Soundtrack in my head: Daryl Hall & John Oates, “Say It Isn’t So”
Dave Handy* (*name changed to protect the semi-innocent) lived in my co-op until the summer of 2003. I would describe him as a fairly laid back and irreverent person. He liked to make fun of vegans. He was the person who put little dog stickers on various signs and notes around the house. These stickers had picture of different breeds of dogs on them, and so a schnauzer might occupy a sign telling people where the clean towels were, and a German shepherd might accompany a sign reminding people to wash their dishes by the end of the evening. But a pad of personalized stationery made turned him into something no one (especially those who know him) would have ever imagined.
Anyway, when he moved out he left some personalized stationery behind. Just a 5 x 8 notepad with “Dave Handy” emblazoned in wide art deco letters across the bottom of the page. Since co-opers don’t like to waste things, his stationery ended up in our scratch paper bin.
Over a period of three years, his personalized stationery was used for various signs and notes around the house. Notes that would let people know what kind of rice was in the bulk bin, or reminding people not to leave boxes in the landing between the first floor and the basement because bicycles needed room to get out. As the months and years went by, I became aware that fewer and fewer people in the house knew who this Dave Handy person was, and that the notes written on his stationery were making him look like some kind of Emily Post-type figure.
Then one day, Dave Handy’s personalized stationery finally ran out. But then a curious thing happened. A few days later, I discovered a sign on purple construction paper that told people that they should not put onions next to the potatoes, as it would make the potatoes decay faster. And then the person wrote “Dave Handy” at the bottom of the sign in big magic marker letters.
Dave Handy’s transformation from a witty slacker to a Confucius-like figure was now complete. His name is now synonymous with the highest ideals of cooperation and he became an icon for good communitarians everywhere to follow. Doubtlessly, stories about this legendary figure will generate and circulate. In the future I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren that yes, I knew this man and it all started with the dog stickers. And I’ll encourage them to invest in some nice personalized stationery.