By Tony Russell

At the potluck dinner at church last night, I noticed that Arnie Landers was looking pretty peaked. It was the first time I'd seen him in weeks.

"What's up, Arnie?" I said.

"Boy, my job is running me ragged," he said. "Sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, and I still can't keep up."

I was surprised. "I wouldn't think an office supply firm would be booming in the middle of a recession," I said. "I thought businesses were cutting employees, suffering from sagging sales, and trimming overhead."

"Oh, in general, our sales are lousy," he said tiredly. "It's specialty sales that are off the chart."

"That's interesting," I said. "What kind of specialty sales?"

"Paper shredders," he said. "Industrial-strength paper shredders. We can't keep them in stock. In fact, some of our models are on back order. The manufacturers say they've kicked up production, but they can't keep up with the demand."

"Who's buying all the paper shredders?" I wondered.

"We got a huge initial order from Enron," he said. "I know they're the seventh largest corporation in the country, but you wouldn't think they'd need so many paper shredders all at one time. And then their accounting firm called in a rush order on fifty of the things."

"Is that it?" I asked. "Sounds as if things ought to be getting back to normal."

"Humph!" he snorted. "That was just the beginning. It's all government office orders now, and we're getting more every day."

"What kind of government offices?"

"We got a huge early order from Dick Cheney's secretary; we had to ship those air express. Phil Gramm and his wife ordered ten. James Baker and Karl Rove got a half dozen apiece. The White House ordered a dozen. Hell, half the administration has called in the past two weeks, and they all want them ASAP. I don't know why there's such a demand, but this is turning into the biggest quarter we've ever had. We've hired four full time people just this month."

"Haven't you been following the news?" I asked.

"When business is this good," he said, "who has time to read a paper or watch TV?"

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