefcase: The one that has so far lasted me the longest is one made by Swiss Army. It has good quality hardware, three large main sections for files, lap top and books, in-line skate type wheels, and a zip-front section for pens, keys, and smaller supplies.  Here is one almost identical to the one I have.

Smartphone: If you haven’t yet invested in one, check with your carrier. These make it easier than ever to keep up with your e-mail or even surf if you don’t have access to a PC. I had a Blackberry Pearl that lasted two years. I recently changed carriers and got a brand new Curve — which has a bigger screen. Touchscreens are all the rage, but I still like having the keyboard.  For any gadget like this, opt for getting accessories for it online through storefronts like Amazon. There are many merchants who sell bundles that are a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay in the carrier’s brick and mortar store. I just got two gel sleeves and a car charger for my Curve for only $5 through Amazon. My new carrier is CREDO Mobile. You can find some of the accessories I mentioned at BargainCell through Amazon.

Packs of looseleaf paper: Essential for first drafts of lecture notes, exams and for the student who “forgot” extra paper.

Durable lunchbag/cooler: There have been plenty of semesters when I had to bring lunch and dinner with me. Along with a bag, invest in a variety of plastic food containers.

Plastic  folders: I like the ones that either snap closed or have an envelope — tie closure. Every semester I label them for each class to keep completed homework and exams organized, not to mention portable.

Flash Drives: Small, convenient, and now available in large capacity, but be sure to have backups!! Like the phone accessories and such, great bundle deals can be found online. You can find flash drives online for a fraction of the cost of what they’d be in stores.

The beginning of a new school year is an excellent time to buy many of these, especially things like paper, folders, lunch coolers and mini office supplies. Check back at the stores including Office Depot or Staples as well as Walmart or the like a few weeks into the term, as many of them put the leftover supplies on deep discounts.

Just the other day I found some pretty floral-design snap close folders on sale at Office Depot.  They reminded me of that purple denim binder from grade school.

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